Khmer – Through the Ages (2016 vs 2023)

Part eleven of a series looking back at how different civilizations have changed over time. Khmer have a particularly good story, …

Hey guys Spirit of the law here welcome back  to another episode of Through the Ages where   we take a nostalgic look back at how the design  strength and identity of different civilizations   has changed between their release and today  originally with the series I only intended  

To do the 13 age of King civilizations but  have since expanded the scope to include   the conquerors and forgotten civs as perhaps a  unique case though I figured we’d go further and   include rise of the rajas as well specifically  to talk about the Khmer despite not being around  

As long as the others we’ve seen already in the  series Khmer have had unquestionably one of the   largest overhauls with a rags to riches story  going from the worst civilization at one point   truly much worse than I think most people realize  with insane stats to back that up followed by a  

Feel-good Redemption Arc that was again more  successful than I think most people noticed   to start at the beginning when they were released  in the rise of the rajas expansion of 2016. on the   surface Khmer were very recognizable to a modern  player they required no prerequisite buildings to  

Advance battle elephants move faster and villagers  could Garrison in houses all just like today they   had their ballista elephant unique unit the same  unique text and a team bonus for plus one scorpion   range battle elephants were a newly introduced  unit without expansion and we hadn’t really had  

A scorpion focused civilization before so Khmer  intended to be a funky quick to age up civ that   was really funnelled into those two Specialties  or their hybrid baby the ballista elephant the   lack of Tech Tree options also encouraged those  elephants and scorpions even more with Khmer back  

Then lacking our Blaster hussar and having quite  poor infantry options as well so by Imperial age   aside from a couple of generic options like  Cavalier and skirmisher you were almost forced   into adding at least one of Scorpion’s battle  Elephants or the unique unit to get something  

Out of your bonuses remember there was also no  farming bonus for Khmer at this Point as that   was a definitive addition change scouring the  internet for discussion at the time while you   can find remarks that Khmer initially were good in  Black Forest with mass battle Elephants or impost  

Imperial with a Ballista elephant Mass more often  the consensus was they had relatively few options   and were just built around their gimmick of  skipping buildings skipping the barracks to   go scouts or archers fast castling without the  usual two feudal buildings that sort of thing  

With then good elephants if you could get to  that point against a passive opponent one thing   I should note about battle elephants is at this  time they were a bit slower to train but dealt   50 trample damage to adjacent units instead  of the 25 percent they deal now so while they  

Were harder to mass they were a bit scarier in  large numbers almost immediately within months   of release super aggressive 18 pop Scout build  orders were appearing attempting to make maximum   use of skipping building prerequisites by not  just skipping the barracks as is relatively  

Common even now but in the case of a stark video  also a lumber Camp before clicking up to feudal a   fact some players might not be aware of is that  you don’t just need two feudal buildings to get  

To Castle age but even two Dark Age buildings to  unlock feudal and there was an energy around the   Khmer at the time to experiment and try to hack  the maximum potential of their main bonus still   though despite feeling there was a potential  in skipping buildings that just needed to be  

Figured out there was no denying the original Tech  Tree clearly lacked options which was addressed in   patch 5.8 when arbalester was added to the tech  tree they were still missing thumb ring as they   do today but that meant crossbows were no longer a  complete dead end this change went over well with  

Our blisters giving fans of the civ something to  feel good about it was finally at this point that   online win rates were being tracked on  and despite some claims Khmer had been underrated   even before getting arbalester we could finally  see how they were doing on the ladder and the  

Results were shockingly bad at this time over a  many-month period collecting data Chimera had a   combined win rate across the board of 36 percent  all of the data for which came after our blister   was added meaning it was probably even worse  before going into the public release of stats I  

Suspected they would be bad but I had no idea they  would be this bad to put it into perspective this   meant going against an average civilization while  playing Khmer at the time was according to the   math in a vacuum the equivalent of playing against  someone 102 ELO points higher than you their best  

Matchup at the time was against Portuguese and  yet they still lost 53 of those games meaning   they had a losing record against every other  civilization their worst matchups were even   more painful naturally with only a 27 win rate  against Incas which is roughly the win rate we’d  

Expect from a player going up against someone  175 ELO points higher if anything Khmer give   us an incredible example showing what happens when  you don’t give a civilization any powerful bonuses   helping their economy or the standard meta units  and the result seems to be that it’s completely  

Uncompetitive keep in mind the worst sifts at the  moment excluding Chinese is an odd exception are   at about a 46 or 47 win rate which suggest picking  one of the bottom sips today should only give the   average player a handicap of about 30 ELO with  this context going into Definitive Edition Khmer  

Were primed for an overhaul they were objectively  the worst civilization for the player base as a   whole and the devs needed to do something drastic  the first change in their attempt to ride the   ship was to remove shipwright which is actually  a Nerf on water so we’re off to an inauspicious  

Start but it does get better after this next Khmer  were given Faith to help their elephants meeting   all elephant civs at this point could research it  to help against monks probably more importantly   though hussar was added to the tech tree helping  late game raiding as well as dealing with enemy  

Onagers or bombard cannons that might otherwise  neutralize your Elephants or scorpions chemistry   also began to affect these secondary projectiles  of ballista elephants giving them plus one attack   what you might notice here is that while they did  a bit to help the late game none of this really  

Added much to the khmer’s early to mid game  given it seemed early game was when Khmer was   struggling the most and falling behind this all  meant despite multiple Buffs they continued to   be terrible for the first few months of Definitive  Edition In fairness it’s understandable that with  

Hundreds of changes and four new civilizations the  devs had a lot on their plate at this point they   needed to come up with just the right change  to give Khmer a strong early to mid game in a   way that would help both their unusual elephant  strategies but also make them better at either  

The conventional Knight or crossbow meta it was  a tall order to do all of those things ideally   with one change and while one possibility was to  give them thumb ring and let them be a crossbow  

Civ the devs had an idea I think in retrospect  was even better and is where we reach a pivotal   moment in the direction of Khmer the second major  patch of Definitive Edition outright gave them a   new civ bonus almost synonymous at this point  with the civilization in which Farmers would  

No longer need Mills or TCs to drop off food this  immediately reversed their fortunes and while it   wasn’t initially obvious how much this would help  they ended up being a big boost to their Farmers   putting their collection rate up there with Aztecs  only slightly behind slav farmers and is the best  

In the game once you started to consider all of  the second order effect for their Farmers plus   the benefits of a continuous trickle affording  things without Force dropping off it was obvious   almost day one they were suddenly a contender for  having the best farmers in the game combined with  

Skipping buildings on your way up to feudal or  Castle age they were also using that extra wood   to build more Farms than other civilizations which  is a great combo for an early Castle age spamming   Nights from two Stables the shift in tone in any  discussion around Khmer was immediate and dramatic  

Unfortunately we don’t have exact stats of before  and after but suddenly they start showing up in   conversations about being a top civilization or  being called broken without the usual caveats   of on black forest specifically the night spam  in particular started to get talked about as a  

Problem and a poll I found at the time indicated  a clear preference by the Casual player base to go   now Knights over elephants though I admit it’s not  the most scientific poll of all time if anything  

The farming bonus on top of Hazards and the other  changes seem to have may be over correct it and   in the next major patch they subsequently lost  bombard cannons while battle elephant trample   damage was also reduced with their creation  time sped up to offset that even after this  

Point they were the subject of the odd thousand  plus word thesis calling them overpowered on AOE   Zone but for the first time Khmer felt like a  solid civilization with a great farming bonus   and some options to mix and match off of that  while never consistently performing stats wise  

In the top five later that year the farmer work  rate was reduced slightly as well as the khmer’s   battle elephant speed bonus and Tusk swords also  went up in cost after which Khmer settled at a   49.5 win rate over the next six months making  them an incredible success story from a ladder  

Balance perspective rising from the bottom of  the bottom to the top and now settling at an   almost perfect 50 percent since then a few token  changes have been made both to battle elephants   cost and Khmer specifically most recently with  the ballista elephant gaining plus to attack  

But also taking more damage from onagers on top of  Khmer now lacking bombard cannons that makes owner   managers and especially Siege onagers a very scary  counter but that’s where they land today currently  

Ranked 22nd out of 43 civs on 1v1 Arabia over the  last few months at a lovely 49.6 win rate with a   similar 48 win rate on 1v1 Arena seemingly well  balanced on both open and closed Maps they’re now   one of two official scorpion Focus civilizations  that retain the unique combination of scorpions  

And elephants while also being able to perform  perfectly well within the more traditional Scout   and night meta thanks to their farming bonus  that’ll do it for this one though I’m not sure   if I plan to cover all the civilizations prior  to Definitive Edition and may pick and choose  

The more compelling stories like this one we’ll  see thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time

age of empires 2 definitive edition


I am GregStein, an experienced Age of Empires 2 player and part-time developer. With over 7 years of experience in multiplayer gaming, blogging and technical issues.

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