Preview: Age of Empires IV must combine the classic with something new | NOW


After more than a decade and a half, the classic gets Age of Empiresseries finally a new, full volume. But goes Age of Empires IV also interest so many people?

There are few games that were probably played together in ICT rooms as much as Age of Empires II. The classic strategy game allowed gamers to play wars on multiple PCs at the same time, while gradually making their people bigger and more powerful.

Developer Relic and Microsoft want from Age of Empires IV make a real, classic strategy game. This is evident from the setting alone. In front of Age IV the studio harks back to the Middle Ages, the period that was also central Age of Empires II.

‘Middle Ages ideal for strategy game’

According to Adam Isgreen, responsible for the game on behalf of Microsoft, the Middle Ages just lend themselves very well to a strategic title. The balance between units during that period is naturally very good, with archers, cavalry and foot soldiers. That almost seamlessly coincides with the holy trinity of stone, paper and scissors.

Until now, Microsoft only had two of the warring factions in it Age IV announced: the English and the Mongols. We saw them compete in the game’s first trailer. Which means we immediately run into a small problem, because it is very unlikely that English and Mongolian troops met on the battlefield in the Middle Ages. But hey, “it’s a game”, Isgreen says when asked.

Units speak in historically accurate language

The studio has devoted a lot of time to the voices of the in-game units. You will hear troops not only speaking in their own language, but even in historically accurate language, which evolves as you reach later eras in the game.

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This means that English troops initially speak Old English, which is hardly understandable for untrained listeners. Later you will hear Middle English and early modern English and only the latter starts to resemble what we know. For English, such an operation is still fairly simple, but Relic has done the same for the languages ​​of all factions in the game.

Cartoony characters on the battlefield

A clear dichotomy has been made visually. The in-game landscape is much more realistic and detailed, with steep cliffs, rolling hills, trees and swaying lawns. Soldiers and buildings, in turn, look a bit more cartoony.

According to Relic, that is because sometimes hundreds of soldiers can appear on the screen at the same time. By keeping the 3D models simple, this can be visualized better.

For Age of Empires IV, the studio harks back to the Middle Ages.

Story of two hundred years

The game will have both story campaign and multiplayer. Little is said about the latter, but the story is already a bit more clear. For example, we now know that the game will have four separate campaigns, which are based on historical events.

In one of the four you follow William the Conqueror in the year 1066, whose descendants you will also follow in later levels. So you can see how the family reigns until at least the year 1215. Quite an extensive story.

Preliminary conclusion

It’s been nearly four years since Microsoft announced one Age of Empires IV is going to arrive. Now that Microsoft and Relic have lifted a slightly larger corner of the veil, it becomes clear that Relic tries to keep the good of the series, but at the same time tries to implement the necessary renewal.

The studio does not happen overnight. It already set up a Community Council in 2017 with seasoned fans to whom it always submits ideas for the game. The current mix behind the game arose from consultation with those players. This autumn should show whether that works out well.

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