Today, an Age of Empires fan preview event held online showcased new content coming to the entire franchise, but also a significant amount of new information on the upcoming Age of Empires IV. Gameplay was showcased along with a number of other interesting tidbits! Age of Empires IV is slated to arrive sometime in fall 2021.
First, one of the most important information points is that Age of Empires IV features asymmetric civilizations. This means that playing as the Delhi Sultanate is going to be much, much different than playing as the Mongols, both in what units you can create and more importantly, how your strategies involving resources, expansion, combat and all other facets play out. While previous Empire games may have hinged mainly on a few special units to create civilization identity, Age of Empire VI is heavily focused on unique gameplay for each faction.
Eight different factions are expected to be available at launch, each playing wildly different from one another. That said, maintaining the “paper-rock-scissors” philosophy for core unit types like pikemen, archers,mounted units, etc was also important, so any civilization can engage with the opponent at this base level, regardless of their overarching philosophies and gameplay mechanics. The Mongols for instance, are nomadic and focused heavily on the stone resource, and are able to move quickly and spread out across an entire map. Mongols can pack up and move their entire base, which makes for massive mobile presence in a game. In stark contrast, a faction like the Delhi Sultanate may be interested in hoarding all the berry bushes because they can do special things with them instead of branching out or hunting at the onset of a game. There are four core resources in Age of Empires IV, but each civilization prioritizes their weights differently. If you’re a real-time-strategy enthusiast, just think about how cool it’s going to be to have eight disparate factions to engage with here. Good luck with the balancing Relic!
Gameplay showcased at the event highlighted the Delhi Sultanate and their powerful War Elephants. Viewers were treated to watching the Elephants stomp over everything with archers firing, spearmen attacking, and more during a slice of action. The combat looks a lot like the Age of Empires that people know from the legacy titles, so fans are probably going to be happy about that. There are four ages to tap into, which should also resonate well with current fans that are used to the structure of Age of Empires II. Players weave their way through Medieval, Feudal, Castle, and Imperial Ages, with all the assorted keeps, castles, trebuchets, and other technology you’d expect. One little change that players will see is that melee units like knights no longer whack on buildings and castles with swords, instead they will switch to torches and other brick-busting fare when they execute attacks on settlements. It’s a simple sort of cosmetic shift, but it makes things look more realistic than having Brave Sir Edward attempt to take down keep walls with a broadsword.
Viewers also got to see a chunk of campaign and campaign philosophy for Age of Empires IV. The campaign takes a sort of documentary approach, aiming to convey a somewhat historical tale as the player engages with real-world locations with story and scale. Instead of simply giving the player new units or tools each campaign mission as a sort of filler experience before they get to the meat of multiplayer or custom maps, the campaign tackles things with a history hinge. In the Norman campaign, players are treated to Duke William of Normandy and his mission to take control of England from King Harold. This arc features events such as the Battle of Hastings and charts the Duke’s descendants such as William II and Henry I as the story makes its way toward modern day England over the generations. In addition to the Norman campaign, three other civilizations have the campaign treatment to explore in Age of Empires IV. Age of Empires IV campaigns tap heavily into historical figures to tell its tales.
As much as Age of Empires IV is featured, the Age of Empires legacy titles haven’t been ignored either. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition is getting new campaigns, co-op historical battles, and more later this year. A new civilization, The United States, is coming to Age of Empires III on April 13.
Can’t wait for Age of Empires IV to arrive? A closed beta period has been announced, and you can sign up at the official website. Relic is bringing Age of Empires back, and I can’t wait to try out each and every civilization when the game arrives (finally!) this fall.
What do you think about Age of Empires IV? Do you still play Age of Empires II? Did you like Age of Empires III? How do you feel about the current state of the real-time strategy genre? Let us know in the comments!