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Topic Subject: Return of Rome now available!
posted 05-16-23 07:34 PM ET (US)   
The Return of Rome DLC has launched today and is available as the latest DLC for Age of Empires II Definitive Edition! RoR is now (an upgraded) RoR, kind of confusing to be honest... but boy, this is quite something (spoilers ahead). Here's my first impression and thoughts:

I did a playthrough of Return of Rome this evening, on single player mode (no MP yet, I am still learning here!) and... I like it. It's familiar yet different - in a good way! First of all let me say that graphics wise RoR looks very good, I appreciate the updated UI (no more empty squares in the research area) with extended features. If I am not mistaken I heard new music renditions of those used in good old Rise of Rome, as well as new civilization-specific music, which is very nice, excellent work!

So, I first did a Random Map/Skirmish, playing as Assyrians, everything on default as per the game's initial settings, but the difficulty set to moderate (I am very rusty, yes, you can call me a n00b now). Trying some of the new technologies like Market trading and getting a feel for RoR for the first time, which is a mixture of both weird, nostalgia, and excitement.

One thing I immidiately noticed was the game speed, in general the game plays faster than AoE2. It's not just the game speed setting, but maybe it's just me being kind of overwhelmed, as I haven't played AoEDE in quite a while - it takes a while getting used to this, compared to AoE2. The female villagers are a nice touch - they finally left their caves! This was a Dark Forest map, similar to the Black Forest map with a 4v4 setting against the AI. The latter is another point of interest as the computer intelligence is way better than AoEDE's, much more spammy too with Cavalry Archers (reminds me of the Mongols). Our team eventually won, I spammed Chariot Archers and took advantage of the hills. GG. I have no idea about team bonuses yet as I am not familiar with them yet.

If you love cheat codes, the models have finally been fixed and upgraded, with photon man and nuke trooper having custom skins so they are easier to tell apart. Unfortunately, not every cheat code is added, for example there is no more big badass baby with a shotgun on a tricycle. Jack be nimble doesn't work either, it would have been nice to shoot cows and see superman villagers. Anyways, onto the Editor.

The Scenario Editor is similar to what you get in AoE2, though my buttons were red colored instead of the blueish purple I have seen previously in the content creator's builds. Not sure if this is intentional but I prefer the blueish color for RoR, which makes it easier to differentiate between AoE2DE and RoR (even though it is the same game). In any case, it's not that much of a bother. Finally, there are the much needed and most welcome Triggers. There's loads of conditions and effects you can apply, though I have not fooled around with these much, not even in AoE2DE. There's countless ways you can be creative here, almost everything you can think of is possible. In the players menu, switching between ages upgrades the look of your civ to the appropriate Age. I don't recall if this was available in AoEDE - in any case, it's awesome.

Let's move on to the new objects and units: oh my. The amount of embellishment you get is simply stunning, there are so so many new additions like statues, pillars, shields, helmets, weapon racks, gazebo's, plants etc. I have to give extra credit to FE here for including this much, for they allow for so much extra variety - great job! Also a nice touch is the inclusion of the stone fence, which is a beta object, but one of the most useful ones. There's also many AoE2DE objects which can be used, like yurts and mountains, which is very cool!

Now we get to a part which I am less impressed by, and it is the lack of AoEDE (not AoE2DE) terrains and forests. There are none aside from the Mediterranean forest, which was already included in AoE2DE. I think I saw an additional new yellow colored tree in the Gaia objects menu however. On the plus side you get all the terrains AoE2DE has, which also means Snow terrain and snow covered pines (finally!), and terrain layering, which allows many variety. However I would have liked to see AoEDE terrains as well (why not add them and give us the option to choose?), because I think the overall look of terrains in Return of Rome is too much like AoE2DE - in fact it is exactly the same and this is my most major gripe with Return of Rome. There is no excuse that justifies not having them included in RoR!

Next, in the editor, I generated the new random maps, which are a mix of the old familiar ones, AoE2DE clones, and a few new types. Although I did not play them, I wanted to see what they looked like, obviously, since this is new content to be played on. The majority should be quite familiar to any fan. One thing I immidiately noticed is that on the Dark Forest map, I only get the Amazon Rainforest type, none of the others like Pine forest or Snow terrain/snowy pines. Either I just got very unlucky with generation (though I did press the button like ten times lol), or this is either a bug or intentional. Either way I don't like it and this should be fixed/changed.

Backtracking a little to the Random Map I played when I first started playing - a Dark Forest map - it's really weird playing on a Rainforest jungle/terrain with AoE1. I feel like it just doesn't fit well, but maybe that's just me. Again, on each RM here I am again faced with AoE2 terrains, with a lot of rainforest and desert type maps, which kinda feels off. It's not bad but I wish the AoEDE terrains were included. Inside out is a map that looked fun to play to me - a combination of Citadel (arena) and an extra land border on the outside, interesting!

Lastly, I launched the campaign menu and tried the first mission of the Trajan campaign. The narration is excellent, though I did not get too far because of my limited time. Playing AoE on snow for the first time! The first scenario is well designed and is fun to play. There are three campaigns in total to try out.

I haven't had the chance to play as Lac Viet. I can't give my opinion on online play either, maybe in one of the coming days perhaps!

All in all I think Return of Rome is very nicely done, the gameplay is certainly an improvement and there are many other additions which are most welcome. Yes, I agree, this should have all been there when AoEDE got launched or in the sequential updates that came after - but at least it's happening now, for which we should be grateful. After all, what is being done here is preserving AoE1 and keeping it alive for not only the older fans, but newer generations too! AoEDE reached the limits in what could be done technically in it's current state - again I think this is a wise move going forward upgrading to the AoE2DE engine. And, if you don't like it, you can always choose to play the original game or AoEDE. I think some things are still missing and need to be added to RoR, but I am glad this was made, and I will certainly be playing Return of Rome the coming months (and maybe do some modding too)!

Also, I can't help but wonder if my news post from exactly one year ago had anything to do with the creation of Return of Rome - because it seems to me that my wish (and those of many other fans) has been granted. Thank you, and to FE: I hope you keep supporting Return of Rome in the future!

- PhatFish
posted 05-17-23 05:42 AM ET (US)     1 / 3  
How are formations and pathfinding doing?

The lack of the former and low performance of the latter indicate in the old releases (including the DE) how ancient AoE is.
posted 05-17-23 10:11 AM ET (US)     2 / 3  
I am annoyed that after spending money on the DE, they simply give up on it and ask us to buy the same game again (3rd or 4th time for many long-time players).

StormComing (to me): "Seems like you're way under-ranked"

Check out my series of guides for the scenario editor in the link below! | Best Otto TR score

The definitive collection of my scenarios, along with my scenario editor walkthrough, recorded games, and much much more!
posted 05-18-23 05:23 AM ET (US)     3 / 3  
The pathfinding is pretty decent, not perfect, but certainly an improvement over AoEDE. I'm not a frequent user of formations so I can't comment on that.

I fully agree and share your feelings anterior2. They could at least have given a major discount to AoEDE players at minimum so they would want to migrate to Return of Rome. You can wait until it's on Steam sale though, a lot of people are doing so.
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