The classic real-time strategy game Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings just keeps growing, and growing, and growing. Its latest expansion, decades after the game was originally released in 1999, is called Lords of the West and adds three more campaigns and two completely new civilisations: Burgundians and Sicilians.
Out today on PC, Lords of the West is a $13 add-on for the Definitive Edition of the game released back in 2019. In addition to the three (fully-voiced) campaigns, one each for the Burgundian and Sicilian civilisations, as well as an additional one for the Britons focused on Edward Longshanks, there are the two civilisations, one focused on cavalry and gunpowder tech, while the other is infantry-based with an interesting gold bonus technology.
Here are some of the highlights from Microsoft’s blog post:
- Economic upgrades are available one Age earlier than other civs
- Stable technologies cost -50%
- Gunpowder units gain +25% attack
- Relics generate both Gold & Food
- Coustillier cavalry unit – Utilises a powerful shock attack when charging into battle.” Strong vs. infantry and archers. Weak vs. Camel Riders and Monks.
- Burgundian Vineyards tech – Convert all food into gold at a 2:1 ratio, Farmers slowly generate gold in addition to food.
- Castles and Town Centres are constructed 100% faster
- Land military units absorb 50% of all incoming bonus damage
- Farm upgrades provide +100% additional food to Farms before they need to be reseeded
- Transport ships +5 carry capacity and +10 armour against anti-ship attacks
- Serjeant – A hardy infantry unit which can also construct Donjons
- Donjon – Unique fortification used to train Serjeants. Units can garrison in the building for protection; Archers and Villagers shoot additional projectiles when garrisoned.
In addition to their unique units and bonuses, both civilisations also have some really interesting one-time techs that trigger massive changes when they’re first researched. Burgundian Vineyards, for example, instantly converts all food into gold at a 2:1 ratio, and leads farmers from there on out to generate a small amount of gold in addition to food supplies. Meanwhile, Flemish Revolution automatically transforms all villagers into militia, which seems drastic but potentially fun for rushing or last ditch defending.
On the Sicilian side there’s First Crusade, which spawns 10 special Serjeant infantry units at each existing town centre (up to five), and Scutage which gives all players on a team 15 extra gold per military unit they control in a one-time lump sum. The two techs could obviously work well together, and also help sustain teams through a longer end-game.
Despite hundreds of hours in the original game, I’m still far from an expert Age of Empires II strategist, so I’ll have to wait and see how some of the more elite players in the game’s small competitive scene put these new civilisations and techs to use. Still, it’s exciting to see the game’s balance potentially reinvigorated with another set of civilisational trade-offs to choose from. At least until Age of Empires IV finally arrives.