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What are the differences between the Standard, Moderate and Hard difficulty levels in the Campaign mode?

What about between Easiest, Standard, Moderate, Hard, and Hardest in the Standard/Multiplayer Game (Skirmish) mode?

If the AI changes its behavior or strategy depending on the difficulty level, please include that info.

Also, does the AI "cheat" (by giving itself additional resources, etc.)? If yes, what cheats does it do and at what difficulty level(s) does it cheat?

EDIT: In this answer to my question below, most of the questions have already been answered. That leaves the question, "What are the differences between the Standard, Moderate and Hard difficulty levels in the Campaign mode?" to be answered or expounded upon.

5 Answers 5

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AI Behavior EASIEST EASY MODERATE HARD HARDEST
Advances through the ages After any human player has advanced to that age Slowly as a novice player, or as Easiest does As an experienced player As fast as possible As fast as possible; computer players cooperate to slingshot through the ages
Attacks First Never Never Occasionally Yes Yes
Breaks alliances No Rarely Rarely Yes Yes
Builds a Castle Rarely Seldom Yes Yes Yes
Builds a Wonder Never Seldom If possible If possible Seldom
Expansion and resource gathering Slowly selects nearby resources; abandons contested resources Slowly Fast Aggressively defends resources Aggressively defends resources, destroys enemy resources
Monks used to convert buildings Never Rarely Seldom Yes Yes
Monks used to convert units Rarely and with very few Monks Seldom or slowly Yes Yes Yes
Starting diplomatic stance Neutral Neutral Mix of Neutral and Enemy Enemy Enemy
Town siege Never Seldom Yes Yes Yes
Walls and towers Never Sometimes defensive towers Yes Yes Yes; may build offensive towers
Will ally with human players Yes (unless game would end) Yes (unless game would end) With one human only (unless game would end) Never No
Will ally with humans Depends on personality Depends on personality Sometimes Never Never
Will ally with other computer Als No Yes Yes Preferred Preferred
Will trade Yes Yes Sometimes No No
x - Comments AI is given additional resources at the start of the game
Cooperates against human players No Sometimes Sometimes Yes; coordinated attacks, optimized building strategies. etc. Yes

Note: The above is only for random map games.

Difficulty Distance an enemy unit must be within when the computer player unit looks for a new target
easiest LOS (can be modified by sn-easiest-reaction-percentage)
easy LOS (can be modified by sn-easier-reaction-percentage)
moderate LOS * 2
hard LOS * 2
hardest LOS * 2

Computer players ignore relics on the easiest level.

Difficulty If a non-exploring computer unit gets attacked, the computer player's attack delay is modified
easiest allow attacking one minute earlier
easy allow attacking two minutes earlier
moderate allow attacking immediately
hard allow attacking immediately
hardest allow attacking immediately
Difficulty After a wolf kills a unit, have it gorge itself (not attack again) for
easiest 35 seconds
easy 30 seconds
moderate 25 seconds
hard 20 seconds
hardest 15 seconds
Difficulty Distance a unit must be within when a wolf looks for a new target
easiest LOS * 0.5
easy LOS * 0.75
moderate LOS * 2
hard LOS * 2
hardest LOS * 2

Source: This Reddit /r/aoe2 post, which refers to the Official Computer Player Strategy Builder Guide (cpsb.doc) in the AOE 2 CD 'GOODIES' folder, pages 63-64. (Screenshot of the table on page 63)

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  • This is a bit out of date for the Definitive Edition of AoE II. For example, I notice monk unit conversions more frequently on Easiest, as well as the collection of relics (albeit very slowly/minimally). Likewise the "builds a castle" on Easiest should be "never" because they never mine any stone; all games I've played against Easiest AI have 0 stone gathered even if I play for 2 hours against them.
    – TylerH
    Oct 18, 2020 at 21:33
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may be it's too late but i think this question "does not take old"... AOE was criticized for the earliest versions because in the hard/hardest mode it does not take too much to beat the AI, so some cheating was introduced in "Age of the kings"(that's my own opinion). I can tell that because AI players can upgrade to feudal age since the first 5 mn easily(for any civilization) while human player can not do that with his resources(250 food !)[ less than the required 500 ].to prove that,start a new game ,in hardest mode ,and quit immediately ,then read the screen of the statistics ,you will find out that AI players have well higher scores because they were given more resources ! Another thing to mention is that AI managed units/buildings are some how "auto-healing" or "auto-reparing" and more efficient but it's not a bad thing,instead this makes the game more attractive and invites the human intelligence to improve each time and finest the strategy !

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    "so some cheating was introduced in "Age of the kings"(that's my own opinion)." - The AI cheated in the same way in the original Age of Empires too. Hardest mode gave the computer player extra resources.
    – user101016
    Mar 12, 2015 at 12:29
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Not 100% if it does anything other than improving the AI in the campaign mode.

In skirmish mode it improves the AI, and being attacked by the enemy and how often it happens depends on the difficulty. For example; If you play on Easiest in Skirmish mode, the enemy will never attack you, the higher you go in difficulty makes them attack you and more often/earlier in the game.

They don't use "cheats" for resources and you can make them run out of resources just as any other game if you/the game lasts long enough.

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  • Know the details on how the AI is improved for each different level? Jul 23, 2012 at 1:34
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I would say the CPU never cheats, but you have to remember while your human clicks only control one thing at a time, the CPU is controlling everything everywhere always. It might look like auto-repair or auto-heal on buildings, but the CPU probably takes a villager for a few seconds and sends them back to work.

One thing I do know, the CPU always knows your location in full even if it hasn’t scouted you. And it will always choose the obnxious option versus facing you with dignity, especially when it does so at a loss, throwing the game rather than playing more honorably like not attacking civilians.

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I believe Moderate difficulty and above will inherently receive more starting resources than Human player for those three tiers, accordingly. In addition the AI WILL be more prone to earlier aggression regarding resources and other miscellaneous outskirt buildings if importance..

As for strategy, well I merely observed an AI/Computer opponent's play style.. -Seemed like the better option is to go for a Villager High by Late Feudal Age rather than Militia/M@A, .. -Don't worry about Barracks until Castle Age! Just make sure you have a Dock if practicable, a Blacksmith (and/or a MARKET if allied ASAP for Cartography perk !) -( Rely on Town Bell if things get ugly before Castle Age..) just build a Castle ASAP when you Advance and gather-point 2 Bombers to an enemy resource ASAP. They won't know what hit em! -( (Important) )BEFORE you click Castle Age (III), be sure to have 4-6 villagers mining stone with wheelbarrow + stone mining perk and you should have enough for a Castle as soon as you hit Castle Age.

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