As I guessed, the scenarios in the expansion were superior to those in the base game.
The challenge of each scenario was more consistant, from scenario to scenario and through out the scenario. Instead of having an initial tough 5 minutes followed by a cake walk, the RoR scenarios generally peaked in difficulty near the end. This was mostly because the difficulty was no longer fending off attack waves when I was weak in initial the stages, but because the enemies usually guarded objectives with the toughest units in the game.
The scenario setups were also more unique. Instead of a bunch of coastal maps where you are required to build a base from scratch and slowly wipe out a single empire, there were many different types of maps, stronger starting bases, less required research and varying setups of computer players. The repeated slog of building a navy, siege weapons and priests to slowly push through an empire was gone.
Okay, navy domination was still key on some maps.
Map aesthetics were also vastly improved. The landscapes looked more natural and finer details were added to certain sections of a map. There were alcoves with hidden ruins and planted trees running along paths. Long past were the squarish islands with only a purely functional building on it.
Note the bridge and more detailed expanses.
No two scenarios felt quite the same. Oddly though, the final scenario was a complete throw back to the easier original campaigns. It was ugly, easy, required a bit of building up and the goal was just to kill off an opponent.
Another odd failure was the lack of CGI campaign videos. There was simply intro or outro reward to the campaigns. The only new CGI video was the game intro...which wasn't even that new
because they just the old intro and added some horrible layer over it.
I think my favourite part about going the AoE series is the feeling of walking through history. The game provides decent historical information about the empires and people in the game, and encourages me to look up more. I now have a better feel for when certain events took place relative to others and a better understanding of the huge diversity of the people that lived in the Mediterranean.