0 A.D. is an open-source, freeware, real time strategy game that takes a lot of cues from the Age of Empires series. Hyrule Conquest is a mod for 0 A.D. that turns it into an RTS inspired by the Legend of Zelda series. I’ve recently downloaded both, and what striking about the two of them is how little they play like each other.
When I first started playing the base game, the factions struck me as mostly the same. Each one had equivalent units built at the headquarters building (women, light melee infantry, light range infantry, light scouting cavalry), each could build more-or-less the same buildings using the same units, and every faction needed a ridiculous amount of wood. I haven’t actually completed a game yet, as I always gave up after the computer launched an attack that ruined my economy and I realized that I wasn’t having fun.
I have completed three games of HC, each with a different faction, and each game needs paragraphs just to describe it. The first game I played was with the Kingdom of Hyrule, the most basic of the factions and the one that plays the most like a faction in 0 A.D. The most notable differences were that the basic infantry didn’t build most of the buildings, leaving that to the worker units, and that the second tier infantry couldn’t gather resources.
As for the game itself, the first thing I noticed was that everything was cheaper, making the game feel faster. I didn’t spend nearly as much time gathering resources, and spent a lot more time actually interacting with the game. The second important thing was that I found my base being attacked by monsters. Now, I had assumed that the monsters were simply the equivalent to the wild animals in the base game, something to harvest for food, so being attacked by neutral units really threw me off. However, I managed to fight off the early attack, and on account of everything being cheaper, I wasn’t nearly as devastated by the damage to my units as I would have been in the base game.
My second game was with the Darknut Legion, which plays absolutely nothing like the Kingdom of Hyrule. For example, they are unable to build free-standing buildings. Everything they build is an add-on to their headquarters building. If they want to build a second base of any kind, they have to capture a ruin and turn that building into a base. However, this new base won’t be able to build add-ons, which when combined with their units incredible slow movement rates, means that they have no ability to control the map, even if those units are powerful in actual combat.
In order to explain the other way the Darknut Legion is different, I have to explain the resource system in HC. While the base game has the resources of food, wood, stone, and metal, the mod combines wood and stone into material, calls metal ore, and adds a new resource, currency. In the base game, wood comes from chopping down trees, while stone is harvested from rocks. This is important, because the Legion is unable to cut down trees, and all of their material comes from quarries. The thing that took up so much time in the base game isn’t even an option to some factions in the mod.
I used the Gorons in my third game. They also used the add-on system for most of their buildings, although they could build some free-standing structures. Other than that, the most notable things about the Goron faction is how the basic melee unit can go into rolling mode to book it around the map and how they can use the food mines.
(As an aside, the mines in HC are deeper than the mines in the base game by several orders of magnitude. The mod also only allows you assign less than half the number of workers to each one. Combined, this means that you build new bases less because you run out of a resource, and more because you need to collect the resource faster. Just something I noticed.)
You might have noticed that I enjoy Hyrule Conquest a lot more that 0 A.D. This isn’t particularly surprising to me, I’ve always preferred for the factions in a strategy to be very different to each other. The only exceptions to this are games with exactly two factions (where the factions mirror each other almost perfectly, like chess) and games with dozens of factions (where giving each faction a completely different units, buildings, and techs is impractical, and even then, the differences should be noticeable from the beginning of the game.)
What did surprise me was how the cost of the units affected things. When I was attacked in the base game, seeing my workers all die was devastating, like there was no way I could recover. When all of my workers in the mod died, I started to scramble to recover, and prepare for the next attack.
I guess my ideal RTS gameplay is defined by early, low-level raiding. These early raids shouldn’t have any expectation of ending the game, or even destroying any buildings, and just be something one player does to put the opponent on the back foot. These early raids should kill a few workers, and leave the aggressor vulnerable to being raided in turn, on account of the units lost.
I didn’t start this essay thinking about that, though. I wanted to talk about how the very different factions made me enjoy the game more. And now that I think about it, it’s possible that my problem with the computer’s attacks might simply be the AI rather than with the game mechanics. I’m not sure what to make of these thought only coming to me now, as I am writing. I’m glad I’m having them, though.