Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties Updated Q&A - Details on China

Brian Reynolds, CEO of Big Huge Games, returns to give us an overview of the China faction in this upcoming Age of Empires III expansion.

Microsoft's epic real-time strategy game Age of Empires III will get a bit bigger with The Asian Dynasties, the second expansion pack that will add new content and features to the historically themed series. In Age of Empires III you control a civilization from the age of exploration and colonization to the beginning of the industrial age. Your job: make your civilization thrive through economic and military development. In other words, create a town or city and improve and expand it by gathering resources, researching technologies, and building new structures. You also recruit military units to defend your borders or expand them by force. Due out later this year, The Asian Dynasties will introduce three new civilizations in addition to a host of new units and wonders, which are powerful structures that bestow special bonuses and abilities. We previously covered the Japanese and Indian factions, and now we have the details on the third and final addition: China. To give us the details, we turned to Brian Reynolds, creative director and CEO of developer Big Huge Games.

Given its large size and rich history, China seems like a natural choice for The Asian Dynasties expansion.

GameSpot: Tell us about China as a faction, and its unique abilities and characteristics. For instance, will the nation's sizeable population figure into what the nation is all about in the game?

Brian Reynolds: When thinking about playing the Chinese in a strategy game, it is certainly intuitive to think, "There should be a lot of Chinese people!"--and indeed, several of China's powers fall along this line. First of all, China's maximum population cap is higher than that of other civs. Secondly, the traditional cards that ship "2 settlers," "3 settlers," and so on have been replaced with migration cards. These cause each of your villages and town centers to produce a free villager, so the more time you spend preparing before shipping a migration card, the more benefit you will get.

Also, although the Chinese have some specialized and very powerful, unique artillery units, their mainline infantry and cavalry units tend to emphasize the "lots and lots of somewhat weaker units" theme. Banner armies allow the Chinese to mobilize large numbers of units quickly, and some of the special Chinese military cards also emphasize this theme. Several of the Chinese wonders can also generate streams of free units, sort of like a factory set to produce artillery units.

GS: What aspects of Chinese history will make an appearance in the game? How much of the tumultuous 19th-century history of China, which included the First Opium War, the Taiping Rebellion, and the Boxer Rebellion?

BR: Some of the events you mention are referenced indirectly in the form of "cards," though our solo campaign for China deals with an earlier period of history.

GS: Give us a sense of what the Chinese forces will be like, and how the nation's unique history and culture informed their design.

BR: The most important feature of the Chinese military is the banner army, which reflects the actual organization of Chinese armies in this period. Instead of separate barracks and stable buildings, the Chinese have a war academy that produces both infantry and cavalry. But units are always produced in a banner army, which combines two different types of units. For example, the Old Han Army produces Chu Ko Nu archers and Qiang pikemen, whereas other armies combine cavalry with infantry or contain two different types of cavalry (some armies even include artillery). These armies can be both a strength, because the units are produced a bit more efficiently than most other civs, and a weakness, because you must build in large batches and can't get "just pikemen" when that's what you most need, though these effects are mitigated by the many different combinations of units available.

The Chinese, inventors of gunpowder, also have early access to some quite unique artillery units: both the flying crow rocket unit, which can be obtained rather early if the correct wonder is built, and the "flamethrower," which can be built at a castle from Age 2.

GS: Aside from military forces, what other paths to victory will China have in the game? How will wonders of the world play into this nation's strategy?

China's strategies revolve around using its huge population to its advantage.

BR: Economically, the Chinese are very strong. Their villages are a combination of a house and a livestock pen. Additionally, villages can garrison villagers, providing defense against raids. There are also a few cards that interact with villages in interesting ways. Instead of the normal villager shipment cards that most other factions have, the Chinese have cards that will spawn a villager at each village and town center. Similarly, they have cards that will spawn a goat or a water buffalo at each village and town center. In the industrial age, they get a card that combines both those concepts, spawning a villager and a fattened goat at every village and town center.

As for their wonders, the Chinese have some tough choices to make. If players want to go an economic strategy, they can build the Porcelain Tower, which generates the player's choice of food, wood, coin, or a small trickle of all resources, including experience and export points. For the more military-minded, there's the Confucian Academy and the Summer Palace. The Confucian Academy autospawns the flying crow. The Summer Palace autospawns the player's choice of banner armies. For players that like to heal their units after losses, there's the Temple of Heaven. It has a spell that will heal all of the player's units on the map, and also gives the Chinese monk the ability to heal other units out of combat. The last wonder, the White Pagoda, also affects the Chinese monk. It increases the attack and hit points of the Chinese monk and his disciples, as well as increases the amount of disciples he can train.

GS: What special properties will the Chinese home city have, and will the nation have any unique cards, or card-related abilities?

BR: One of the specials has already been described in passing: -the migration cards to send villagers. Then there's the shippable combination armies, which cost a food premium but provide massive numbers of units, and Confucius' Gift with its super-fast shipment and technology-research potential.

There are also cards that allow your villages to shoot back at enemy troops, and even to muster irregulars (the Asian equivalent of militia). There's a card to give you an additional Shaolin master, a very powerful monk unit. Also, some of the "classic" European cards have slightly different themes for the Asian nations--for example, where a European civ would have "advanced trading post," China can send "trade empire," which doesn't let the trading posts shoot back but sends a free trading-post wagon.

GS: What can you tell us about the Chinese campaign in the expansion and the period of history it will cover?

BR: The Chinese campaign is the first in the sequence of three campaigns and covers the hypothetical possibility of a Ming treasure fleet reaching the New World in the early 15th century, before the time of Columbus. The "home city" for this part of the campaign is your massive treasure fleet, and in some scenarios you may have one or more treasure ships waiting off the coast, gradually offloading crates of resources during the scenario.

Summon banner armies and get ready to go to war as the Chinese.

GS: Now that development of the game is drawing to a close, how is the China faction shaping up in multiplayer? What kind of strategies seem to work best for this nation?

BR: China has some interesting possibilities in multiplayer. Its banner armies allow it to field larger armies than most other factions. It doesn't hurt that China has a larger population cap than other factions either. The Chinese also have some interesting cards that ship gigantic armies from their home city. These cards cost quite a lot of resources to send, but they can often swing the tide of a battle. One example is the "Ever Victorious Army," which is an industrial-age card that sends a large amount of iron flail heavy cavalry and flying crow artillery for a cost of 2,000 food. Generally, Chinese players will want to go on the offensive, as they tend to do better using their numbers advantage than sitting back and trying to counter what their opponent is sending.

That's not to say there aren't other options for the Chinese player. In the colonial age, it's common for the Chinese player to boom with his cards that spawn units at his village and town center. Another strategy involves Confucius' Gift. It makes all technologies research instantly and all home-city shipments arrive very quickly. Combine Confucius with cards that ship gigantic amounts of units, and a fast industrial age becomes very tempting.

GS: Thank you, Brian.

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30 comments
Lord_Artix
Lord_Artix

Cool. I don't think I'll be changing from my "main" (British, I love my Royal Guard Redcoats) but I'll definently pick this up.

fuAWEckSOinMEg
fuAWEckSOinMEg

I just realized this is being made by Big Huge Games.... this could actually turn out good, I didn't really like AoE III compared to any of the other games in the series. Hopefully they incorporate some of the features from rise of nations and rise of legends into this one.

alidanwer
alidanwer

I like the Game Idea in particular now we can not even look back and see the history but we are going to make/play the history so i like this game.. but still game developers must not forget this game was originally built for low end PCs which make this game a big hit and now if those players are unable to play this is really disappointment they should make it like so every one with a lower end pc can also enjoy this game...............

lex_on_mercury
lex_on_mercury

China has qulity mass-production weapons, including tri-fire cross bows since Qin(221 B.C.). It's not really comparable to westen countries... but who cares, here comes a great game!

Titanicles
Titanicles

I won't get AoE III until the Anthology/Gold Edition comes out.

LegionofClouds
LegionofClouds

Woot go China Proud to be Chinese ^^ raawwwrrrr And China always had lots a people Many were poor farmers though But still a whole lot of people We had medicine too ^_^ Its cool that we have pop bonus and the banner armies This is cool Who cares about historical accuracy anyways? Its a game you guys....I think we can use some things that miite not have been true They should have Korea too Then Asia Total War lol

twistedcable
twistedcable

1750: Population of china, 260 million, population of Europe, 163 million app. I hate people who are ignorant and yet believe they aren't. Although China's population did boom under Mao (despite deaths during Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolotion) even in 1950 it had a population of app. 550 million. That's god damn populous.

CLDragonCL
CLDragonCL

"shimo 1989 - idnno bought that, i study history in university and china has always been i huge land mass filled with people, since the early 800's." - Sniper-Caz lmao did you study Western history or something? China was never populous until the 1950s when the communists took over, and Mao encouraged people to have lots of children because he thought it helped China's survival rates if a nuclear war was to happen. But instead no nukes were dropped and China's population spun out of control and had negative impacts on the society and environment. So it's weird to see RTS games today to give China population bonuses... It would be more appropriate to give the Chinese medical bonuses because of all the herbal medicine that are used in China through out its history, and is partially responsible for the long average life expectancy.

evilnod999
evilnod999

SNIPER-CAZ you need to learn a better history then. indeed china got tons of people but in tech wise they way ahead everyone else up til late Ming. its the Ming gov policy lock people in main land.. beside horse they pretty much dont need outside resource. therefore no need to expend like western does.

keci_kt
keci_kt

To be quiet honest i gotta get me this game. I played the 1st one and i got hooked up. This kind of games are amazing. The graphics look so real and that's why it made go after games like Star Craft. The expantion of Star Craft.

JonWatt
JonWatt

Ah! I want this game soooooo bad!!! Stupid inferior computer....

saaoba
saaoba

it is fantastic game>>>>>>>>>>...

bluto3000
bluto3000

wow I love that!!! Highlight China is a brilliant idea! also, beautiful graphics.

Acuatico
Acuatico

ha, smart move. This is a good way to break into the Asian market.

baltimoreravens
baltimoreravens

I still like AoE better. They totally changed the feel of the game in AoE 3.

SNIPER-CAZ
SNIPER-CAZ

shimo 1989 - idnno bought that, i study history in university and china has always been i huge land mass filled with people, since the early 800's.

dev_ron
dev_ron

this one is looking better than India. but still ...expansion mate :(

mne635
mne635

i dont care who they put tin the expansion any more as long as they keep in the brittish i will crush every1. For the empire!!!!!!

phillo99
phillo99

Go china!... before they became commie!

marlonsm
marlonsm

looks good, but also looks overpowered, i just hope that they balance all new civs very well

Orzo_Jery
Orzo_Jery

no kung-fu specialized units? i guess the monks count depending on how they build them, but that is really little.

Fable_Lord
Fable_Lord

it has the AoE-look. i like fighting with the legendary shamurai and ninja ..

ppau08223
ppau08223

nice, this adds a lot of variety to the 3 new faction though i personally want to try india first

shimo1989
shimo1989

It's rather strange to see the Banner Army (Qing dynasty) and the Ming dynasty's treasure fleet in one civilization. I could also see people getting offended by the Ever-Victorious Army (led by Europeans, made up of criminals and pirates to crush the Taiping Rebellion at the request of the Qing Dynasty). As well, it seems rather odd to me that the game developers would make Chinese units of lower quality but higher quantity, as China only started to become seriously populated in the 20th century, and the military units up until that point weren't exactly of low quality. Other than the weird historical details though, the expansion seems great, and I'm looking forward to the release of the expansion of one of the best RTS games in the past few years, which will hopefully make it even better.

captfalc
captfalc

Nice to see the direction they're taking. Chinese sound a lot like the Russians, but bigger.