Screenshot: Age of Empires II
By: Elijah Moon Blackwell
It was unbelievable to watch. An Age of Empires II professional player by the name of TaToH was in the groove. He had lost to his professional opponent, Yo, earlier in the tournament. But in the grand finals, the roles changed.
There were two islands with each player starting on one. TaToH quickly landed on Yo’s island and began to continuously pressure Yo’s economy infrastructure. It was an entirely different playstyle from the previous games in the best of 9 series. In this particular tournament, players had to change civilizations and maps each game. It meant having to adapt and go about different strategies.
With the constant harassment to Yo’s economy, TaToH eventually won the game and the tournament.
You don’t need to be an expert of Age of Empires II to follow the story. Commentator’s T90 Official and Dave do a good job of translating what is happening on the battlefield.
Once I discovered that competitive Age of Empires II is a thing, I got consumed by T90’s game casts. It brought back memories of when I tried to take real time strategy games seriously. More importantly, it reminded me why I love strategy games so much. They create an endless number of stories.
Even With the AI Stories are Formed
I don’t play online much these days. Most of my gaming friends are not super into strategy games. So typically I’m playing the AI.
Even with a scripted enemy I find myself in some pretty dramatic moments.
Most real time strategy games are fairly routine. The game starts and you already have a plan in your head. It can become factory-like. For example, in Company of Heroes, a World War II themed game, I play the same way regardless of the map.
I spam cheap infantry units and deploy at lot of defenses at the start of the game. I want to control as much of the map as I can in order to win by being defensive. If I control more resource points than my opponent, I can bleed them dry. War of attrition; it’s how I play a lot real time strategy games.
The plan works most of the time. The cheap infantry will buy me some time to save up resources to shift my army composition. I go from cheap and weak to expensive and strong.
One game this strategy failed and it was crazy intense. The AI is typically predictable. Usually the AI will send units to every resource flag I take. I have to evenly distribute my army to make sure the cheap infantry doesn’t completely die out before I reinforce them with elite units.
However, this time was different. The AI sent every unit in their army to one resource flag. All that was there was some barbed wire and a handful of soldiers hiding behind some debris.
As soon as I saw this I sent a tank with some infantry to immediately reinforce. The cheap soldiers hid by the debris firing at full blast at the dozens of enemy infantry.
The barb wire was destroyed, the debris was shot away and the soldiers had no protection.
My tank was going as fast as it could to get to the flag. I told my cheap units to retreat but the AI surrounded the entire position; their retreat was met by gunfire.
There was one soldier left defending from the attack. My tank, with foot infantry close behind, was a few meters away. Right before the tank engaged the enemy…the last soldier died.
Some of my cheap units usually live to see the end of the game. This group was destroyed entirely. It definitely caught me off guard, leading me overly defend that particular flag. It led me to change up parts of my plan. It’s one of many stories that were unscripted.
Countless of stories like this have happened across a multitude of real time strategy games. With unpredictable friends, however, the stories get even more complex.
The Hour Long Struggle
I introduced my friend Billy to Men of War: Assault Squad 2, another World War II themed game. It plays a lot differently from traditional real time strategy games.
You don’t build anything (besides sand bags or mines) in Men of War. Instead you have a set number of points to spend on a wide range of units. Controlling flags placed on the map increases your score over time. If you and your opponent has an even number of flags controlled the score stops. Typically, the game goes until a certain score is met.
It was a 1 versus 1, me versus Billy, with no AI teammates. We decided to play on a snowy map with only three flags. One flag was on the left, one on the right and one in the middle.
My playstyle is controlling the map with mass number of infantry. I use anti-tank infantry to eliminate close tanks. I’ll have a few tanks in the back of the map to be brought in for a little more range if an enemy tank is firing from afar.
Billy knows this.
The middle flag has little to no cover. Capturing it can be impossible.
The whole game Billy sat on a hill with three tanks firing upon the middle flag. He controlled it so he could afford to constantly bombard it. I controlled the left flag and Billy controlled the right.
Both left and right flags were continually fought for but since Billy controlled two flags and I only controlled one, his score continued to increase.
Then it happened. A anti-tank soldier sneaked his way behind Billy’s lines to take out one of the three tanks. The other two scrambled, Billy was reacting to the sneaky soldier. I rushed the middle flag to take it.
The meter on the flag began to count down, I was going to capture it. However, Billy sent every unit he had that wasn’t engaged in combat to defend the middle.
I panicked. I had a huge artillery gun waiting to fire. I aimed for the blob of Billy’s troops growing close to my guys capturing the middle point.
I miss clicked, miss fired, messed up badly…my artillery fired at the middle flag, killing everyone of my troops.
That flag was needed for me to make a comeback and that mistake led to my destruction. With full middle map control, Billy surrounded my left flag and began to push my entire army back. The game was over. A struggle that lasted a full hour and was met with a bitter end.
Thus another story to add to never ending archive.
Strategy games are one of my favorite video game genres. The unscripted nature of the games typically leads to unpredictable happenings. Sure, the campaigns are very straightforward, but in the skirmish (sometimes called random map) game mode there are endless possibilities.
Got any strategy war stories? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org!