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YMMV / Age of Empires II

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  • Americans Hate Tingle: Some gamers from certain countries have reacted badly to "their" civilization not being portrayed "correctly" in the game:
    • Greeks don't like that the Byzantines speak Latin and use the Islamic-inspired Middle Eastern architecture set. The latter is fixed in Definitive Edition, which gives the Mediterranean architecture to the Byzantines along with the Spanish. But now there are already complains that the Mediterranean set is too Italian looking, and therefore Catholic...
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    • Western Slavs such as Poles and Czechs don't like that the "Slavs" are called that instead of "Russians" or some other alternative and think that the Teutons are closer to their culture. Grouping all Slavic cultures together as one civilization could be compared to grouping the Spanish, French, and Italians together and calling them “Latins”.
    • Similarly, Indians don't like that there is a single "Indian" civilization due to India's ethnic diversity, likening the "Indians" of the game to having a single civilization called "Europeans".
    • Zig-Zagged with the Vietnamese. They don't like that their civilization uses the Southeast Asian architecture set, and would have preferred the East Asian set instead. The developers' reply that the Vietnamese use the SE Asian set because of the Champa kingdom triggered a worse reaction, because Champa was a historical rival of Vietnam that was conquered and assimilated by itnote . This, however, didn't affect the game's massive popularity in Vietnam.
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    • Indonesians don't like that the Malay civilization (mostly inspired by the Srivijaya and Majapahit empires) is called that, and are similarly unfazed by the claim that the civilization was named after the Malay archipelago and not the Malay people. This is related to Malaysia being Indonesia's traditional rival.
  • Anticlimax Boss:
    • In the Barbarossa campaign's last scenario, The Emperor Sleeping, after fighting your way through Damascus and the Saracen's camp, all spawning powerful units at will, you end up in a fortified but soldierless Jerusalem.
    • There is a shade of this in the Genghis Khan campaign. The last scenario is a 1 vs 1 against Hungary, but the Hungarians are depicted as Teutons. The cutscene hypes Hungarian horses for being related to the Mongols's, but this is moot because the Teutons have one of the weakest cavalry lines in the game. The greatest challenge is instead to get pass the Teutonic walls and castles, but Subotai's arrival with a large number of Saboteurs neutralizes it. And the final nail is that you have already fought and beaten Teutonic defenses in the previous scenario based on the Battle of Liegnitz, so the novelty (for new players, at least) is diminished. Hopefully, the announcement that the Definitive Edition will update the old campaigns means that the Hungarians will this time play as the Magyars and that their cavalry will fight the Mongols on their own level.
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  • Annoying Video-Game Helper: In the vanilla version, Mangonels/Onagers will not stop to attack an enemy unit within their line of sight if one of your other units can be damaged.
  • Award Snub: Many gamers say that this game should have won the 2016 "Test of Time" Steam Award, when it was the only nominee that was older than a decade at time,note  while the winner (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim) was the youngest of the nomineesnote  at only a month over five years old.
  • Better Than Canon: An extensive community exists towards creating custom campaigns using the in game scenario editor, and to say that some of these have such effort and commitment put into them as to shame the official campaigns as released is an understatement. They can be found here.
  • Casual/Competitive Conflict: Competitive players tend to ignore anything beyond The Conquerors. The most common reasons being performance bugs on multiplayer in the HD versions and many changes that disrupts the well-established metagame for said expansion such as several Tier-Induced Scrappy civilizations (both high-end and low-end of the trope) introduced in Forgotten Empires/The Forgotten and The African Kingdoms, as well as biased changes to the existing civilizations. Not to mention the fact that Ensemble Studios had nothing to do with the HD version and its expansions.
    • This is more of a Broken Base situation as of about late 2017 with the release of fan patches that brought the new civilizations of the modern expansions into the The Conquerors engine. Competitive play happens almost exclusively on Voobly and the new civilizations and the new balance changes from as recently as Rise of the Rajas are standard (mainly because Voobly suffers less multiplayer lag when compared to the Steam version). The HD versions do still have significant playerbases, but that playerbase tends to be less experienced.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome:
    • Expect to see Deathmatch Hun only matches, and be criticized if you don't play Deathmatches as the Huns.
    • Most people try to avert this by having all players mandatory pick Random for civilization selection, but this has its own problems.
    • The very popular Castle Blood Arena (CBA), there are only 5 non-faction specific units worth producing in late game. Arbalests, Heavy Cavalry Archers, Hand Cannoneers, Paladins, and Heavy Camels. Although Pikeman/Halberdiers can be situationally useful if fighting the Persians. The only reason to produce anything else is if you can't build any of those 5 units.
    • Knight rushes are very popular since they are Lightning Bruisers and can be trained as soon as players hit the Castle Age while their counters need to be upgraded first before they can even stand a chance against them. However, civilizations that lack Bloodlines (+20 HP for cavalry) will find this strategy to be less appealing.
    • Along with Knights, Pikemen and Onagers tend to be the best units that aren't specific to any civilization due to countering cavalry and their massive damage along with slightly hitting targets in their attack's path before it lands, respectively. Archers tend to be mixed in during the early game, as are towers for both offensive and defensive use.
    • Black Forest maps are often played by newer players due to other map modes (such as Arabia and Nomad) are much faster paced that would require more micromanagement and reaction time. Unsurprisingly, two of the most popular civilizations in Black Forest maps, Celts and Britons, happen to be Skill Gate Character civilizations that are good in Black Forest maps (with the former having good siege to create new paths in Black Forest with their Siege Onagers and the later having good archers to secure the narrow chokepoints in Black Forest maps)
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • In Age of Kings:
      • The final scenario for the tutorial campaign (the Battle of Falkirk) portrays it as a siege, and implies that William Wallace survives to continue his war with the English. While they were probably trying to avoid the historical Downer Ending, they could've just as easily given Wallace a Heroic Sacrifice. Alternatively:
      • The Battle of Falkirk should have had you playing as the English where you have to defeat William Wallace. It also should have been the second-to-last mission of the Tutorial campaign. The real final tutorial mission should have been the Battle of Bannockburn, where it reveals that the narrator of the tutorial campaign was Robert the Bruce.
    • In The Conquerors:
      • The religious building for the Mesoamericans are still called Monasteries, and the religious unit is still called "Monk". However, their monk actually uses a different skin than other monks, making them look like a Mayincatec priest. At least they got the blood on the stairs.
      • The Montezuma campaign repeats the popular myth that the Aztecs mistook the Spanish for gods.
      • In the El Cid campaign, El Cid was said to have been killed by an arrow and propped up on a horse in order to stop the truth from spreading. In reality, he died peacefully. This was probably done for the same or similar reasons as the Battle of Falkirk bit.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: For a very minor role in the first Genghis Khan level, Ornlu has gotten quite poular among the fanbase, enough for the developers to reference him in Age of Mythology and Age of Empires III.
  • Even Better Sequel: While their predecessor got a high rating of 83% at Metacritic, this game got a 92%.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • The game enjoys some popularity in mainland China to the point there is actually a larger competitive scene than Europe and America. note 
    • According to Youtuber and streamer ZeroEmpires, Age of Empires II (as well as Age of Empires I) has a sizable fanbase in Vietnam, which may have been the reason the development team behind the HD editions and expansions included the Vietnamese civilization in Rise of the Rajas.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • In the fourth Attila the Hun mission, you are tasked with destroying three major cities. Destroying the third spawns the massive Roman Army, a force of over a hundred top-tier units...unless you found and killed the placeholder unit on the map, which causes the army to be instantly defeated. Later versions of the game have the army spawn anyway, forcing you to defeat them to win.
    • In the fifth Saladin mission, "Jihad!", one of the three cities, Ascalon, is intended to attempt a Wonder victory. However, sometimes the AI for Ascalon bugs out and doesn't do anything. Given as how "Jihad!" is That One Level even without Ascalon going for the Wonder, this is immensely helpful.
    • The in game scenario editor can do some interesting things with structures and terrain elements that shouldn't be possible. This has been abused thoroughly by the modding community creating custom campaigns.
    • In the first scenario of the Attila the Hun campaign, it's possible to fire both the "Bleda getting killed in the boar hunt" and the "Attila fleeing the Hun camp" events if your timing is good. Because of the first event, the Huns will argue over whether Attila is a worthy leader or an honorless cur, but the second event will make all Hun units instantly join your side upon Bleda's death. This has the practical benefit of giving you Bleda's entire faction with minimal bloodshed. Another bug in the same scenario can occur if the player allies with the Scythians. While the Scythians will break their alliance with the Persians, the Persians don't always do the same and won't even bother to fight back as the Scythians slaughter their way through their base.
    • In the fourth Sundjata scenario "Blood on The River Bank", a bug can cause Gbetos to be produced every second on one of your allies' Barracks, resulting in the player having a massive amount of infinitely-generated troops.
    • In an early version of the game, in "The Crucible", the first Genghis Khan level, Genghis Khan — an extremely strong and powerful hero with a Mangudai model — could be converted to player control at the start, making it ridiculously easy.
    • The AI never builds transport ships despite making docks, at least on lower difficulty levels, making an Island game of deathmatch much easier and regicide impossible to lose because you only need to worry about navy fights.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The original cover art featured a European king, a viking, and a samurai. Many years later, a Mêlée à Trois between knights, vikings, and samurai would take place in For Honor.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!:
    • While the Middle Eastern architecture set suits the Berbers, there's still the issue that 6 civs share the same set (Saracens, Turks, Persians, Byzantines, pre-The Rise of Rajas Indians and the aforementioned Berbers), many of which could not be more different from each other.
    • Of the new Definitive Edition civilizations, only the Lithuanians have escaped this reaction; the Bulgarians especially are widely considered to be well-covered by the Slavs, while the Tatars and Cumans are extremely similar to each other, with many fans saying only one or the other should have been included. This is especially the case since many long-hoped for civs with unique architecture styles, histories, and campaign possibilities (especially the Tibetans, the Tamilnote , and the Georgians) are now effectively shut out since the developers confirmed that they will not be adding more civilizations after the Definitive Edition release.
  • Konami Code: There are more than a dozen but "how do you turn this on" for a car with a machine gun is the most famous.
  • Memetic Badass:
    • The aforementioned machine-gun mounted Cobra Car. Many people who play the HD version now played the original game as kids and used the car to wreck face in single-player games.
    • Spanish villagers with Supremacy are often memed to be the strongest units in the game. Particularly popular are clips where the Spanish intro music plays followed by an upgraded villager killing an enemy unit in one shot.
  • Memetic Loser:
    • While still a decent civ, the Chinese are often mocked for not having Hand Cannoneers, Bombard Cannons, or Block Printing despite being credited for inventing all of those things in real life. Some people even forget that they have access to Bombard Towers and Cannon Galleons because of this in addition to their unique technology, "Rocketry" (although it only boosts the damage for Chu Ko Nus and Scorpions only). Some speculated that this is for gameplay balance purposes, as they are supposed to function as the Jack-of-All-Trades civilization.
    • The Franks, prior their Balance Buff in the later expansions, had this treatment as well, being frequently listed as an example of low tier civilizations. This was because despite being a cavalry based civilization they had a lame light cavalry line, since they lack hussars and Bloodlines, and their extra hitpoint bonus only affect the knight line, which forced them to rely completely on more expensive paladins in the late game. Also their main economy bonus (free windmill upgrades) gave them only a temporal advantage, their team bonus is very situational, and their unique unit is generally considered unimpressive compared to others. This changed a little in later expansions giving them faster foragers as an early game economy bonus, a unique technology that allows them to produce stable units faster, and now the extra hitpoint bonus that affects all cavalry units.
    • Of the HD expansion civilizations, the Magyars and the Vietnamese were given this treatment by the fandom, mainly because the former was considered to be very underwhelming for a Magikarp Power civilization while the latter is mocked for it's Crippling Overspecialization as a "support" civilization in team games and incredibly terrible in 1-on-1 matches. The former got a Rescued from the Scrappy Heap with various buffs, while with the latter, it is still debated if their buffs help them or not.
    • Of all the team bonuses in the game, the Saracens have reputation of having the worst team bonus because their team bonus gives a measly +2 attack vs. buildings for foot archers while ignoring the fact that there are some civilizations with far worse team bonuses than the Saracens (i.e. Incan team bonus where farms are built faster). It also doesn't help to note that the Saracens are notorious being one of the weakest civilizations in the game due to the Magikarp Power nature of the civilization.
    • Poor Khmer. They have statistically the lowest win rate of any civilization, lack major economy bonuses, and do not excel in any of the major unit categories. Instead, their bonuses, tech tree, and unique unit are heavily focused on having the best Elephants, best Scorpions, and one of the best Castle rushes in the game. While not a bad civ, necessarily, their focus on unorthodox bonuses and rarely-used units means they don’t fit typically used strategies very well, and thus they are generally disregarded. It also doesn't help to note that their unique gimmick of not requiring any pre-requisite for buildings and advancing through the ages is difficult to maximize and often backfires on the player.
    • When it comes to new civilizations being added into the HD expansions, the Tibetans is often seen as this within the community. While there have been many opportunities for the developers to add Tibetans as playable civilization (and it's been even mentioned a few times in interviews and development blogs), they are often opted out for more well-known civilizations such as Koreans and Indians. Because of this, the Tibetans ended up being the most requested civilization added into the HD expansions, but are always often left out (although not officially stated, it is speculated that adding them in Age of Empires 2 will risk having the game Banned in China, which become a recurring joke on the main reason the Tibetans are often left out). With the four new civilizations (Cumans, Tatars, Bulgarians, and Lithuanians) centered around Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the Definitive Edition confirmed, the Tibetans were surprisingly left out, and with the developers confirming them to be the last batch of civilizations added into Age of Empires 2, it can easily be confirmed that the Tibetans will never be implemented in Age of Empires 2.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • There's a meme template with the king from The Age of Kings related to the game's quirks such as "10 elephants fit on a transport boat, but 11 archers don't" or "Procreation? No, civilians spawn with 50 food".
    • "How do you turn this on", the cheat for the machine gun car, has also ganied some memetic popularity.
    • Spamming “Start the Game Already!” in the lobby
  • Most Annoying Sound:
    • The monk conversion noise, especially if it is successful.
    • In the Saladin campaign, from Medina and Aqaba:
      "Crusaders are attacking our trade routes!"
    • The "Under Attack" warning tone can also qualify, it's quite loud and plays on an interval of less than 5 seconds. Imagine hearing this for 10 minutes during a skirmish:
      "Ding-Dong!" "You are being attacked by the British"
      "Ding-Dong!" "You are being attacked by the Turks"
      "Ding-Dong!" "You are being attacked by wild animals."
      "Arrrgggh! Shut up already!"
    • The 'Shikkashikkashikka' that plays whenever one of your farms depletes. Apparently, even the developers found this annoying, and introduced the Farm Queue in the expansion.
    • The "attacked by wild animals" sound as noted above is even worse than the "Under Attack" sound — especially when you forgot to research Loom or the attacked villager is in low health.
    • In games with an allied AI teammate:
      wood sire!, wood sire!, wood sire!
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Scorpions. They're essentially giant crossbows on wheels that fire penetrating bolts that pass through enemies, and thus can hit a whole line of enemies all at once. What's the issue? Their damage. In the original game, they had a base damage of 7, which gets reduced by pierce armor, meaning pretty much anything with upgraded armor can reduce it to Scratch Damage. Their dismal range, low mobility and poor health didn't help. Upgrading them to Heavy Scorpions, however, did give them a somewhat more respectable base damage of 16, and the later expansions raised their base damage to 12, making them at least somewhat situationally useful. The Rise of the Rajas expansion introduces the Khmer's team bonus of +1 range for Scorpions for their teammates while making their own Scorpions and Ballista Elephants fire extra projectiles with their Unique Tech, making massing Scorpions a viable option.
    • In Water Maps, Fish Traps are rarely used by professional players despite the fact that there are lack of building space in water maps. This is because villagers gather food faster from Farms than Fishing Ship from Fish Traps. The HD expansions introduced Gillnets that greatly improve the gathering rate for Fishing Ships, and in the Rise of the Rajas expansion, two of Malay's civilization bonuses not only makes Fishing Traps cheaper, but they provide unlimited food.
    • In The Conquerors, the Franks were considered one of the worst civilizations due to effectively limiting their army to slightly beefier Paladinsnote , as well as the economic bonus only amounting to free farming techs that hardly matter late in the game. The HD expansions addressed some shortcomings by giving the Franks Squires and a unique tech drastically speeding up stable production, giving the HP bonus to all cavalrynote , and adding an additional civilization bonus to aid foraging speed to aid the Dark Age economy. It had gotten to the point where the Franks are now one of the better civilizations in the game. Even Spirit of the Law, himself not a fan of the Franks, is rather surprised by this finding.
  • Scrappy Weapon:
    • Camels are usually avoided because they cost a lot of gold, yet are very frail. They die easily to building fire as they're classified as ships (which have a similar weakness) to differentiate themselves from Knights. This is one of the reasons why the Indians cannot utilize their camels prior to The African Kingdoms because their Knight line (one of the most powerful standard units in the Castle Age) is completely replaced by Camels, which due to the reasons above above cannot be used similarly to Knights.
    • The Champion line and most of the infantry Unique Units (with the exception of Huskarls, every single Malian infantry, Shotel Warriors and Woad Raiders) rarely see use in competitive play due to being slow, requiring obscenely expensive upgrades that barely do anything and having many common weaknesses, namely the commonly-used archers, gunpowder units, knights and Onagers.
      • The Samurai, Teutonic Knights, and Jaguar Warriors can be an exception as well depending on the situation. Since the Samurai have bonus points against other unique units, The Teutonic Knights are Mighty Glaciers that can obliterate almost any melee units that gets in their path thanks to their armor bonus, and the Jaguar Warriors slaughters other infantry and have a unique tech that gives them +4 attack points.
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
    • The William Wallace learning campaign could pretty much be considered Braveheart: The Video Game. The fact that Age of Kings was released four years after the movie certainly helps.
    • The El Cid campaign is closer to the 1961 Charlton Heston film than to the Medieval epic or the real guy's life.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: While the original game was OK, this game and the expansions are universally acclaimed and seen as great improvements.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The African Kingdoms would have been a perfectly reasonable opportunity to incorporate the Vandals (one of the most notable Germanic enemies of the Romans, other than the Goths) into the game, seeing as they had ruled the North African kingdom of Carthage for a time, and they sacked Rome during that period. Surely, that would've been worth at least one scenario that was about them, right?
  • Tier-Induced Scrappy:
    • Koreans, Saracens and Turks in open maps. All three of them have poor early-game and open maps make them susceptible to being rushed. This is inverted in closed maps (e.g. Black Forest) where they dominate due to the nature of the map itself and the fact that they have access to many strong Imperial Age units and technologies.
    • Infantry Unique Units mostly range between extremely situational to completely useless with a few exceptions, but among civilizations that get them, the Franks got it the worst. Despite being billed as the "Cavalry" civilization, their only relevant cavalry bonus is extra HP for Knights (which becomes insignificant when many other civilizations get Bloodlines; which affects all mounted units). Their Cavalry Archers are crippled by their unimpressive archer upgrades and, as an European civilization, they don't have Camels. Their Unique Unit, the Throwing Axeman, is regarded as one of the worst as it is easily countered, has the strength of a Long Swordsman even when fully upgraded, is short ranged and ends up slower than most infantry due to them lacking Squires. They also got overshadowed by other civilizations with better cavalry and bonuses such as the Spanish, Persians, Huns, Magyars and Berbers. The Forgotten noticed this and buffed the Franks by making their foragers work faster, gave them Squires and most importantly a Unique Tech in Castle Age that makes their Stables produce cavalry faster. However, the Power Creep introduced by The African Kingdoms civilizations makes them fall back to this again.
    • In certain tournaments including 2017's Escape Game Masters 2, Magyars weren't especially popular to pick either to ban or play. In spite of a mostly versatile late tech treenote , they lack economic bonuses early in the gamenote , their siege is mediocre and their defenses lag behind. In EGM2 alone, they were only picked twice in the whole tournament, both by the same player. Interestingly enough, they are considered one of the better Forgotten civilizations upon release, as the others performed even worse before future expansions buffed them. This eventually led to a buff in patch 5.5 where Magyars were given several buffs where they become a more solid civilization while still keeping the Magikarp Power nature of the civilization.
    • The Vietnamese are rarely played in tournaments, mainly because of the Magikarp Power nature of the civilization (having an incredibly bad early game since they don't have any strong economic bonuses across from revealing the enemy position at the start of the game, and even so, this is only useful for scouting your own base instead) and the fact that their civilization bonuses and unique tech, Paper Money, makes the civilization really team-dependent. The Vietnamese were played in a 2v2 Return of the Kings tournament between a Chinese team and the Vietnamese team (ironically the Chinese team picked the Vietnamese while the Vietnamese team picked the Chinese), and the Chinese team lost. But this is because the Chinese team picked civilizations that are known to have an incredibly weak early game (Magyars and Vietnamese) while the Vietnamese team picked civilizations that have a strong early game (the Mayans and the Chinese to a lesser degree). A patch update in 5.8 gave buffs to the Vietnamese by having the Archery Range HP bonus have a flat increased HP rather than scaling HP on basis of Age and increased the HP of their unique unit, the Rattan Archer, although these are meant to address the issue with the Vietnamese in 1v1 matches rather than their team support potential.
    • The Khmer are considered to be one of the worst civilizations in 1v1 Arabia matches (in fact, their winning rate is at a whooping 38% according to Voobly). The civilization has various strengths such as a very strong siege line, a a reasonably diverse tech tree (especially with a Balance Buff update where they are given the Arbalest upgrade), and the ability to build any building or advance to the next age without any pre-requisite allowing for unconventional build orders. So what holds the Khmer back in competetive play? The civilization is incredibly too hard to play properly. The Khmer don't have any significant early game economic bonuses across from said ability to bypass any pre-requisites for buildings or advancing into the next age, and the bonus is too much of a double-edged sword that often backfires on the player. In addition, much of the civilization's late-game army composition of Battle Elephants and siege weapons can easily be dealt with using Monks (since the Khmer don't have Heresy or Faith, making their siege weapons and Battle Elephants easily convertible) or Huskarls (since the Khmer don't have Champions despite having Hand Cannoneers), making most of their late-game power moot.


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