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ABOUT THIS GAME
One of the most beloved real-time strategy games returns to glory with Age of Empires IV, putting you at the center of epic historical battles that shaped the world. Featuring both familiar and innovative new ways to expand your empire in vast landscapes with stunning 4K visual fidelity, Age of Empires IV brings an evolved real-time strategy game to a new generation.
Return to History – The past is prologue as you are immersed in a rich historical setting of 8 diverse civilizations across the world from the English to the Chinese to the Delhi Sultanate in your quest for victory. Build cities, manage resources, and lead your troops to battle on land and at sea in 4 distinct campaigns with 35 missions that span across 500 years of history from the Dark Ages up to the Renaissance.
Choose Your Path to Greatness with Historical Figures – Live the adventures of Joan of Arc in her quest to defeat the English, or command mighty Mongol troops as Genghis Khan in his conquest across Asia. The choice is yours – and every decision you make will determine the outcome of history.
Customize Your Game with Mods – Available in Early 2022, play how you want with user-generated content tools for custom games.
Challenge the World – Jump online to compete, cooperate or spectate with up to 7 of your friends in PVP and PVE multiplayer modes.
An Age for All Players – Age of Empires IV is an inviting experience for new players with a tutorial system that teaches the essence of real-time strategy and a Campaign Story Mode designed for first-time players to help achieve easy setup and success, yet is challenging enough for veteran players with new game mechanics, evolved strategies, and combat techniques.
Age of Empires IV had a successful launch with hitting over a solid Steam player base, retaining around 73,928 at its all-time peak. It returns to the RTS genre and creates a new environment for players to get immersed into; whether it be the historical documentaries, the golden silky threads of discovering the map, whether you play multiplayer or skirmish. The graphics are beautiful this time around, reflecting the Age of Empires III cleaner look. However, I preferred the 2d detailed art style of Age of Empires II and would have preferred this for AOEIV. However, Relic chose this option, and I have grown to like it. They needed a title like this to bring some freshness into a dead genre. I believe AOEIV will revive the genre, but everything depends on how Relic handles the DLC content and I do hope they include FLC content as well.
Simply put, Age of Empires IV cannot be a resold Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition. The historical documentaries, while well made and effortlessly presented, are excellent additions to teach players and young children about history. However, Age of Empires 2’s new DLC for its DE added a DLC where it included voice acting and a fictionalized story. I feel Relic choosing the historical documentary approach was still the wrong choice. Most of the reason Age of Empire 2 succeeded was that a majority of single players played single-player campaigns and sure, this is not discounting the fact that Age of Empires II DE’s edition has an active multiplayer base. We will discuss later more the multiplayer aspect of Age of Empires IV.
Single Player Campaigns
The single-player campaigns in Age of Empires II were fully voice acted, be it bad or good. Yet they added mystery, intrigue. It was as if they involved you in the campaigns and forged a story of a legend. The Historical Documentaries give the History Channel a run for their money, and they certainly immerse you into that Medieval Period. But I didn’t want a game based on a historical documentary. I wanted a game that had fictionalized story campaigns. What I recommend is this: Keep the Historical Documentaries, but also introduce new campaigns that introduce story and narrative. After all, if Relic can spend money to create a historical documentary campaign, then why can’t they invest in hiring actors, making an episodic TV structured campaign cutscene we can all get immersed into? I feel this would be much better in the long term.
AOEIV also has a wide variety of tutorials to choose from. Mission Zero starts you from the ground up, learning how to take control of a Town Center, and then making you use villages to gather resources to build and advance to the next age. Learn the Art of War which introduces you to the game’s core basic mechanics of how spears beat cavalry, how archers can beat spearmen as an example. There are advanced tutorials for besieging a city, and there are immersive cut scenes that are implemented very well. They have mini-scenarios for you to get involved in. The tutorials have been well thought out, and they do provide a good sign that AOEIV is not a complex game to master. Which is an excellent motive. I feel Relic has done a lot of right by respecting the work of the AOEII devs.
There are over 35 single-player missions within the AOEIV campaign menu. You play as the Normans and make your way slowly, unlocking new campaigns, fulfilling missions, and getting immersed into the historical cut scenes. The narrator does a brilliant job of getting you immersed. What is disappointing is the lack of personal voice acting for legendary commanders such as Kublai Khan, or William the Conqueror. There are many scripted historical battles and I feel this is a key strength of AOEIV’s new campaign structure. With more DLC that focuses on new commanders and their campaigns, I think we need more of these scripted historical battles. They are fun to fight with, and they give you tough challenges to solve. You will play the Rus campaign and the 100 Years War. While I like the choice of diversity within this period, I am not satisfied with it. Because the game costs £40 for 35 single-player missions combined with historical documentaries, with only 4 factions. I feel the price could have been £30-35. Because it also disappointed me that the Chinese and the Abbasids did not get their campaigns. However, despite my criticism of this move, I want to see what DLC content Relic will release for its new single-player campaigns. The only other disappointing aspect is the lack of mods, the single-player custom scenarios, and more modding tools at launch.
However, I can understand Relic’s motivation behind this, as I feel they want to capture the multiplayer audience/the casual audience first. When the game has had a solid footing, then they’ll release these modding tools. I am sure that Relic is in touch with modders about this. I look forward to seeing the modding tools released soon. Because mods increase the longevity of a game, and most video game companies as of today are geared towards eliminating the potential of modding (many of which have kept their games alive) because it eats into their profits. One such example would be the Skyrim AE update which will break many mods that relied on SKSE, the Special Edition of Skyrim. Instead, you will get access to the 500+ creation club content, but in reality, there are a lot of good mods out there that do much better for free. My opinion is mixed, but I hope Relic doesn’t go down this route (i.e, not limiting modding tools, not allowing full modding tools), and instead focuses on giving modders the tools they need. You can only play so much vanilla before you get bored and you go for mods.
Each of the eight factions, however, feels different from one another. Like the Mongols, you can unpack and pack your cities, allowing you to overtake the enemy in single-player skirmish mode and multiplayer mode. Choosing the Abbasids, you can construct a House of Wisdom which allows you to progress into ages much faster. Playing the Holy Roman Empire, you can recruit the prelate which helps your villages gather resources faster and you have an early head start in the game. The French have their Royal Knight, which is powerful on the battlefield (and historically accurate as well when you read up the military of the French cavalry). There are many options available to you. Civilizations feel unique enough with excellent voice acting and I feel Relic nailed this area. Let’s not forget that the music composers of AOEIV have gone for a native-Hollywood ambiance of different cultures. It is one of the best soundtracks I’ve listened to, and my favorite is the Abbasids, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Mongols. However, the single-player skirmish mode lacks a cinematic photo mode, and you can only observe a multiplayer match or through a replay. For those that want to take screenshots while playing single-player skirmish mode, this is, unfortunately, impossible. I do appeal to Relic to allow a single-player cinematic camera mode for single-player skirmish matches.
Multiplayer and Battle Maps
The multiplayer aspect is the most fun in Age of Empires IV, and you can tell that a lot of effort has been put into it. However, factions are unbalanced in multiplayer. The English can be OP in many respects, and if you’re a noob in the first go, expect to get destroyed even after you built your town and resources. Age of Empires IV multiplayer is demanding from the start forcing you to use the terrain and plan strategically. Here’s a hint: You can use the cinematic camera mode to reveal the map. Essentially, you have to advance headfirst into the feudal age and then the Castle Age, and then the Imperial Age. That means you need to prioritize how many villagers gather food, wood, stone, and gold. This is important from the get-go. In a 4 vs 4 matches, unless your teammate helps, you are on your own.
Sometimes I’ve been able to do well. As I played the Abbasids on a gigantic 4 vs 4 Gobi Desert map, two enemies surrounded me. I sent my villagers to mine the four essential resources. Essentially, I built a big enough army to attack the Mongol Outpost. The Mongols drove me back, however, as they had more units than I had. The enemy towers were spammed everywhere. So I failed. Another outpost was empty, so I attacked with an enormous army again, and it failed. But here’s the thing; I’m having fun with the multiplayer aspect. I’ve gone into an Age of Empire’s DE multiplayer and I don’t like it, but it has a ton of factions to play from. AOEIV’s new multiplayer UI is sleek and well designed. However, I couldn’t find the chat button anymore. So really if you have friends on Discord, then it works well. I plan to play more multiplayer. But I hope Relic quickly adds some new civilizations because it will become boring to play with the same eight factions repeatedly. The battle maps are well designed, and they feel superb in playing and strategizing over. What do they lack? More maps. This game is begging for more content to be added. So I hope Relic does not simply resell AOEII DE, they sell AOEIV. A big difference between the two.
Age of Empires IV is a brand new title that is returning to the RTS genre. I am confident that it will revive the genre, and maybe encourage new and old developers to create more games in that specific genre. Total War has dominated the RTS genre for a very long time, and yes, granted while they are two completely different franchises but they have an RTS focus, Total War took the mantle. Paradox Interactive took the mantle. Seeing AOEIV on the RTS genre is satisfying, and it’s a very fun game to play with. It needs new campaign content, new modding tools, and lots of DLC, however, to make this game fun. Sure, AOEIV might prove to become more expensive in the long run (and this is a guarantee) but it will be a game that’s worth playing. I am glad Relic didn’t change the core mechanics, and I wanted more formation-style battles. AOEIV, however, needs to innovate with its campaign content, and it needs to ensure that it is not a glorified AOEII DE or HD edition. It is Age of Empires IV by itself. And I wish Relic the best of luck with this game. I’ve enjoyed this game despite my criticisms of it. It is worth getting in a sale, or if you’ve played Age of Empires II, go for it. You can also get this game free on Xbox Game Pass, including cross-play support between PC and console. So what are you waiting for? Why not try it out and see what you think? Do you think it’ll revive the RTS genre?