Age Of Empires IV

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Age Of Empires IV – Review

WOLOLO! Rejoice, my brethren, for a great deity from prophecies long past is upon us! WOLOLO! It finally happened! After 16 years from the last installment, and 22 years since the greatest title in this franchise was released, developers, Relic Entertainment and Worlds Edge have been hard at work making a successor to the epic, ultra-successful Age of Empires 2. Set to release on October 28th, AGE OF EMPIRES IV is coming to PC and Xbox, and will also be available to all Game Pass users on release!

If you aren’t up to speed with the AoE franchise, Age of Empires is a Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game where you control a civilization, starting during the Dark Ages and progressing the ages available, up until the Imperial Age. While striving to survive and scavenge what resources you can from nearby bushes, forests, mineral veins, and wildlife, you must build, defend and overcome any enemy advances to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Now in the previous versions of Age of Empires, there were 3 ways to win any skirmish.

Firstly by conquest – Simply destroy everyone in your path and seek victory with an iron fist. Secondly – Building a wonder. Each faction had a Wonder of the World, and to build one took a lot of resources and time. After the build process, it had to stay standing for a set amount of time. Thirdly is through religion. Simply collect all of the relics scattered around the map before anyone else and hold them for a set amount of time – about 15 minutes. However, now with Age of Empires IV, the developers have added an original Age of Empires 1 way to win.

Through a domination-styled point of interest capture. Simply capture and hold all 3 sacred sites at one time and keep control of them for a set amount of time to win. Unfortunately, these sacred sites felt extremely bland and vanilla, in the original Age of Empires they were actual ruins/Stonehenge-type structures, whereas the sacred sites in Age of Empires IV were just a flag that ole mate Leroy plonked in the ground on an endeavor one day.

Age of Empires IV is an absolutely stunning game, from the 4K cinematics with amazing overlays to the beautiful in-game graphics, where the devs have incorporated that same overlay used in the cinematics to the villagers building animations, they still build from one point like all Age of Empires titles, but without that silhouette-like overlay showing progress being made on different sections of the build. Building destruction progress shows walls falling down, roofing tiles going missing, even as far as chunks off the sides keep collapsing. There are also some minor details changed like instead of your melee troops attacking houses with their swords and pikes, they instead pull out flaming torches to burn the buildings down, adding to the already high immersion factor this game holds, and when packing and unpacking siege weapons, that amazing neon outline appears again to actually make it look like something is happening.

Oh boy, the audio is outstanding! If you didn’t think the game could get better you were wrong. The soundtrack from the main menu to skirmishes and campaign stories couldn’t be flawed, featuring medieval-style audio with lutes and harps. I could listen to it on loop, but more importantly, my new best friend, the narrator, helped me along the way in my journey to overtake my enemies in the campaign and filled me in with history lessons on what was happening. The narrator made the game feel less lonely and stale.

I instantly fell in love with the story. As soon as I started the Norman campaign I was met with a videography cinematic. Like something out of a Peter Jackson film, the videos were recorded in the places of the historical events that were happening, and then I saw it! This super satisfying wire-frame/ sketched/ schematic/ Assassins Creed Eagle Vision-esque outlines of the historic encampments and troops marching through the fields, I was instantly immersed. It’s like the devs had mixed some super-addictive substance in with these cinematic videos and I needed more! The cutscenes and story had a heavy emphasis on the narrative, and after completing each mission you unlocked optional content, including one of my beloved cinematics based around a troop used in that section of the campaign, and a historical document ranging from biographies to historic passages, all adding more and more lore to the in-depth campaigns.

If you think you may be set to play for small amounts at a time, I wish you luck as from the get-go with the stories and campaigns, it is extremely easy to find yourself lost within these ancient events and be engaged for hours! I know I was! The story is also a perfect fresh take on the RTS-styled campaigns. It’s not just “hey defend your city and destroy these guys over here”. It’s more in-depth, with some sections making you build and defend trade routes to pay the opposing empire your taxes. Fail to do so in the allotted time and the empire will strike you down with an iron fist, all while trying to defend your caravans from bandit attacks and hunting down and destroying the bandit camps. Or you can simply buy all the settlements in the area and have a stronger grip on the nation than your opposers.

Some sections of campaigns really felt like fresh ideas, with more than one way to complete them. You will also find optional tasks to complete while doing missions, which had me constantly searching the map for the extra points of interest and attempting to juggle my villagers, who were more than happy to take an extended smoko when I wasn’t looking. I constantly felt like there were things to do in each mission and found myself running around like an over-caffeinated squirrel, fully immersed sinking lots of time into the missions until I started noticing the autosave. The game would pause for up to 5 seconds and the immersion would be broken. I was unable to find a setting to change auto-save duration or to turn it off because if I did I would have in an instant.

Age of Empires IV includes 8 playable civilizations which I thought was a bit on the low side. I mean, Age of Empires 1 started with 12 civilizations that had a lot of diversity and then added 4 extra in a later DLC. Age of Empires II started with 13 then added another 26 over 8 further DLC’s. These playable civilizations include the English, Rus, Holy Roman Empire, Chinese, Abbasid Dynasty, Delhi Sultanate, French, and Mongols. In true AoE style, the factions all have their specialized troops, buffs, and debuffs.

The thing that really caught my eye and impressed me was the attention to detail with some civilizations, like with the Delhi and Abbasid factions, they can’t hunt boar for food, as it’s against their beliefs. There are a few small quality of life issues that I hope to get made a note of and have changes planned, like when drag-selecting troops you can’t edge pan, it just drops the selection box. Unlike previous titles, there is no town bell for quick garrisoning. Instead, you have to select your villagers and hit “G” on them or, there’s no “select all military units” hotkey and the smart selection seems to not be the best it can be.

I am amazed by the quality of this product, Age of Empires has been a massive franchise from my childhood, and to see a new release being this good is awesome. From the graphics to the audio, to the minor details, the only issues I had with the game were extremely minor and only quality of life issues. Age of Empires IV is a perfect successor to Age of Empires II and is looking to be my next most played game. If you decide to pick this gem up ill be seeing you on the battlefields!

The Good

  • Custom settings add a simple click and play
  • Ultra Immersive story
  • Equally Immersive Cutscenes
  • Amazing attention to detail
  • Best RTS graphics to date

The Bad

  • Small Quality of life issues
  • No edge scroll while selecting units (may just be buggy at this stage)
  • No Town Bell, you have to manually garrison your villages
  • AutoSave screens break immersion
  • A small number of playable factions

Written by: Bigfoot



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