Age of Empires 4 is not the RTS revolution you’ve been waiting for

The latest Age of Empires IV technical beta gave gamers past the Age Insider programme their first probability to take the extremely anticipated RTS game for a spin. It was positive, and I’m oddly happy to find that I’m simply as mediocre at Age of Empires now as I used to be 20 years in the past.

The beta supplied PvP or co-op play in opposition to AI in as much as 4v4 matches, with the English, Holy Roman Empire, Chinese language, and Abbasid Dynasty obtainable on a handful of maps. I had simply as a lot enjoyable enjoying round with the totally different civs as I did making an attempt to really win – it seems constructing your self a pleasant and tidy wood wall will not be the saviour you suppose it is going to be. That AI can be no joke both, even on intermediate settings.

I additionally discovered that an early rush could be killer. The English appear particularly good at this, as they get entry to some hard-hitting infantry sooner than the opposite playable civs, who must make do with fundamental spearmen. Regardless of the group brouhaha over the art style, I discovered the graphics fairly sufficient (though I wasn’t enjoying on max settings), and total I noticed nothing to make me particularly involved for the sport’s future.

However all through my half a dozen matches I by no means felt a lot sense of awe or marvel. A peer in technique gaming commentary, Leana Hafer, summed up her own thoughts on the beta utilizing the phrase “protected”. It’s arduous to argue in opposition to that, as a result of apart from some nuanced and largely understated modifications, there’s little right here that you simply’d describe as daring.

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This isn’t essentially a criticism, however I can’t assist however distinction this to Relic’s different main technique venture: Company of Heroes 3. This additionally has some pretty protected design within the sense that tactical battles are largely unchanged from earlier video games within the sequence. However the workforce has then gone one step additional to create a Whole Struggle-style marketing campaign layer, far past the sort of meta mechanics the studio has produced up to now.

Age of Empires 4 has little that you simply’d describe as daring

It’s fairly daring, and by comparability Age of Empires IV has little that conjures up the identical sort of response. The largest design change I can see proper now’s better asymmetry in faction design. Although that is welcome, and maybe even radical in an inner context, it’s not taking Age of Empires out of its consolation zone.

Its influence can be barely blunted by the truth that the 4 civs on supply in the course of the technical check gave the impression to be the least experimental. The English and Holy Roman Empire largely play like your typical Age of Empires faction, with some delicate variations. The Abbasids progress by way of the ages otherwise, whereas the Chinese language have some enjoyable twists, and a ‘dynasty’ mechanic that’s thematic however basically only a huge useful resource sink. Every additionally has their very own roster of distinctive items and buffs, rounding out their bespoke playstyles.

the match setup screen in the age of empirse 4 beta

Apart from maybe a beautiful dedication to providing documentary-quality supplements, there’s little else that stands out. I believe the legacy group could wrestle to resolve whether or not it is a downside or not.

There’s better asymmetry in faction design

Reflecting on this level brings up reminiscences of the prequel Star Wars trilogy, and the discourse that emerged after these movies have been first launched. The gist of 1 argument I bear in mind floating round is that these movies weren’t created for the unique Star Wars followers. Neither was the sequel trilogy, though it’s arduous to disentangle these initiatives from the nostalgic pandering.

I don’t get the sense I’m being pandered to in Age of Empires IV. It’s acquainted, sure. It’s protected. However – thus far – it’s additionally a stable historic RTS. I’m excited to see extra, and significantly to check out the campaigns, which supply a extra crafted expertise – one the place I don’t have to fret about APM.


After I talked about I used to be making an attempt the beta, members of our Discord group requested me whether or not I felt Age of Empires IV performed like Age of Empires II or III, and although I may ramble about the way it’s slightly of this and slightly of that, to be sincere I believe the query is basically irrelevant.

Age of Empires IV is finally not for followers of both of these previous works, although after all Microsoft will hope that they’ll test it out. It’s about bringing the sequence into the fashionable period of strategy games. It’s about taking this sequence’ traditional method at its highest expression – Age of Empires II – and updating it, not reinventing or meaningfully extending it. For many who are hoping for one thing bolder, this isn’t some grand RTS revolution.

That is going to be a brand new recreation for a brand new technology, meant to courtroom a flourishing technique group that didn’t actually exist 15 years in the past. The earlier historic followers make peace with this, the happier everybody will likely be.

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Age of Empires IV is due out on PC by way of Steam, the Microsoft Store, in addition to by way of Game Pass for PC on October 28, 2021.

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