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  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • One of the criticisms of the original game was how the severely negative impacts of colonization, especially on Native Americans, was heavily downplayed. The two expansions explicitly show the more negative side effects of racism, exploitation and greed more overtly.
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    • The WarChiefs added some of the most criticized omissions in the vanilla game, such as playable Native American civilizations, the possibility of playing as post-colonial American states through the Revolution option, more western American maps and natives, and new campaigns that were less fantastical and more grounded in History despite still using Black Family members as main characters. The response wasn't completely enthusiastic, however. The Asian Dynasties then added East Asian civilizations, campaigns, and maps with more success.
    • Definitive Edition seems aimed to please both sides of the Broken Base (see below) in several ways:
      • Given how important the Inca are, especially in the Steel part of the campaign, many fans were surprised and livid to find out they were not a civilization in The WarChiefs. Definitive Edition makes up for it by adding the Inca as a civilization.
      • The Swedes, after so much time being left out of the final civilization roster, now make it as a playable civilization.
      • The Historical Battles, a collection of single player scenarios based on historical battles a la "Battles of the Conquerors" or "Battles of the Forgotten", for people who were disappointed with the ahistorical campaign and wished to play with more civilizations in campaign mode.
      • In addition, the Iroquois and Sioux were completely reworked from ground up in the Definitive Edition to be more respectful to their cultures, as while the original game wanted to represent Native American cultures, some elements (such as the Fire Pit) ended up reinforcing western stereotypes on Native American cultures, so the developers consulted with various tribal leaders to have a more accurate representation of the Native American civilizations (i.e. the Fire Pit replaced with Community Plaza, mining replaced with fur trading, and their civilization names renamed to Haudenosaunee and Lakota respectively). The storyline in Act II: Shadow was rewritten where Crazy Horse was replaced with Chayton's uncle, Uncle Warbonnet, in order to establish Chayton having a more personal connection with the Lakota people.
      • Much like in Age of Empires II, the Definitive Edition corrected a decades-long misplaced cathedral by replacing the Florence Dome in the Spanish and Portuguese home cities with the Lisbon Cathedral.
  • Breather Level:
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    • Any mission where you only need to rack up on experience counts, but especially "A Pirate's Help", the grinding mission from Blood, has you doing a lot of tasks in order to win Lizzie's favor. The thing is, you have 15 minutes, and if you use hotkeys appropriately, you'll manage to win her favor in just 4 of them (5 if you also do all of the side missions), leaving the rest of time to rack up even more experience. And you don't need to rush Morgan to Lizzie until the last minute, meaning that you can set the trading posts for grinding even more experience and create as many units as you can just to rack up on experience and reach Level 10 even faster on your main city, which will come in handy for the two last missions, especially the last. Just make sure not to miss on Morgan meeting Lizzie. It also helps that the mission is set between two draining missions such as "Temples of the Aztec" and "Spanish Treasure Fleet".
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    • The "Crossing The Delaware" mission in the "Fire" campaign of The Warchiefs. You don't even need to go straight away to the first mission, you might even be more interested in exploring the map and getting the treasures, because you're going to need them later. Not to mention that at some point of the exploration, you'll get a Courier Des Bois (a French settler) who can get the supplies scattered across the map for you. And later you'll find a Huron native settlement where you can build a trading post so you can get even more units, which will also come in handy for destroying the ships which hold even more units. You can even get some decent artillery units before doing the first mission. By the time you're finished with the side missions, an otherwise difficult mission becomes piece of cake, and you can get a big army with just a few resources. The fact that it's set between "Breed's Hill" and "Saratoga" doesn't hurt.
    • Also from "Fire" is the mission "Valley Forge". Located between the aforementioned "Saratoga" and the even more exhausting "The Battle of Morristown", early on you need to take care of your few units, but Nathaniel and Washington can rescue a settler trapped in a tree a few squares from your base. Unlike the militia and both heroes, during this early phase this settler doesn't lose points outside of the camp. Once the six mandatory huts are built, you can use this settler in order to pick the food, wood and gold crates scattered around the map, thus making the "Collect 3000 food units" sub-mission easier. At one point you even find a pair of Huron villages, who in the food phase gives you a pair of Courier Des Bois (the even better french counterpart to the settlers) and in the final phase you can use to mass its unique unit, the siege Huron Mantlets, which can help you tear the english buildings and defenses like they're made of paper. By the time the final phase rolls, you'll amass a strong army in no time.
  • Broken Base:
    • There are two visible splits in the fandom. Between Latin American and northern European players, on the one hand (even though the game is mostly about North America and Asia); and whenever the topic of a remaster or new expansions comes up, between those who think the game should stay focused on overseas colonization and those who think it should return to Europe and the Mediterranean (with some overlap with the other split, but not completely).
    • The Definitive Edition's decision to cut Crazy Horse out of the campaign, in favor of Chayton's uncle led to a pretty sharp schism, as the original campaign was one of the few times a famous Native American leader has been depicted in a video game. Some people felt this decision made more sense, as Chayton had a more personal reason to side with the Sioux as well as emphasizing his major identity struggle, while others felt that it severely undermined the original campaign's well written plot.
  • Complete Monster: Sheriff William "Billy" Holme is the Big Bad of the Shadow section of The WarChiefs Expansion Pack. Initially a friend to Chayton Black, Holme becomes consumed by greed when gold is discovered in the Black Hills. Holme summons his old friend Chayton with the intent of manipulating him into kicking the Sioux off the land so he can claim the gold. When Chayton attempts to negotiate with the Sioux leader Crazy Horse, Holme follows Chayton and attempts to assassinate Crazy Horse, shattering any chance of a peace settlement. When Chayton builds a fort for Holme, Holme orders Chayton to destroy an entire village and leave no survivors—including women and children—even though they have done nothing. When Chayton protests the order, Holme initially tries to justify it as they will do something, and then dares Chayton to turn on him. When cornered by Chayton in a cave, Holme justifies all of his crimes by arguing he would have been rich. When Chayton asks Holme if he would kill the settlers, he admits the only thing that matters is the gold. When urged by Chayton to surrender peacefully, Holme attempts to shoot him with a pistol despite his life being spared. A man who uses his sheriff's position to manipulate his friend into murdering innocent people all for the sake of greed, Holme shows the dark side of colonization and settlement in a game that skirts around these issues.
  • Contested Sequel: While it's not considered a bad game by any means, the general consensus among fans is that III fell short of expectations when compared to the previous installment. That said, the game does have a very dedicated playerbase.
  • Critical Research Failure:
  • Fanon Discontinuity:
    • Many fans of Age of Empires II don't consider III really a game in the series.
    • Many fans of III don't consider The WarChiefs a real expansion.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Made in the US and with an evident North American-centered vision of the European colonization of the Americas, yet the game is most popular in South America and central/northern Europe.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Nathaniel Black, of the "Fire" segment of the War Chiefs campaign, is a half Mohawk Revolutionary war hero who personally knows Washington. Plus the Circle of Ossus is rather similar the Templars of Assassins Creed. Even better is that the protagonist is motivated against the main antagonist for a crime committed against the protagonist's mother, though Nonakhee winds up merely kidnapped instead of killed and Washington has nothing to do with it.
    • In an AMA at the Age of Empires 3 Heaven forums, lead engineer Sandy Petersen defended the game's focus on American colonization claiming that it would be ridiculous to play as Napoleon, start with a town center and build from there to fight the Battle of Austerlitz. Cue the first big game mod Napoleonic Era, whose aim is pretty much that. Made funnier considering two of the civilizations in said mod, the Swedes and Incas, were Promoted to Playable in Definitive Edition, which also contains scenarios based on historical battles... even though Napoleon isn't in any of them at release time.
    • In Act I, Lizzie winds up fighting an ancient secret society widely dismissed as a myth that plans to take over the New World. Her voice actress, Jennifer Hale, would later voice Commander Shepard, who fights a similar threat in the Mass Effect trilogy that came out two years later.
    • All the drama between Microsoft and Ensemble on the issue of including Crazy Horse (see Trivia), after knowing that the Definitive Edition writes him out completely.
  • Mis-blamed: No, this game didn't kill off the franchise - although as noted below, it was seen as falling short in comparison to previous installments, the real reason for the franchise's death was the closure of Ensemble Studios, for reasons unrelated to this game.note 
  • Moral Event Horizon: In Shadow, Chayton was tracking down Crazy Horse in an attempt to negotiate peace between the Sioux and the settlers. Holme trails him and attempts to assassinate Crazy Horse, completely wrecking any chance for peace between the settlers and the Sioux, so he could take the gold from the Sioux. And yet Chayton continues with Holme even after that. It's only when Holme tells Chayton to slaughter a Sioux camp "before it becomes a problem later" that he finally switches sides.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • Most players avoid naval-oriented maps altogether due to Arbitrary Headcount Limits on each ship type and the incredible strain watching a naval battle puts on most low-to-middle-end computers. A later patch fixes the performance issues with naval units, but the mortar/monitor/rocket shell explosions will still put a strain on low-end PCs.
    • Unlike in previous games, you can't play games with more than two teams, nor have a skirmish game against an AI player using the same civilization as yours unless you make it in the editor.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Using entirely fictional stories backdropped to historical events instead of entirely historical campaigns like the previous games. Especially glaring is the ample material in North American history from the time period used in the game. This does not apply to the second expansion although it does take a few liberties with things (i.e. the Chinese being the first to discover America and erasing proof of their presence.) This is especially egregious considering that the first two Age of Empires games had several campaigns, all based on real historical events.
    • The first expansion had Nathaniel Black, son of John Black, as the main character of the "Fire" Campaign (which revolved around the Iroquois), and Chayton Black, the son of Amelia Black, as the main character of the "Shadow" Campaign (where you played as the Sioux). Considering the expansion pack introduces 3 new civilizations, as well as the fact that we didn't learn anything about John Black's father Phillipe in the first game, you'd think they'd have him be the main character of a third campaign where you played as the Aztecs (the third civilization introduced) to complete the trifecta, but nopenote .
    • Morgan and Lizzie had four sons. They split, Morgan raised two (John's father, Phillipe, and Stuart) and Lizzie raised two. We never hear anything of the other two raised by a Pirate Girl, not even in the expansions.
    • Only the Sioux, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Indians are actually playable in the campaigns. For everything else, it's either the Knights of Malta or the Black family. Special regards go to the Portuguese and Dutch, who don't even show up as enemies.
    • Many of the European empires present in the game actually interacted with India, China, Japan, and the rest of Asia quite a bit during the time period covered, but you wouldn't get that idea from the Asian campaigns beyond the British in India.
    • The decision to make the game about American colonization, first and foremost. Imagine how different it could have been if that central role had been given to Old World conflicts with names as suggestive as The Thirty Years War, The Eighty Years War, or the Polish Deluge.
    • The lack of any official Expansion to cover Africa, which had plenty of European colonization and interaction within the time period covered. It is the subject of some fan made expansion, like the "Italy and Africa Mod" and The King's Return.
    • The Historical Battles are only six, four of them are set in the 16th century, and again they include an English pirate army taking on a Spanish base in the Caribbean, a battle in the French and Indian War, and a battle on the post-independence U.S. At least there is hope for more battles in future updates like in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, or a redone Editor that is more conducive for fan-made scenarios.
  • Tier-Induced Scrappy: The Aztecs. The more historically-minded players hate that they are a playable faction, even the ones that can accept Iroquois and Sioux (in that order). They are out of time, out of place, and their technologies, infantry and naval units are nonsensically powerful in order to make them stand a chance against industrial era powers, despite their main claim to fame being their quick fall to a small and archaic (by game's standards) army of Europeans. Even then, they are still hard to master because they can neither create their own cavalry or artillery. What seals the deal is that the Aztecs already had their time to shine as the stars of the The Conquerors expansion of Age of Empires II, and that unlike other civilizations carried over from the previous game (Spanish, British, French, Germans, Ottomans, Chinese, and Japanese) they are stuck with the same fighting style, so they feel like treaded water. The studio elevating them to playable faction instead of other cultures that did survive the first Spanish onslaught and fought back to some extent historically, like the Inca, Maya, and Mapuche, comes across as pushing them down the player's throat.

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