Six Months of AoE:Online - September Patch

A patch rolled out a couple of days ago for AoE:O. Unfortunately it didn't include a new Civ but it did fix some misc bugs, added a few little extra bits of content and cleaned up the UI and usability a little bit. You can check the notes out here.

The first thing you'll see when you start up the game is that there is a button for the Empire Handbook on the title screen. While the Empire Handbook could always be accessed from the menu in-game, having the instruction manual up front and in-your-face is definitely aimed at having players new to the game and genre actually look at it instead of diving in and wondering what the faintest idea of the game is about.

The second thing you see after you log in is this:

Are you Pro-Persia?

The Persians definitely look pro compared to the mail skirt and dress-and-cane combo of the existing Civs. Apparently they are the next item on the list for release, which hopefully will come out before the end of October. If this is true and monthly updates like this one are commonplace it bodes well for the support of the game. It's especially good that the content in the update is part paid and part free, a trend that I hope continues in subsequent patches.

The patch introduces a series of Legendary Quest lines and Items to the game, which is a free update than anyone can take advantage of. Previously the coloured item threshold was topped at purple (Epic) items but the patch introduces the orange Legendary tier, officially catching it up to modern MMO's everywhere. These items are of course endgame content so I haven't had any chance to look at the quest lines or items myself, but they promise the quest lines to be 'very hard' which I hope actually means 'very hard' in a strategic and micro/macro skill sense and not just a 'we're taking advantage of our already utterly ruthless quest AI and turning it into hardmode content'.

Speaking of ruthless AI, they did fix and clean up a lot of AI and quest issues in the patch including making the AI a little smarter on maps with specific objectives which was always a little bit of a problem. Sometimes you were told to gather a certain amount of a specific resource and such and the AI was bent on doing their old 'make a block of units and storm your town' rather than actually defending resource points or bothering to stop or harass your storehouses or fishing boats, which has been changed now. As many of these missions are daily quests it makes them much more interesting to play, although some might bemoan the change because those quests were typically a quick and easy chunk of exp. Wimps.

The new shop icons make it easier to see what you're getting and spending at a glance

Another big part of the update were some usability and UI cleanups which are extremely welcome. Some of the highlights for me:

  • Being able to equip items without having to go back to your main city. This is such a good change as it was annoying to have to open up your map, go back to town, equip an item or two and then transport back to the quest hub map you got those items at. You can press G to open the inventory anywhere you are (except on a quest and in PvP of course) and equip items straight from your bags.
  • A 'Return to Capital City' button on the Escape menu. Again, having to navigate multiple menus to get back home was a bit annoying and this button also serves as a 'Quit to Town' button if you want to quit a mission but don't necessarily want to log out entirely.
  • Shops have more distinct icons above them in regards to what they offer and what currency they use. It's now much easier to differentiate crafting shops from some item shops and blueprint shops which all used to have the same icon. A little currency icon on the bottom right of the icon lets you know whether that shop uses gold or specific Empire/City/Sparta points at a glance.
  • Minimap changes for certain resources. This may not be huge for a lot of people but I certainly like it. The minimap in AoE:O is always kind of cluttered with all the different icons for resources, buildings, units and terrain. The change makes Berry Bushes, Huntables and enemy units easier to distinguish by changing their colours to not all be red. You'd think someone would notice that earlier right?

All of the above stuff, as well as the usual general bug fixes, are free updates. I did say this patch included paid content too, which of course I received for being a season pass holder. What was it do you ask?

Totally worth it, that's what!

Another vanity shop with decorations for your town. This time it's a bunch of animal Topiaries. Money well spent!

As well as all the above there were also a couple of additional things that Mr Cash Shop gave me when I logged in that originated from I-don't-know-where. If I had to guess it may either be a free little something that everyone gets with the September update or perhaps a bonus for 'paying' customers that have spent money in one way or another on the game. Both my Greek and Egypt Civs got the same two rewards.

One was a choice of a decorative statue of a Spearman or a statue of a Hypaspist (units of Egypt and Greece respectively) for your town and the other was an Age 4 Adviser: The Golden Hippikon. The Golden Hippikon allows you to train snazzy gold-armoured Hippikons at Age 4. Hippikons are usually an Age 4 Greek-only unit and the Golden Hippikons seem like the same kind of unit only with a different skin, as the name might entail. As I haven't got to Age 4 as Greeks yet I can't reliably say if they are stronger than a normal Hippikon (I'd assume so since Greeks gain nothing but a sweet looking skin for taking this Adviser), but the plus side is that Egypt can learn this Adviser to gain access to the Hippikon unit where they otherwise would not be able to. I'm not entirely sure if this is a great idea on a balance perspective but it is an Age 4 Adviser and Age 4 Advisers have some pretty nice bonuses that you'll be giving up for a chance to take this unit to battle.

As far as monthly updates go, this one was pretty decent and changed the game in meaningful ways. Legendary items will give me some things to strive for at cap and all the usability/UI/AI changes are great even if they don't fix every single issue. I'm looking forward to seeing if the monthly thing keeps up, and definitely looking forward to the Persian Civ, hopefully within a months time.

Thanks for reading!

1 Comments
1 Comments
Posted by makari

A patch rolled out a couple of days ago for AoE:O. Unfortunately it didn't include a new Civ but it did fix some misc bugs, added a few little extra bits of content and cleaned up the UI and usability a little bit. You can check the notes out here.

The first thing you'll see when you start up the game is that there is a button for the Empire Handbook on the title screen. While the Empire Handbook could always be accessed from the menu in-game, having the instruction manual up front and in-your-face is definitely aimed at having players new to the game and genre actually look at it instead of diving in and wondering what the faintest idea of the game is about.

The second thing you see after you log in is this:

Are you Pro-Persia?

The Persians definitely look pro compared to the mail skirt and dress-and-cane combo of the existing Civs. Apparently they are the next item on the list for release, which hopefully will come out before the end of October. If this is true and monthly updates like this one are commonplace it bodes well for the support of the game. It's especially good that the content in the update is part paid and part free, a trend that I hope continues in subsequent patches.

The patch introduces a series of Legendary Quest lines and Items to the game, which is a free update than anyone can take advantage of. Previously the coloured item threshold was topped at purple (Epic) items but the patch introduces the orange Legendary tier, officially catching it up to modern MMO's everywhere. These items are of course endgame content so I haven't had any chance to look at the quest lines or items myself, but they promise the quest lines to be 'very hard' which I hope actually means 'very hard' in a strategic and micro/macro skill sense and not just a 'we're taking advantage of our already utterly ruthless quest AI and turning it into hardmode content'.

Speaking of ruthless AI, they did fix and clean up a lot of AI and quest issues in the patch including making the AI a little smarter on maps with specific objectives which was always a little bit of a problem. Sometimes you were told to gather a certain amount of a specific resource and such and the AI was bent on doing their old 'make a block of units and storm your town' rather than actually defending resource points or bothering to stop or harass your storehouses or fishing boats, which has been changed now. As many of these missions are daily quests it makes them much more interesting to play, although some might bemoan the change because those quests were typically a quick and easy chunk of exp. Wimps.

The new shop icons make it easier to see what you're getting and spending at a glance

Another big part of the update were some usability and UI cleanups which are extremely welcome. Some of the highlights for me:

  • Being able to equip items without having to go back to your main city. This is such a good change as it was annoying to have to open up your map, go back to town, equip an item or two and then transport back to the quest hub map you got those items at. You can press G to open the inventory anywhere you are (except on a quest and in PvP of course) and equip items straight from your bags.
  • A 'Return to Capital City' button on the Escape menu. Again, having to navigate multiple menus to get back home was a bit annoying and this button also serves as a 'Quit to Town' button if you want to quit a mission but don't necessarily want to log out entirely.
  • Shops have more distinct icons above them in regards to what they offer and what currency they use. It's now much easier to differentiate crafting shops from some item shops and blueprint shops which all used to have the same icon. A little currency icon on the bottom right of the icon lets you know whether that shop uses gold or specific Empire/City/Sparta points at a glance.
  • Minimap changes for certain resources. This may not be huge for a lot of people but I certainly like it. The minimap in AoE:O is always kind of cluttered with all the different icons for resources, buildings, units and terrain. The change makes Berry Bushes, Huntables and enemy units easier to distinguish by changing their colours to not all be red. You'd think someone would notice that earlier right?

All of the above stuff, as well as the usual general bug fixes, are free updates. I did say this patch included paid content too, which of course I received for being a season pass holder. What was it do you ask?

Totally worth it, that's what!

Another vanity shop with decorations for your town. This time it's a bunch of animal Topiaries. Money well spent!

As well as all the above there were also a couple of additional things that Mr Cash Shop gave me when I logged in that originated from I-don't-know-where. If I had to guess it may either be a free little something that everyone gets with the September update or perhaps a bonus for 'paying' customers that have spent money in one way or another on the game. Both my Greek and Egypt Civs got the same two rewards.

One was a choice of a decorative statue of a Spearman or a statue of a Hypaspist (units of Egypt and Greece respectively) for your town and the other was an Age 4 Adviser: The Golden Hippikon. The Golden Hippikon allows you to train snazzy gold-armoured Hippikons at Age 4. Hippikons are usually an Age 4 Greek-only unit and the Golden Hippikons seem like the same kind of unit only with a different skin, as the name might entail. As I haven't got to Age 4 as Greeks yet I can't reliably say if they are stronger than a normal Hippikon (I'd assume so since Greeks gain nothing but a sweet looking skin for taking this Adviser), but the plus side is that Egypt can learn this Adviser to gain access to the Hippikon unit where they otherwise would not be able to. I'm not entirely sure if this is a great idea on a balance perspective but it is an Age 4 Adviser and Age 4 Advisers have some pretty nice bonuses that you'll be giving up for a chance to take this unit to battle.

As far as monthly updates go, this one was pretty decent and changed the game in meaningful ways. Legendary items will give me some things to strive for at cap and all the usability/UI/AI changes are great even if they don't fix every single issue. I'm looking forward to seeing if the monthly thing keeps up, and definitely looking forward to the Persian Civ, hopefully within a months time.

Thanks for reading!