"A fascinating and storied history lies in the islands of the Malay Archipelago. Restore your king to his rightful throne, defeat his oldest enemies, and unite the Malay under the leadership of the wise Gajah Mada. Conquer Southeast Asia with swarms of elephants and upgrade your docks to fortified harbors that can shoot arrows. The Malay unique unit is the Karambit Warrior, an extremely cheap infantry unit that can quickly overwhelm its foes."
The Malay are based on various kingdoms on the Malay Archipelago before the European conquest, mainly Srivijaya and Majapahit during the reign of Hayam Wuruk.
The kingdoms of the Malay Archipelago were able to field large number of troops because of the archipelago's large population. To reflect this, the Malay have a cheap and rapidly-deployed unique unit that allows higher population than usual and a unique technology that enables the Malay to train and thus also easily field Militia-line units without spending gold. Because the Malay Archipelago is strategically located between India and China, it was often visited by people from both regions who introduced new cultures and technologies to the locals. Therefore, the Malay advance to the next Ages much faster than other civilizations.
Coastal defense is essential for kingdoms located in the region. Thus, Malay Docks and their allies have much longer Line of Sight. Furthermore, the Malay have access to Thalassocracy that gives their Docks the ability to defend themselves. The vast sea provided huge amount of fish which the people skillfully fished. Therefore, the Malay Fish Traps are cheaper and provide unlimited food. The Sumatran and Java forest had large number of wild elephants and they were often tamed by local people to do various tasks. This is reflected by the Malay's ability to train cheaper Battle Elephants. Because converting is deemed lawless and leads to losing the right to inheritance of wealth, especially among Balinese Hindu, the Malay are the only Southeast Asian civilization that have access to the Heresy technology at the Monastery.
When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Malay AI characters:
Balaputra: A Srivijayan emperor in the 9th century CE as well as the former head of the Sailendra dynasty. Before rising as an emperor though, he was the heir to the Ancient Mataram Kingdom, a Hindu-Buddha kingdom in Java back then, but was eventually forced to leave Java by the forces of Rakai Pikatan, a member of the rival Sanjaya Dynasty, who later founded the Medang Kingdom.
Dharmasetu: An 8th century Srivijayan emperor. Under his reign, he successfully incorporated Pan Pan, a kingdom located in the north of the Malay Peninsula into Srivijayan sphere of influence before 775 AD.
Gajah Mada: Commander of Majapahit elite guard, the Bhayangkara. Then the Prime Minister of Majapahit, replacing Arya Tadah. He was well known for his Palapa Oath and expanding Majapahit territories across the Malay Archipelago. He was dismissed after the Bubat Tragedy.
Hayam Wuruk: A Javanese king from the Rajasa Dynasty and the fourth Majapahit emperor. Together with his prime minister Gajah Mada, he reigned the empire at the time of its greatest power.
Jayanegara: Prince of Kediri in 1295 reigned from 1309 to 1328, was a Javanese king and the second Majapahit emperor.
Parameswara: The last king of Singapura. According to the Malay annals, he ruled Singapura from 1389 to 1398. The king fled the island kingdom after a Majapahit naval invasion in 1398 and founded his new stronghold on the mouth of Bertam river in 1402.
Raden Wijaya: A Javanese king, the founder and the first Majapahit emperor and the son-in-law of the last Singhasari monarch, Kertanegara.
Samaratungga: The head of the Sailendra dynasty who ruled Central Java and Srivijaya in the 8th and the 9th century.
Sang Nila Utama: A Srivijayan prince from Palembang said to have founded the Kingdom of Singapura in 1299.
Sultan Mansur Shah: The sixth Sultan of Malacca. He ruled Malacca from 1459 to 1477. He ascended the throne after the death of his father, Muzaffar Shah.
Sultan Muzaffar Shah: The fifth Sultan of Malacca. He ruled from 1445 to 1459.
If a player picks the Malay civilization, the bottom left and center of the navigation bar will show a ship image and a sun-like symbol respectively. The ship is based on a ship relief on the Borobudur Temple, while the sun is based on the Surya Majapahit (Sun of Majapahit).
The ship presented at the history section and used as the Gajah Mada campaign icon resembles the Borobudur ship. However, recent studies showed that this kind of ship was not used by Majapahit Empire; Majapahit's main type of naval ship was the jong.
In the Serving the New King scenario of the Gajah Mada campaign in the Definitive Edition, a sketch of a pinisi-rigged vessel is used to represent an east Indonesian ship. However, this is inaccurate, as pinisi-rigged vessels just started appearing after the 1900s.
The Malay civilization comprises not only their namesake but also other closely related Austronesians from Malay archipelago:
Their campaign focuses on Gajah Mada, the chief minister of the Majapahit Empire based on the island of Java, who is considered a significant figure in Indonesian history. Javanese later become the largest ethnic group of modern Indonesia. Their Wonder is the Kalasan Temple, which is located in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.
The Karambit however, while a popular weapon with the peasants of Java, is actually said to originate from Sumatra (from where the Srivijaya Empire originated), and more specifically from the Minangkabau people, based in West Sumatra (Sumatera Barat) and known today as the largest matrilineal society in the world.
The boats moored in the Harbor are Malay type of boat, kelulus. They use the same sprite as the boats in a Castle Age Southeast Asian Dock.
According to Majapahit era literature, the Majapahit Empire controlled parts of the island of New Guinea, which geographically belongs to Australasia. This technically means that with the inclusion of the Malay, Age of Empires II now represents parts from all continents except Antarctica.
The Malay are the only civilization in the game that has access to elephants and Heresy.
One of the in-game dialogues of the Monk (Om Maheshwaraya) is one of the praising forms associated to the Hindu god Shiva.
The Malay's civilization icon is based on Acehnese shield called Peurise Awe. The shield is made of rattan with hexagonal brass decorations.
The Malay were originally going to have the Champion upgrade in exchange for not having the last Imperial Age armor for their infantry units, but the developers realized the power-spike of the Champion is so huge in conjunction with Forced Levy (a unique technology that makes the Militia line cost no gold) that developers decided to remove the Champion upgrade since the Two-Handed Swordsman upgrade is enough to be an effective late-game (aka "trash") unit. This explains why the Malay campaign has starting Champions in some scenarios despite not having access to them.
"The Malay Archipelago is the world’s largest archipelago, consisting of more than 25,000 islands in present-day Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, East Timor, Malaysia and Singapore. To travel and colonize so many islands, the islanders developed sophisticated navigation and boat building skills beginning in 50,000 BC. From the first millennium AD, multiple port towns expanded into small kingdoms thanks to a profitable trade position between India and China. As a result of this interaction with India, these early states adopted many elements from Hinduism and Buddhism. During the Middle Ages, some port cities managed to conquer large parts of the archipelago. Three maritime empires, also called thalassocracies, were particularly influential:
One of the first states to dominate the archipelago was Srivijaya (671-1377) in Southern Sumatra. To secure their trade with China, the maharajas of Srivijaya conquered several kingdoms in Sumatra, the Malaysian peninsula, and Java. Naval expeditions even ventured up the Mekong river in mainland Southeast Asia, but the emergence of the powerful Khmer Empire prevented a long-lasting presence. As an international center for Buddhism and education, the capital of Palembang attracted many pilgrims and scholars from all over Asia. Although the maharajas did not erect many temples themselves, their vassals in Java constructed some of the largest Buddhist monuments in the world, such as Borobudur and Sewu. Despite these economic and cultural achievements, the Srivijaya empire gradually disintegrated under the pressure of Indian raids and Javanese conquests beginning in the eleventh century.
After Srivijaya, Javanese kingdoms rose to prominence. One of them, the Majapahit Empire (1293-1527), eventually became one of the most powerful states in Southeast Asia. In 1293, Raden Wijaya founded the empire by allying with the invading Mongol armies to depose his rival, after which he vanquished the Mongols in a surprise attack. Under the military leadership of Gajah Mada (1313-1364), prime minister to two emperors, Majapahit reached its largest extent: from the Malaysian peninsula in the west to New Guinea in the east. During this golden era, arts, literature, and architecture flourished. Puppet theatre and orchestras were developed. A truly Javanese culture emerged through the synthesis of Shiva worship and Tantric Buddhism. In the fifteenth century, internal strife and the emergence of a new trading power called Malacca led to the decline of the Majapahit.
In 1398, the Majapahit had invaded Singapura, a small kingdom in the Malaysian peninsula. Their king, Parameswara, fled the state and founded the city of Malacca. Thanks to good relations with the Chinese Ming dynasty, the city attracted merchants and gradually became one of the major ports on the Indo-Chinese trade route. At the end of his reign, King Paramesware converted to Islam, thereby founding the Malacca Sultanate (1414-1511). Although Southeast Asia had come into contact with Islam from an early date via traders, Muslim communities had remained limited. With the territorial expansion of the Sultanate, Malacca became an important center from which Islam spread. Subsequently, the Malay culture, initially inspired by Hinduism and Buddhism, underwent profound cultural changes inspired by their new Islamic faith.
Lured by the rich trade of the archipelago, European explorers came to Southeast Asia from the end of the Middle Ages. In 1511, a Portuguese army under Afonso de Albuquerque conquered the port of Malacca, marking the end of the Sultanate. For the next several centuries, European states would dominate the trade in the archipelago."