Growing up, many of us had fond memories of playing many computer games. All the hours we spent immersed in a game and the overflowing satisfaction of having completed it.
For me, one such game was Age of Empires. Classic RTS game, the mother of all strategy games. And the beauty of AoE is that, they are still active even today!
Though this popular franchise had many series and expansions, the most popular was AoE II, which was first released in 1999 as "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings". This was followed by the much awaited expansion "Age of Empires II: The Conquerors" the next year. This was during my engineering college days, and I missed many classes because of this game (and Diablo II). I barely managed to scrape through on attendance requirement.
AoE II came to Steam gaming platform in 2013 as "Age of Empires II: HD edition" along with a new expansion "The Forgotten" introducing us to new civilizations - the Italians, Indians, Slavs, Magyars and Incas, along with many new units, techs, maps etc. Two years later, the third expansion set "The African Kingdoms" was released, which had new civs - the Berbers, Ethiopians, Malians, and the Portuguese.
I bought all the games above on Steam, not just because I wanted to relive fond memories again, but mainly to pay back the developers for having downloaded their pirated games years ago. Those were the days when it was either really difficult to buy a game because of no online payment access or they were too expensive at Landmark, which was the only outlet back then that sold PC game CDs here in India.
Last week, Age of Empires II released their fourth expansion set "The Rise of the Rajas" featuring four new civilizations - the Burmese, Malays, Khmer, and Vietnamese. I pre-purchased the DLC immediately the moment they announced it. Though I have bought many games on Steam, this was the first time I had pre-purchased a game!
I was sooo looking forward to it, mainly because of the Burmese civilization. I know, we had the Indian civilization in "The Forgotten" expansion, but it was about Prithviraj Chauhan's campaign, featuring battles among the Rajput clans and against the Sultanate invaders. While it was cool to charge into battles with Elite Elephant Archers and Imperial Camels, as a Northeasterner, all that didn't quite hit close to home for us. I mean, the present day NE wasn't a part of any of the ancient Indian dynasties, whereas Burmese civilization felt more of home to us.
I took two days leave from office the moment the game was available for download, and I played the Burmese Bayinnaung campaign immediately. Two days of bliss (and frustration) but I was finally able to complete the campaign. And when I did that, it was my first zero percenter achievement!
As of today, only 0.02% of AoE players on Steam have earned this particular achievement so far! :)
There are five missions in the Bayinnaung campaign.
The first one is The Burmese Tiger where we must fight against the Khmer, Chinese and Indians, with an option to become an ally with the Portuguese (by paying a tribute). The objective of the mission is to kill King Takayutpi of Hanthawaddy and capture the monument in Prome.
Quite an easy campaign. The secondary objective is to kill King Takayutpi within 5 minutes, but I said screw it, I like to play slow and steady. I took my own time building up my resources and techs and slowly invaded each empire one by one. Your base will also be rarely attacked by the enemies, so just put a couple of watch towers and that's enough. But stones are hard to find, so be smart where you place your towers.
Once you come across the Portuguese on the western part of the map, for just 500 gold, they'll become your ally (I guess if you don't agree to pay that tribute, they'll attack you?). And after that, for another 500 gold, you can control their entire unit. But of course by then I had already wiped out all the empires and the only objective left was to capture the monument in the center, so I had a super army storming Prome. :) Fun mission.
Mission 2: The Mandalay Cobra. In this campaign, we must fight another Burmese king Ava, and there are two other enemies as well, the Chinese and Malays. Challenging campaign because the map was in a pilgrim city, so we could not build any walls. So I had this huge open space where attack could come from anywhere. I failed a couple of times in the beginning.
The main objective of the game is to accumulate 4000 gold. You cannot build mines and there are no gold deposits, but you have a couple of monasteries with relics in them that generate gold. Enemies will keep coming, trying to destroy the monasteries and you have to protect them with your scattered forces. There are Burmese allies too who will join your army once reach them. Since the population limit is set to just 100 for this map, I best advice you max up your pop first before getting these new recruits.
Mission 3: The Royal Peacock. Another extremely fun mission. I read online that people found this mission tough, but I got lucky because in the beginning, instead of reaching my force directly, I explored around a bit and found a priest who joined my force. And using him, I was able to convert all the Ballista Elephants my Khmer enemy was sending in the early part of the game.
The objective of the game is to kill the other four Burmese kingdoms, or build a wonder. I allied with the most powerful enemy closest to me by paying a hefty tribute, after that I cordoned off the entire central area, placing Ballista elephants as guards. And I kept mining every resources I could find. I even went to my ally's area, built a wall around the mines so his people couldn't access them :D Soon I had enough resources to build a wonder. The other three Burmese kingdoms attacked me but they were no match for my horde of converted Ballista Elephants, thanx to the Khmer. You win after 200 years once the wonder is completed.
Mission 4: The White Elephant. Really tough mission. You must place a relic in four different Khmer monasteries, all heavily guarded, and you cannot take your own time because you must do that in 695 years. I saved and replayed a lot, because I had to save time and do everything as fast as possible. Even if I managed to place a relic in a monastery, I replayed a saved file again because I took too much time doing it or I lost too many units in the process. There's a population cap of just 40, so yeah, I had to rely on my monks to convert enemies as I progressed.
Mission 5: The Old Tiger. Lolz, one of the toughest AoE campaigns I have ever played! I took more than a day playing this blasted mission. But yeah, it was so much fun. The objective of the game is to bring Bayinnuang to four different Buddhist Temples, all well guarded, where he will meditate for a short while as you protect him from the attackers. He or his son Nanda cannot die. And you have a hell of an army - 171 units to be precise.
You have 10 Battle Elephants, 20 Arambais, 8 Knights, 14 Two-hand swordsmen, 3 Bombard cannons, 3 Monks, 3 Villagers and 2 trebuchets led by Bayinnuang and Nanda from the eastern side. On the western side, you have 18 War Galleys, 4 Cannon Galleons, 3 Demolition Ships, 4 Fire Ships, and 6 Transport Ships carrying 30 Two-hand swordsmen, 12 Pikemen, 8 Arambais, 5 Sunda Royal fighters, 2 Bombard Cannons, 8 Battle Elephants, 2 Monks and 2 villagers led by Thinga Dathta. That's huge.
But hehe, not easy at all! As you move towards your first monastery, you will be attacked by the defender of that empire. Apart from that, you will also be continuously attacked by the Portuguese and Vietnamese from behind! Died so many times. The Portuguese had superior tech, and the Vietnamese archers were deadly too, whereas I didn't have any ranged units. My Arambais, which is the unique Burmese unit, is a ranged cavalry that throws freaking darts at the enemies, and they have extremely low accuracy! Useless.
Finally, after my 50th retry, I decided to change my tactic. The four defending empires will attack you only after you start attacking them, but the Portuguese and Vietnamese from the north will keep attacking you wave after wave. And so I decided to get rid of those two mofos first :D
From my Eastern army, I ventured out with my Battle Elephants and Arambai units, along with my 3 monks and Bayinnuang (who is also a monk). Instead of marching East towards the 4 monasteries, I assembled to march up North. I placed all my Elephant units on the first line, all in defensive stance. Behind them the monks, and behind them the Arambais, also in defensive stance.
When the Vietnamese archers or Portuguese came down to attack me, the Elephants bore the brunt of the attack, and I quickly healed them while trying to convert as many as I could. They usually attacked in 3-4 units so I ended up converting quite a lot of archers. The Portuguese pikemen dealt more damage to my Elephants than the archers, who were quickly eliminated by my Arambais and converted archers standing behind my monks. I saved my progress many times, as I couldn't afford to lose any monks.
And then I called on my 2 trebuchets and attacked the walls and towers of the Vietnamese empire. They kept attacking, and I kept converting as many as possible. Also it is very important to immediately recall converted enemies to your flank and heal them, and also to change their stance to defensive, because by default, they are offensive and they will rush out to attack enemies on their own. Soon I had a very strong range unit and my total army count crossed 250. After many more saves and replays, I wiped out the Vietnamese and later the Portuguese. I got lucky as I converted 2 monks and 1 trebuchet, making my progress faster.
With the Vietnamese and Portuguese gone, it was much easier attacking the four empires. I mean, that took me quite a while too, but it wasn't as frustrating as attacking them directly.
And with that, I completed the Burmese campaign. What an experience indeed.
The Burmese also have a unique tech upon reaching Imperial Age that gives the Arambai additional +6 damage against buildings. The name of that tech is "Manipur Cavalry" :D
And so that was how I spent my Christmas eve, lolz. Happy holidays everyone.