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In my experience, attacking a major or minor settlement has been pretty much the same experience. I only attack from one direction/side so my army is not exposed to extra fire from the towers all over the base. The garrison troops are not buffed like my armies so they tend to be squishy. As I push into the town/city the AI's units move towards my army trying to block me and I kill enough of them forcing army losses on them. In about 100 siege battles, I have yet to win a siege because I captured the town center.
However, on defense, the two experiences have been drastically different.
With minor settlements there are only a few avenues into each town on a certain side. I am often able to defend those avenues and prevent entry into the town proper. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but it feels like I am fighting for the town the way I am supposed to.
To the contrary, the major settlements are so large it would take a full garrison and 2 full armies (which isn't possible) of units to actually prevent the enemy from sneaking units into town. Those units then run around capping areas and it is almost impossible to keep up with activity everywhere. So, to be effective, you have to abandon the walls completely. The result, you can only defend the center area of the large city and you feel like you are fighting another minor settlement battle.
It is absolutely crazy that it is easier to get into a level 5 walled settlement than a level 1 town. How did this happen? Well, minor settlements were designed with walls that you can't climb for one and also that can't be breached either.
Other factors that contribute... Units climb walls with ladders WAY too fast! The outer towers field of fire is so limited that there are HUGE blind spots along the walls. The outer towers firing arc should be 360 degrees just like the rebuildable towers so as long as you have a presence on the wall the towers will fire. There are not enough outer towers on some walls. The walls are also too easy to breach with and can use some more health IMHO. It should take way longer to breach walls than the gates of a city which are the natural soft spot.
The effect of the weak outer defenses and tiny garrison makes abandoning the outer defenses the best strategy. So I defend mostly around the main capture point. This makes defending large iconic cities feel really really bad to me. It is much worse than the minor settlements to me.
If you give me a large cities garrison and let me defend a minor settlement with it I will be able to defend much better than using the same garrison in a major settlement. Minor settlements also have the rebuildable towers in better spots. In large cities the buildings and drastic height changes block a lot of the defense tower
I look forward to mods fixing these issues.
I will take one second to criticize CA for pandering to all of the people who wanted huge sieges where you could attack from all 4 directions. I never wanted this, and expressed as much on these forums. It was easy to see the problem coming when defending a single wall in TWW2 with similar garrisons was hard enough.
Don't get me wrong. The cities are beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. They are a little too winding/mazelike, which makes them look too unrealistic. Perhaps they will be fun for the 1% who will play MP 4 v 4 army sieges. However defending gigantic cities with the small garrisons CA provided in game is futile, and frustrating. Just my opinion.
Otherwise, I am loving the game and can't even name all of the improvements that game 3 has over its predecessor. Great work overall. I hope they find a solution to this problem. Giving the outer towers a 360 degree firing arc would make fighting for the outer walls a priority and help a lot.