Six Months of AoE:Online - October Patch

It's patch time again, a little earlier than I would have expected it. To be quite honest I haven't had much time to play AoE:O lately due to the massive influx of other games coming out at this time of the year, and probably won't for a good while yet (Dark Souls and Skyrim are going to eat me alive). The monthly patches give me a bit of incentive to play it more though, and this months patch brings with it the Persian civ in all its Pro glory.

Patch Highlights

While the Pro Persia civilization is the highlight of the patch GasPowered and ROBOT are definitely not slacking or resting on laurels when it comes to these monthly updates. You can read the hefty set of notes here. Just like with the September update they have kinda gone out of their way to increase usability and make some of the quests and AI a little more balanced for the average user.

There are three big things that catch my eye in the notes.

  • The first is the change to ranked PvP only requiring level 20 rather than 25. This is, of course, a change immediately related to the Pro Persia DLC (that starts at level 20) allowing a Persian Civ to 100% jump straight in to the game proper from a single purchase. While opening up ranked to lower levels seems like an obvious good thing it has some caveats for non-Pro Civ players. While the Pro Civ starts out at 20 with all of its 'tutorial' missions done and all tech unlocked (as well as a very healthy starting set of gear for their entire army and buildings) there is no guarantee this will be the same case for a non-Pro Civ. Depending on how many repeatable quests you grind on you could be well into the 20s before you finish the Age 4 quests that unlock the Wonder, and you may not be entirely comfortable resetting your entire tech tree to afford the Age 4 units, and entirely possible that you don't have a full set of kit in your Gear Hall. TL;DR, a non-Pro Civ is generally at an immediate disadvantage entering level 20 ranked PvP. There are disadvantages to being a Pro Civ also, but I'll talk about them more in the next blog which will be all about Pro Persia (and what a Pro Civ is).
  • The second big thing is the leaning toward promoting co-op play. Participating in co-op will earn you Empire Points even if you aren't on the quest you are helping someone out with, and both players get the random chests from killing Guardians on the map. It gives people incentive and reward for playing missions with others. The community aspect kinda needs this boost since most people, myself included, seem to play the game as a glorified single player game.
  • The third big thing, and kind of exciting from a personal perspective, is the line about the tweaked party UI noting that one of the reasons for the change is so it can 'support more players down the line'. 3v3 and 4v4 AoE is really fun and I hope this large game support comes sooner rather than later!

The rest of the notes focus on... well, actually they aren't really very focused. If you could pick something about the game out of a hat they've probably fixed or tweaked that part at least a little. To be frank the game did release a little broken in the form of AI problems which are slowly being ironed out, and the UI the game started with feels a little basic compared to the little fixes and tweaks they've made over the last couple of months.

I've seen it's all too easy for an MMO developer to release a game (and trust me, I have played many more MMO's than a sane person should) and not really fix many fundamentals like ugly bits of UI, pathing and AI, and other niggling 'unimportant' things for a very long time since they are focused more on future content releases and only fix the most exploitive and crippling bugs but it seems like GasPowered and ROBOT have been putting a lot of effort all over the front and back ends of their game. It's refreshing to see and I hope they keep it up.

Mistake... Or Gauging Interest?

A footnote to the patch is the (unintentional?) teasing of a piece of paid content coming very soon: the Skirmish Hall. The very bottom of the patch notes highlights a known issue that a loading screen splash for next months paid content is currently in the game somewhere. I have seen the loading screen splash they mentioned in the patch notes about the Skirmish Hall and, damn my fast computer, I didn't get to read it all in detail.

From what I could glean the Skirmish Hall is a mode played by up to 4 players in matches that support 8 Civs (perhaps it will support 8 players at a later date?). Whether this is a strict 4 human v 4 AI or can be set up manually is unknown. The main draw to this mode, apart from the higher player count, seems to be that you can play the mode at any level and use any prefab high-level Civ. I would assume this would be regardless of whether you actually own a premium version of that Civ but maybe that's just wishful thinking! This could be a great mode for anyone who is into playing skirmish against AI and PvP in AoE but doesn't really care about questing and crafting or want to shell out the time and money required to play all the Civs to 40 to be able to have meaningful quickmatches with them.

So What Did My Season Pass Get Me?

The value-for-money ticker this month is a bit weird because of the nature of Pro Civs. I'll detail what makes a Pro Civ 'pro' in the next blog but the basic gist is that it starts at level 20 with some good gear, assuming you have a degree of skill at the game that doesn't require tutorial levels. Persia was the only piece of paid content this patch.

The Pro Persia Civ could be seen as a cash grab, as you're basically paying them to skip 20 levels of content and come out geared to the teeth and ready to go. There are a few Persia-specific quests but mostly you'll be using the shared zones from 20-40. The Persians play differently enough and have enough to make them interesting of their own right to justify them in my mind as a purchase as much as Egypt and Greece but if having 20 levels of content played for you isn't worth the portion that you would have paid for the existing Civs pre-20 content then they may be a little bit of a hard-sell. That said, they're throwing out Pro Persia for half price for a short time, which seems like a better deal to me for someone buying them from scratch. For someone that bought a season pass though, I kind of feel like it devalues my purchase. Did I pay the equivalent of $20 up front for Persia and got screwed out of $10 because I bought it early? It seems like a kick in the teeth at this stage, but I really won't know until we reach the end of the six months and I can tally up the total worth.

Next Time...

Next post I make will be all about Pro Persia and Pro Civs in general, as I feel like they need a whole blog all to themselves. Having played a handful of missions with them I can safely say they are a lot different to play than Egypt at least! They seem to hold a middle-ground mechanics-wise to Egypt and Greece (the former being mechanics and economy and the latter army management and brute force) and have unique units and mechanics that are either completely polarizing as to what strategy they require while also having units and mechanics that are extremely versatile in any situation, making them seem a very reactionary Civ.

Thanks for reading!

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1 Comments
Posted by makari

It's patch time again, a little earlier than I would have expected it. To be quite honest I haven't had much time to play AoE:O lately due to the massive influx of other games coming out at this time of the year, and probably won't for a good while yet (Dark Souls and Skyrim are going to eat me alive). The monthly patches give me a bit of incentive to play it more though, and this months patch brings with it the Persian civ in all its Pro glory.

Patch Highlights

While the Pro Persia civilization is the highlight of the patch GasPowered and ROBOT are definitely not slacking or resting on laurels when it comes to these monthly updates. You can read the hefty set of notes here. Just like with the September update they have kinda gone out of their way to increase usability and make some of the quests and AI a little more balanced for the average user.

There are three big things that catch my eye in the notes.

  • The first is the change to ranked PvP only requiring level 20 rather than 25. This is, of course, a change immediately related to the Pro Persia DLC (that starts at level 20) allowing a Persian Civ to 100% jump straight in to the game proper from a single purchase. While opening up ranked to lower levels seems like an obvious good thing it has some caveats for non-Pro Civ players. While the Pro Civ starts out at 20 with all of its 'tutorial' missions done and all tech unlocked (as well as a very healthy starting set of gear for their entire army and buildings) there is no guarantee this will be the same case for a non-Pro Civ. Depending on how many repeatable quests you grind on you could be well into the 20s before you finish the Age 4 quests that unlock the Wonder, and you may not be entirely comfortable resetting your entire tech tree to afford the Age 4 units, and entirely possible that you don't have a full set of kit in your Gear Hall. TL;DR, a non-Pro Civ is generally at an immediate disadvantage entering level 20 ranked PvP. There are disadvantages to being a Pro Civ also, but I'll talk about them more in the next blog which will be all about Pro Persia (and what a Pro Civ is).
  • The second big thing is the leaning toward promoting co-op play. Participating in co-op will earn you Empire Points even if you aren't on the quest you are helping someone out with, and both players get the random chests from killing Guardians on the map. It gives people incentive and reward for playing missions with others. The community aspect kinda needs this boost since most people, myself included, seem to play the game as a glorified single player game.
  • The third big thing, and kind of exciting from a personal perspective, is the line about the tweaked party UI noting that one of the reasons for the change is so it can 'support more players down the line'. 3v3 and 4v4 AoE is really fun and I hope this large game support comes sooner rather than later!

The rest of the notes focus on... well, actually they aren't really very focused. If you could pick something about the game out of a hat they've probably fixed or tweaked that part at least a little. To be frank the game did release a little broken in the form of AI problems which are slowly being ironed out, and the UI the game started with feels a little basic compared to the little fixes and tweaks they've made over the last couple of months.

I've seen it's all too easy for an MMO developer to release a game (and trust me, I have played many more MMO's than a sane person should) and not really fix many fundamentals like ugly bits of UI, pathing and AI, and other niggling 'unimportant' things for a very long time since they are focused more on future content releases and only fix the most exploitive and crippling bugs but it seems like GasPowered and ROBOT have been putting a lot of effort all over the front and back ends of their game. It's refreshing to see and I hope they keep it up.

Mistake... Or Gauging Interest?

A footnote to the patch is the (unintentional?) teasing of a piece of paid content coming very soon: the Skirmish Hall. The very bottom of the patch notes highlights a known issue that a loading screen splash for next months paid content is currently in the game somewhere. I have seen the loading screen splash they mentioned in the patch notes about the Skirmish Hall and, damn my fast computer, I didn't get to read it all in detail.

From what I could glean the Skirmish Hall is a mode played by up to 4 players in matches that support 8 Civs (perhaps it will support 8 players at a later date?). Whether this is a strict 4 human v 4 AI or can be set up manually is unknown. The main draw to this mode, apart from the higher player count, seems to be that you can play the mode at any level and use any prefab high-level Civ. I would assume this would be regardless of whether you actually own a premium version of that Civ but maybe that's just wishful thinking! This could be a great mode for anyone who is into playing skirmish against AI and PvP in AoE but doesn't really care about questing and crafting or want to shell out the time and money required to play all the Civs to 40 to be able to have meaningful quickmatches with them.

So What Did My Season Pass Get Me?

The value-for-money ticker this month is a bit weird because of the nature of Pro Civs. I'll detail what makes a Pro Civ 'pro' in the next blog but the basic gist is that it starts at level 20 with some good gear, assuming you have a degree of skill at the game that doesn't require tutorial levels. Persia was the only piece of paid content this patch.

The Pro Persia Civ could be seen as a cash grab, as you're basically paying them to skip 20 levels of content and come out geared to the teeth and ready to go. There are a few Persia-specific quests but mostly you'll be using the shared zones from 20-40. The Persians play differently enough and have enough to make them interesting of their own right to justify them in my mind as a purchase as much as Egypt and Greece but if having 20 levels of content played for you isn't worth the portion that you would have paid for the existing Civs pre-20 content then they may be a little bit of a hard-sell. That said, they're throwing out Pro Persia for half price for a short time, which seems like a better deal to me for someone buying them from scratch. For someone that bought a season pass though, I kind of feel like it devalues my purchase. Did I pay the equivalent of $20 up front for Persia and got screwed out of $10 because I bought it early? It seems like a kick in the teeth at this stage, but I really won't know until we reach the end of the six months and I can tally up the total worth.

Next Time...

Next post I make will be all about Pro Persia and Pro Civs in general, as I feel like they need a whole blog all to themselves. Having played a handful of missions with them I can safely say they are a lot different to play than Egypt at least! They seem to hold a middle-ground mechanics-wise to Egypt and Greece (the former being mechanics and economy and the latter army management and brute force) and have unique units and mechanics that are either completely polarizing as to what strategy they require while also having units and mechanics that are extremely versatile in any situation, making them seem a very reactionary Civ.

Thanks for reading!