Monday, 19 November 2012

Age of Empires 2 - The Cowardly Joan of Arc

This is the story of Joan of Arc, the simple farm maid who became a national hero by walking very slowly and carefully across France and then hiding in a castle.

The Age of Empires 2 campaign is something I remember giving quite a lot of my time to at university, even though it is rubbish. It is basically a series of escort missions - my least favourite kind of RTS mission - except your 'hero' units aren't any more powerful than your normal units...
I begin with the tutorial, but quickly tire of the Scottish accent and decide to jump straight into the first campaign - Joan of Arc. A quick intro (young girl, inspirational, God said lead France to victory etc ) and we're off!

Joan must survive

Uuuuurgh I hate that criteria. It's the one major problem games have in retelling historical, or any other 'true' account, the final outcome needs to be as it was at the time.
Anyway, we set off, Joan the maid and a few knights and swordsmen, and while I'm working out what's what Joan is attacked by wolves - NOT THE FOOTBALL TEAM LOL.

We fend them off and then carry on at an excruciating pace towards our goal. Different units have different move speeds, but when you group different types they all move at the speed of your slowest. With only a handful of units there's no point in grouping them into types so we just walk everywhere like we're on parade, in impeccable formation but without the urgency the mission suggests might be required. Starcraft 2 has really spoiled my view of other RTS's. How am I supposed to go back to this from that? Everything's so SLOW.
Anyway we avoid British patrols, cross rivers, pick up a few more reinforcements and then reach our destination pretty much untroubled. Hooray!

Mission 2 - get supplies to a town, defend town, kill a British castle. Joan must survive.

In order for missions like these to be fun you have to take the C&C 'one man army' approach. Your hero unit has to be a badass able to take down buildings and units with ease. Joan is now a fully fledged knight with the fabled sword of Charlemagne but she's no more powerful than any other knight with no extra abilities or troop buffing auras. And she still 'must survive'...
I take my ten knights and ten crossbowmen and Joan off across the map, find some boats, get the supplies and get to the town. Unfortunately, the most sensible thing to do now is leave Joan in the town well out of harm's way. The stupid fail criteria means that I've been given a unit I can't really use in the big finale...

And here's my second issue: the town.

I love building towns.

This town has been built for me...

It's a shambles. The unit production buildings are all miles apart so I can't easily click between them. The blacksmith is hidden amongst the houses. The defensive towers are behind my walls instead of part of them meaning the walls can be attacked from range with impunity. The farms are all built outside the defensive walls AND nothing's in neat rows. It's an embarrassment! No wonder the Britons have run rough-shod over us! Well there's nothing to be done now but build an unstoppable death ball.

Age of Empires uses the time tested scissors, paper, stone approach. Cavalry beat archers, archers beat infantry, infantry beat cavalry (if they've got pikes). Well scissors, paper, stone is one too many if you ask me. I'm massing heavy cavalry and crossbowmen. In my army scissors beat paper, paper beats stone and if they come at us with scissors then we'll just overwhelm them with sheer weight of numbers and accept the casualties.

First I need to get through the walls though and I've no siege weapons. I scour the town to try and figure out which incredibly similar square thatched building is the siege workshop but I can't see one. I grab a villager and completely miss the button that says 'build siege workshop'. I try and use archers and cavalry to punch through the walls but it's futile. I fend off many annoying attacks. I harvest a lot of wood and stone and gold. I upgrade my dudes to full power at the blacksmith. I FIND the button that lets me build a siege workshop. I also build a monastery! Boom! Healers! Excellent. I've finally massed an army worthy of being led by Joan of Arc and it's only taken me just over an hour.

She's not coming though. Obviously.
Too dangerous.

And now onward to destroy the castle!

Victory! My scissors and paper are so upgraded that they're essentially carbon fibre and shears. It didn't matter what they threw at us we bashed the castle down in moments. EAT IT BRITAIN.
So far so good, this could be our first completion if it stays like this.
Vive the France! (or something)

P.S. Apologies for the lack of pictures. Having FRAPs on F10 seems to cause the menu to pop up so all my pictures are obscured by that :(


  1. If Joan could lay C4 that would be amazing.

  2. Not to mention her attack as a knight looks pretty silly. Would be effective even for someone not very strong, but still silly.