Age of Empires IV Is a Solid Strategy Game Stuck in the Past

Age of Empires IV, the first mainline Age of Empires title in 16 years is finally here. It's a long wait that creates expectations. It is partly because Age of Empires II has experienced a huge revival that it exists. AoE2 was released in 1999 and is currently seeing tournaments with 75,000 spectators and $87,000 prize pool. This is thanks to a lively Twitch and YouTube scene and the 2019 Definitive Edition. Fans are both anxious for a new entry but also worried that it won't live up to the original series.
Age of Empires IV feels like a bid to capitalize on AoE2's momentum and welcome new fans to the series. It also represents a new approach to real-time strategy (RTS), which has suffered a lack of major releases. It is so beloved that some of its fans have been calling for AoE4's demise to avoid dividing the fan base. Microsoft believes that the games will complement one another, fulfilling two different requirements in the RTS community.

AoE4 feels more modern than AoE2, but with a pinch of Total War and the more asymmetrical factions AoE3, which sees certain civilizations manage their growth in fundamentally differing ways. AoE4 returns to medieval settings and launches with eight civilizations rather than the impressive 39 AoE2 had. The four campaigns are single-player and cover the period between 1066 and 1552, the culmination of Russo-Kazan Wars. Five economic and military tutorials provide a crash course for multiplayer. Many things are left unanswered or covered quickly with tool tips. The glaring omission of a tutorial on raid defense is a particular glaring one.

Many of AoE2's most complex features are gone. Micromanaging units is no longer possible. Players cannot trap raiders with instant walls or trap arrow fire, and archers are unable to defeat siege engines that were supposedly designed to combat them by dancing around their projectiles. AoE2s medieval vibes are gone. AoE4s interface is simple to the point that it is bland. However, it is easy for players to identify which upgrade or unit they have purchased.

It is a fast, fun game. It is much easier to set up your economy and less time to care for it than AoE2. Your soldiers are smart enough to make intelligent decisions and behave well. The new and returning victory conditions such as the destruction of key enemy buildings or the control over sacred sites on the map encourage knockout fights and not long slogs. Although it is possible to build strong defenses, you will also be able to start trading blows faster than it takes to get a normal AoE2 match going.


AoE4 encourages you to have a wider view of the battlefield. This includes planning your city's layout to maximize special buildings, hiding troops in stealth forests to attack your foe, and firing off unit skills. Longbowmen, on the other hand, can place spikes to stop enemy charges. Cavalry can, however, hit harder than longbowmen by charging the enemy. Although there is still room for micromanagement in the game, AoE4 emphasizes smart tactics over mere clicking.

AoE4's single-player offerings are dominated by its 35 campaign missions. These missions are presented as playable History Channel documentaries. Each mission begins with live action footage of weapons being prepared, and the ghosts of soldiers traversing modern cities.