Microsoft and Skybox Labs released the fourth expansion to Age of Empires II HD, Rise of the Rajas in December. We have been playing the game to see what's new and how the game fared compared to its predecessor DLCs.
Please read our previous coverage of the game to know about the new civilizations, as we are just going to be looking at the pros and cons of the DLC here. No spoilers here, except where we can't avoid it.
What’s new in AOE 2:HD: Rise of the Rajas
Unique units: (common to all new civilizations in the DLC)
- Battle Elephant 120 Food, 70 Gold - 250 HP, 12 Attack, 1 Armor, 2 Pierce Armor (can be upgraded to Elite Battle Elephant - 300 HPm 15 Attack).
- Reveal enemy positions when game starts
- Archery Range Units + 10% HP Feudal, +15% Castle, + 20% Imperial Age
- Rattan Archer - 50 wood, 45 gold - 35 HP, 6 attack, 0 armor, 4 pierce armor and 4 range.
- Imperial Skirmisher - 25 food, 35 wood 39 HP, 4 Attack , 5 Pierce Armor, 5 Range
- Chatras - Battle Elephants +30 HP
- Paper Money - Tributes 500 gold to each ally
Team Bonus: Imperial Skirmisher upgrade
- Free Lumber camp upgrades
- Infantry +1 attack per age
- Monastery techs 50% cheaper
Unique unit: Armabai (Ranged Cavalry Dart Thrower) - 50 wood, 60 gold - 60 HP, 18 attack, 0 armor, 1 pierce armor and 5 range.
- Howdah - Battle Elephants +1/+2 Armour
- Manipur Cavalry - Cavalry + Arambai gain +6 attack vs buildings
Team Bonus: Relics visible on map
- No buildings required for advancing to the next age or unlocking other buildings
- Battle Elephants +15% faster
- Villagers can garrison in Houses
Unique unit: Ballista Elephants (Ranged Siege Cavalry with a mounted scorpion) - Can damage trees 100 Food, 80 Gold - 250 HP, 8 Attack, 0 Armor, 3 Pierce Armor, 5 Range
- Tusk Swords - Battle Elephants +3 Attack
- Double Crossbow - Ballista Elephants and Scorpions shoot two projections
Team Bonus: Scorpions +1 Range
- Advancing to ages 100% faster (Instant)
- Fishing Ships/Traps cost 33% less
- Fish Traps provide unlimited food
- Battle Elephants 20% cheaper
Unique unit: Karambit Warrior (Cheap and weak infantry, takes only half population slot) 25 Food, 10 Gold - 30 HP, 5 Attack, 0 Armor, 1 Pierce Armor
- Thalassocracy - Upgrade Docks to Harbours to gain arrow attack
- Forced Levy - Militia line costs no gold.
Team Bonus: Docks +100 LOS
Where the Rise of the Rajas falls. (pun intended)
The voice acting in Age of Empires II HD: Rise of the Rajas, was shockingly bad. It was highlighted when the actor spoke the names,Suryvarman or Udayadityavarman was spoken. These names are of Indian origin, so yeah we know how they should be pronounced correctly. The name Suryavarman which should be pronounced like - Soo + r (a light r) + yeah (light)-var-man (man is like in Englishman, not Batman). The actor's pronunciation of the name was like - Soor+yaa+vermon (like in Vermont). You can imagine how bad it was for Udayadityavarman.
This is how to say the name: Uday + aditya + varman. The pronunciation went like this Uday+adiit+yeah+vermon (no slight pause) in a hurried and unrealistic manner.
Let us show you how the names should be pronounced with an audio recording we made. Observe the very slight pause in the pronunciation, making it audible and clear.
And this voice sample is taken from campaign selection screen in the game. The in-game (scenario) voice was different and way weirder.
We dug around YouTube to observe the names spoken by native Khmer people, and it was no where close to the exaggarated accent and pronunciation of the voice actors. It does remind us of the African Kingdoms DLC, where the voice acting was similarly exaggarated with thick accents with a feeling of unrealsitic slowness in the speech. We are guessing that instead of using Native speakers, the company went with foreigners who were not familiar with the accents and pronunciations. Of course, this could be me nitpicking, but when I buy a game published by Microsoft, I expect a polished experience.
Note: We have played games where Cantonese and other Asian languages were spoken. So we know what to expect from them.
What AI? Sometimes the AI would atack me with 2 units, and sometimes with a small horde which was decent at best. The AI's attack and defence felt random and buggy. You will have no problems attacking the enemy with your army simply by rushing it. Speaking of which let's see how the new units in Rise of the Rajas are.
New units or old units with a re-skin? It definitely feels like some of the new units are just remade versions of existing units. This is particularly notable with the elephants from the stable, which are a reskinned version of the Persian War Elephant, but the new ones are slightly weaker, and of course you can counter them with Pikemen as well. The armour-resistant archers are similar to Mayan Plumed Archers, and I could say this for almost every new unit. The bad thing is that most of the new units are overpowered, perhaps designed for the campaign? You can counter most enemy units in the campaign's with elephants or unique units. No real strategy here.
Where Rise of the Rajas shines
Some of the architecture are really well made, and stand out. The designs of the civiliation's buildings, make playing the new DLC a joy. Some buildings have special features, such as the Dock which is upgradable to gain an attack. Graphics wise, we approve it heartily.
The map designs:
The same can be said about the maps, which are well designed, especially in the campaigns, where gold and stone are not sitting in the middle of the land, but near rocky areas.
The campaigns are good, not great. We liked the aspect of exploring the ruins, getting artifacts, or armour or weapons. That was pretty nice. The stories were good, and had an RPG-esque element to it at times. The progression in scenarios was a good experience. Conquering areas bit by bit, and defending them occassionally was a good touch away from the usual build-attack-go.
We are not going to spoil the story for you though, so that means we can't tell you more about the campaigns.
Rise of Rajas promised greatness, and under delivered it, (very badly for me). The units feels like a remade version of old units, and some of them are clearly overpowered. The AI is not goood. The voice acting is truly terrible. But the campaigns are fun, and some of them do offer a challenge. Buy it if you like to play the campaigns, and the Single Player maps. If you are a seasoned veteran of AOE 2, and are expecting the solid experience which Forgotten Kingdoms offered, you may not like it much.