Warcraft, Starcraft, Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, … the ’90s were golden for the real-time strategy genre, at least until the boom of mouseless consoles threatened to shut down the PC as a gaming platform for a few Years. The PC is now back from not actually being far away, but few RTS franchises have survived those dark times. There’s Starcraft 2, now also 10 years old, Total War… and that’s it. The past three years have seen the remake of the Command & Conquer games and the three Age of Empires games. Get ready to eat that sometimes tastes good, but in the end you still get hungry for something fresh.
This verse is now available with Age of Empires 4. A successor to Age of Empires 2, because the number 3 is set at a later period while it was chosen again for the Middle Ages. The basic formula remains the same: you build a war economy that goes smoothly with your civilization and erase the opposition of the map that does that to you. You can do this in single player, co-op against AI, against other players, or you can dive into one of the four campaigns.
These campaigns are where Age of Empires makes one of the biggest differences from its predecessors. You get four of these on release, and Norman’s drive for English also doubles as an advanced tutorial. Each campaign consists of missions linked together like a history lesson, with smart docu-style scenes. Before you know it, you’ve learned a lot in a casual way. The only reason you shouldn’t immediately go after additional information on Wikipedia is that the game actually allows you to write the next bit of history.
The Mongolian campaign shows how different the two civilizations can be, but once that’s over, the latter two introduce some new game mechanics. However, I thoroughly enjoyed playing all four of them. If you don’t want to, you can also immediately open the Skirmish tab or get into a multiplayer game.
Everything works in Age of Empires 4 and the game makes a fun, rock solid and polished feel across the board.
In it, you can choose from eight civilizations: the Chinese, the Delhi Sultanate, the English, the French, the Mughals, the Abbasid dynasty, the Holy Roman Empire, and Russia. Each has pretty much the same units, buildings, and techniques, but also with enough variety to adapt your strategy and tactics as you switch from one to the other. Or when you collide with one another. Some civilizations have defensive cards, others are more offensive or economic. With one, you can use it already at the initial stage, the other, you will get it only during the subsequent period of the four in total.
era feature. A handful of unique units means you should have counters on hand, but many “micro” (partial management of special properties for certain units) is out of the question in this game.
At a higher level – against tougher opponents – you can achieve victory mainly by making use of those strong points in your civilization and leveling your settlement as much as possible to a higher civilization level. Issue access to some new units and upgrades. Meanwhile, you repel any enemy attacks, try to claim strategic resources and, last but not least, build the strongest possible army on Earth. The maximum number of units you can recruit is by default 200 units. This includes hard-working loggers and miners, but the massive military standoff is certainly no exception.
Everything works in Age of Empires 4 and the game makes a fun, rock solid, and polished feel across the board. The only time my review copy stopped was, to my surprise, it lost after a few seconds. Anyone who’s ever played the first trilogy — or has done so recently with the new releases — will quickly see that this is a different game. Although in the game there is no messing with the classic formula, nor with those with bright colors, now it looks a bit retro, cannons, horses, etc. This remained my biggest disappointment after I finally got the hang of gathering and quickly picked a tangle of a hundred warriors.
This modest variety of classic paper scissors units makes the combat itself rather simple. As already mentioned, victory is usually for those who work most efficiently and who choose the right moment to attack. Overpowering an opponent or crippling their economy enough that another wave of attack is the final blow. There is nothing wrong with that, but as a player you have to know beforehand. I think there is definitely room for a game that puts competition above all else on old school resource collecting and building upgrades. The ability to blindly press hotkeys is an absolute necessity there. And the fact that you can Ranked Play and you can watch matches from others from the game interface says something about eSports’ ambitions for this game.
Skirmish games allow you to choose between free-for-all scenarios, 1v1, 3v3, but also 1v2 and 2v3 scenarios. For players with the mentality of “Bring it!” (He also prefers talent and the balls that justify it.) There are a lot of options in folders and there will almost certainly be an editor to make your own. If you want to hone your style, you can also contact Art of War. There you’ll find challenges that focus on improving (read: speeding up) certain aspects of the game, such as the starting stage of your economy, sieges, battles, subsequent economic strategies, etc. This is perfect for the player who is wondering why their opponent is making their civilization progress faster in the Imperial Age. Of course, this always makes a difference from country to country, but since the similarities are greater than the differences, I see this Art of War as an excellent training for those who take Age of Empires 4 seriously. At least that’s what makers do.
Age of Empires 4 does more than just play on nostalgia. It’s an accurate follow-up to the original trilogy with a range of options to tailor your RTS experience to your taste.
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