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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's civilization music theme in the Definitive Edition

The Malay are a Southeast Asian civilization introduced in Age of Empires II HD: Rise of the Rajas based on various kingdoms in the the Malay archipelago such as the Majapahit Empire and Srivijaya Empire. In game, they focus on infantry and navy with emphasis of "quantity over quality" for their infantry. The Malay are noted to have the worst cavalry in the game, as they not only lack several key technologies, but also lack the Castle Age Blacksmith armor technology for their cavalry. To compensate for their lackluster cavalry, the Malay's Battle Elephants are cheaper, and the Malay are only civilization with access to Elephant units with full resistance to conversion (i.e. access to Heresy and Faith).


The Malay are primarily a naval civilization. Consequently, their naval technology tree is flawless apart from the missing Heavy Demolition Ship. Their true strength lies in naval economy, however. Their Fish Traps are cheaper and provide 3 times more food meaning a lot of wood can be saved which can make all the difference especially in longer games. Additionally, they can upgrade their Docks to Harbors which comes in handy when defending Fishing Ships on the shore. As far as their land units are concerned the Malay go for quantity rather than quality and lack really powerful units. A lot of final tier upgrades are missing (e.g. Champion, Hussar, Siege Ram), but they get cost reductions on their Two-Handed Swordsmen and Battle Elephants which makes massing them more easy. Generally speaking, their cavalry is downright terrible without even Chain Barding Armor. The infantry is fair, the archers are as well, at least the non-mounted ones. The siege weapons are rather underwhelming as well, but they do get Siege Engineers and Bombard Cannons. Their Monks are good as only two techs are missing. Their defensive structures are lacking, but their economy is overall strong.

Campaign appearances[]

The Malay have a campaign devoted to their civilization: Gajah Mada. They also appear in:

Gajah Mada[]

This campaign is played as the Malay.

Suryavarman I[]


Le Loi[]



Unique unit[]

Karambitwarrioricon-DE.png Karambit Warrior: Cheap infantry that only takes up half a population space

Unique technologies[]

UniqueTechCastle-DE.png Thalassocracy: Upgrades Docks to Harbors.
UniqueTechImperial-DE.png Forced Levy: Changes the gold cost of the Militia line to food cost.

Civilization bonuses[]

Team bonus[]

Docks have double Line of Sight.


Rise of the Rajas[]

  • Initially, advancing to the next Age is +100% faster. With patch 5.3, that was reduced to +80%.
  • Initially, Fishing Ships are 33% cheaper. With patch 5.3, that bonus was taken away.
  • Initially, Battle Elephants are 20% cheaper. With patch 5.3, that was increased to 25%. With patch 5.7 that was further increased to 30%.
  • Initially, Harbors have a Rate of Fire of 2.5 and 2,200 HP. With patch 5.3, that was decreased to 3 and 2,000, respectively.
  • Initially, Elite Karambit Warriors have 2 pierce armor. With patch 5.3, that was reduced to 1.
  • Non-Elite Karambit Warriors initially have 5 base attack. With patch 5.5, they now have an attack of 6.
  • Elite Karambit Warriors initially have 8 base attack. With patch 5.7, they now have an attack of 7.
  • Karambit Warriors initially cost 25 food and 10 gold. With patch 5.8, they now cost 30 food and 15 gold.
  • Forced Levy removes the gold cost from Militia-line units and costs 1,000 food and 600 gold.
  • Fish Traps provide unlimited food.

Definitive Edition[]

  • Advancing to the next Age is +66% faster.
  • Harbors minimum range increased to 1 (from 0) and are now affected by Murder Holes.
  • Harbors base attack reduced from 6 to 3.
  • Harbor bonus attack vs. ships increased from 9 to 10.
  • Forced Levy now changes Militia line gold cost into additional food cost, and costs 850 food, 500 gold.
  • With update 39284, Karambit Warriors cost 25 food and 15 gold.
  • With update 47820, Malay Fish Traps provide 3 times more food instead of unlimited food, and their Battle Elephants are 30% cheaper in the Castle Age and 40% cheaper in the Imperial Age (previously 30%).
  • With update 47820, Karambit Warriors' (Standard/Elite) attack is increased to 7/8.

In-game dialogue language[]

Malay units speak Old Malay (Melayu Kuno or Melayu Tua), an Austronesian language which includes several Sanskrit words.

Old Malay is spoken by the Shailendra dynasty of the Medang Kingdom and the Srivijaya Empire, and over time evolved into the modern Malay and Indonesian languages.

  • Select 1 Iya? – Yes?
  • Select 2 Swasti – Sanskrit for "peace" or "prosper"
  • Select 3 Siap – Ready
  • Select 4 Apa syahsananya baginda? – What is the situation, sire?
  • Task 1 Iya – Yes
  • Task 2 Aku mengerti – I understand
  • Task 3 Aku marwat – I take care (of it)
  • Task 4 Aku akan merawatnya – I will tend it
  • Female Build Siap – Ready
  • Male Build Aku pembangun gedung. – I'm the builder.
  • Chop Aku panumbang kayu – I'm the woodcutter/lumberjack (literally "wood feller")
  • Farm Aku memanen – I'm harvesting
  • Fish Aku tuharawa - I'm a fisher
  • Forage Aku mengumpulkan – I'm gathering
  • Hunt Aku tuhaburu - I'm a hunter
  • Mine Aku penggali tambang – I'm mining (literally "I'm the mine digger")
  • Repair Aku pamarbaik – I'm the repairer (pamarbaik is an archaic form of perbaik ("repair") in modern Malay and Indonesian)
  • Select 1 Iya? – Yes?
  • Select 2
  • Select 3 Apa syahsananya baginda? – What is the situation sire?
  • Move 1 Aku pangarti – I understand (pangarti is an archaic form of mengerti ("understand") in modern Malay and Indonesian)
  • Move 2 Aku marwat – I take care (of it)
  • Move 3 Iya, baginda – Yes, sire
  • Attack 1 Tabik! – Salute!
  • Attack 2 Maju! – Onward!
  • Attack 3 Angkat sanjata! – To arms! (literally "Raise the weapon!")
  • Select 1 Iya? – Yes?
  • Select 2 Titah baginda? – Order, sire?
  • Select 3
  • Select 4 Om maheshwaraya (ॐ महेश्वराय) – Om to the great Lord (in Sanskrit)
  • Move 1 Aku marwat – I take care (of it)
  • Move 2 Iya – Yes
  • Move 3 Benar – Right
  • Move 4 Aku akan marwatnya – I will take care (of it)
  • Select 1 Ini, ya – Yes, I'm here (literally "Here, right.")
  • Select 2 Apa mahumamu – What do you want?
  • Select 3 Mengapa kamu mamagatku? – Why did you disturb me?
  • Select 4 Marpadah – Respect
  • Move 1 Aku akan makaryakan pintamamu - I shall carry out your task
  • Move 2 Dengan anugerahku – By my grace
  • Move 3 Serupa pintamamu – As you (have) tasked
  • Move 4 Aku akan makaryakannya – I shall carry it out

AI player names[]

When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Malay AI characters:

  • Balaputra (بالاڤوترا): 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 (درماستو): 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 (ݢاجه مادا): 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 (هايم ووروک): 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 (جايانݢارا): Prince of Kediri in 1295 reigned from 1309 to 1328, was a Javanese king and the second Majapahit emperor.
  • Parameswara (ڤاراميسوارا): 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 (رادن ويجاي): A Javanese king, the founder and the first Majapahit emperor and the son-in-law of the last Singhasari monarch, Kertanegara.
  • Samaratungga (ساماراتوڠݢ): The head of the Sailendra dynasty who ruled Central Java and Srivijaya in the 8th and the 9th century.
  • Sang Nila Utama (سڠ نيلا اوتام): A Srivijayan prince from Palembang said to have founded the Kingdom of Singapura in 1299.
  • Sultan Mansur Shah (سلطان منصور شه): 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 (سلطان مظفر شه): The fifth Sultan of Malacca. He ruled from 1445 to 1459.


  • Covering more than 1,300 ethnic groups (parts of which are drastically different from their neighboring ethnic groups), the Malay are currently the largest umbrella civilization.
    • The name "Malay" in this case represents the term Malay race, a concept that was no longer used in modern times. The modern equivalent would be the Austronesian people.
  • The Malay's civilization icon is based on an Acehnese shield called Peurise Awe[2]. The shield is made of rattan with hexagonal brass decorations.
  • Before the Definitive Edition, 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).
    • In the Definitive Edition, the ship image is displayed in the center of the navigation bar.
    • 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.
      • The ethnic Malays prefer to use shallow draught, oared, longships similar to the galley, such as lancaran, ghurab, and ghali. This is very different from the Javanese who prefer long-range, deep draught round ships such as jong and malangbang. The reason for this difference is because the Malay operated their ships in sheltered straits zone and in riverine water, while the Javanese are often active in the open sea.[3]
    • 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 are the only civilization that can train cavalry but have no access to Chain Barding Armor.
  • The Malay civilization comprises not only their namesake but also other closely related Austronesians from the 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 Malay are also the second civilization in the game to receive a unique building, after the Portuguese. The Malay's unique building is also the only unique building to be an upgraded version of a common building.
    • 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 Bombard Towers, but not Fortified Walls.
    • Malay also have access to both Bombard Cannons and Cannon Galleons. This may be a reference to the Cetbang, which was a Majapahit invention. In Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition, Cetbang Cannon is available when revolting as Indonesia.
    • While in the game, they do not have access to Hand Cannoneer, historically, the Malay used a hand cannon called Bedil Tombak.
      • However, ethnic Malays are not familiar with firearms and cannons (or, at least unfamiliar with their use as a weapon) until the arrival of the Portuguese in 1509, as recorded in Sejarah Melayu and various Portuguese books. Before this, the ethnicities who got hold of gunpowder weapons seem to be only restricted to Java and Bali. Before the capture of Malacca in 1511, ethnic Malays purchased cannons and muskets from the Javanese and Gujarati people.[4]
  • The Malay, as of Dynasties of India, are the only civilization in the game that has access to Battle 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 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.
  • In the Definitive Edition, before the Sicilians' debuting, the Malay are the last civilization with access to Shipwright.
  • The Malay might be one of the most volatile civilizations in the game, mostly due to their faster age advancing up, which allows them to push a variety of rushes (such as archers, scouts or even a tower rush) in a wide variety of maps faster than other civilizations. With safe water spaces, they can use their effective Fish Traps to make their economy strong. This lead to some players never running out of food in water maps, which was unbalanced, especially for their Two-Handed Swordsmen that only cost food with the Forced Levy technology. This possibly explained the change to Fish Traps providing three times more food in update 47820. In the same update, the Battle Elephant discount was raised to 40% in the Imperial Age, mostly because some players considered them a weaker civilization in the late game. At the release of Rise of the Rajas, the Malay were a much stronger civilization because their age advance was 100% faster, their Harbors were much stronger (to the point that could be used as a replacement for towers in maps with water zones), their Fishing Ships were 33% cheaper, the Battle Elephants had higher blast radius area, and the Elite upgrade was cheaper, despite having 50% less bonus discount than now, and the Karambit Warrior had better pierce armor, was cheaper, and the Elite one had better attack. Being subject to numerous stats and cost adjustments, the attack for the Elite one, as well as the food cost, ended up being the same as at release. It is also believed that the reduced attack of the Elite Battle Elephant was promoted when the Battle Elephant discount was raised to 30% in later patches, which ended up being criticized by most players because having an unit with up to 20 attack, and a cost of 84 food and 49 gold, was too much.
  • The Malay is also one of the most nerfed civilizations in the Definitive Edition, as their Battle Elephants, Age advancing speed, Harbor, unique units, gold-free Two-Handed Swordmen and Fish Traps have all been weakened.
  • The Malay are similar to the Japanese in gameplay, as both civilizations have the same technology tree in the Dock. Both have a strong economy from fishing (for Malay, the triple Fish Trap food will delay its renewal, while it is also cheaper, saving wood). Both are infantry civilizations on land maps with fully upgraded Arbalesters. Both have good Monks, and their cavalry are lackluster with average siege units and defense. The main difference between them is the Japanese have more versatile Archer Range units and good quality infantry, while the Malay are a civilization that relies on quantity.
    • The Malay are also similar to the Vikings, as both are naval and infantry civilizations with a similar technology tree with weak cavalry and are often played as an archer civilization in land maps due to their access to the Arbalester (although update 56005 removed Thumb Ring for the Vikings to encourage the use of their infantry). Both civilizations have strong early-game rushing potential and are at their strongest in the Castle Age. The biggest difference is the Vikings are considered to be very weak in the Imperial Age in land maps due to a very limited tech tree, while the Malay are considered to be at their strongest in the Imperial Age when gold runs out in one-on-one matches due to their ability to out-attrition their opponent.


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.


Video overview[]