So, I took advantage of the sale and decided to get the game since I really liked Sorcerer King.
I love 4x games but I suck at them, mostly because I prefer to learn by playing instead of taking the time to gather info on the mechanics/watch videos of other players and so on.
Anyways, for my first game, I decided to put the difficulty level at challenging. I wanted the AI to play at its best, but at the same time I couldn't afford to give it advantages or I feared I would have been rolled over. Rest of the settings were at normal/balanced/default. Large map, 6 opponents, even empires. All victory conditions enabled.
My main concerns about the game were:
- The diplomacy is non existent, since the very moment you meet another civilization, it will almost immediately declare war. Apparently it is not limited only to the player though, almost anyone was at war with everyone else at the same time. After XX turns of no attacks whatsoever, I would try to ask for peace. They would demand crazy amounts of gold because they felt they were militarily stronger. Fine, but no war had been fought at all, it's not like they were "winning" by any stretch of the imagination. In fact a couple of turns later, they would knock at my door to ask for peace because apparently I had somehow earned their respect.
The only thing I could do diplomacy wise, only during the very short periods of truces, was using the AIs as a sort of marketplace to dump whatever resource I didn't need in exchange for something useful. The only kind of trade they ever proposed themselves, was an exchange of tech, only once during the whole game. For the rest it was just demands of tributes and threatening to declare war if I hadn't paid ludicrous amounts of money (My guess is they would have declared war a couple of turns later even if I did pay though).
- Because I was constantly at war with everyone, and unlike the rest of the AIs on the other side of the map, my neighbors would actually attack me, I never had the time or possibility to actually go around the map to explore, level up the heroes, finding equipment, doing quests etc etc.
In fact I finished the game with my sovereign still at level 10 or so, and a couple of other heroes at level 7.
It might be my fault for not being capable of playing well of course, but until the very late game, I did not have an economy and production that allowed me to keep strong garrisons in my towns. So the only real defense I had from enemy attacks was my main party that had to from a place to another all the time. Hence why I was never able to explore and do the "rpg like" exploration I like to do in Sorcerer King while you are still not seen as a threat.
- The AI doesn't play to win. For at least 90% of the game, I was dead last in the power rating, at like 70. I had like 4/5 towns, while capitar was at about 400, gilden about 300, the rest 130 or so, getting battered by the two powerhouses.
For I don't even know how many turns, but it was a very long time, Capitar had all the towers for the spell of the making victory built, but never bothered to actually cast the spell. Same thing with Gilden.
The one who actually almost ended up winning the game, was Magmar, that reduced at a couple of towns, had managed meanwhile to build all the towers as well, and was 2 turns away from winning the game, when despite being quite far from my territory and being at war with the two powerhouses, I had to be the one to actually bother going to stop them from winning, taking their capital with the only army I had.
In the end, I slowly conquered some towns from the powerhouses, that in reality had a broken economy, with 10% taxes and gildars in the minus, before actually going for the spell of the making myself and actually putting an end to it.
I felt no satisfaction at all. I played horribly, like I couldn't play that bad again even if I tried probably, and yet I managed to win even if the AIs could have won by spell of the making a thousands of times before I was in the condition to do so myself. It looked like they didn't want to win at all, my guess being the AI "chooses" a favorite victory condition from the start and decides to stick with it until the end of the game, even if the conditions have become favorable for an easy win in a different way. It almost looked like they were waiting for me to catch up.
I was also slowed down by the algorithm that gives a rating to your army. Many times I would hold off invasions because my army would be defined strong against the opponent being "epic", only to realize after examining the units, that most of them sucked, being archers against my high armored units that received almost no damage while slaughtering the opponent with ease, or low initiative militia with very high damage but almost no armor that were killed before even being able to take their turn.
I am a bit disappointed because the problem here is not the challenge. Hell if the AIs actually bothered to win, I would have lost, badly.
The problem is that I feel the AI has no clue about what they want to do at all. They are completely random in their behavior, the way they declare war or ask for peace at the wrong times, basically hurting themselves for no reason.
It's a big shame because the features the game has are great, being able to create your own units, the rpg elements and so on... but it's like the AI doesn't let you enjoy them.