Community Review: Age Of Empires 4

Well, if you’ve been following Kotaku for the last week, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I think about Age of Empires 4. But this is your chance to tell your fellow Kotakuers whether you think this is a buy or not. Return to form for the Age series, and for RTS? Or just another sequel that doesn’t capture the X-factor of the originals?

Most community feedback I’ve seen seems to point towards the majority of people loving it, though there are the usual problems – StarCraft players want it to be more like StarCraft, AoE2 players want it to be more like AoE2, etc.

Some even said they were going to stick with AoE2: Definitive Edition. I personally think these folks will come around – AoE2: DE won’t go away, but more people will figure out that AoE4 has a similar lightning in a bottle.

Three rows of crossbows wait next to an archery range

There are, of course, valid criticisms. There’s no ranked mode at the moment, though there is an underlying elo matchmaking system. The UI has always needed a bit of work, such as making it easier to click on small units that overlap, or getting rid of the big Dynasty box blocking your view when you play as Chinese.

Those are things I expect to be fixed over time, and we’ve seen throughout the pre-release period that the devs are constantly implementing community feedback.

As for the general thrust of the game, I think it gives me everything I want from Age.

It also respects my time more. Some people struggled with this idea in my last post about it. It’s a simple case of subtractive design. If you can give the same experience in less time – the same strategy, the same mind games, the same battle micro – you should do it.

Archers on top of walls shoot at enemy elephants and rams below

As Sid Meier said, a game is a series of interesting choices. But in an RTS game with long stretches towards the start of a match in which a player is doing nothing, what interesting choices are made? Every action in that early game, every house placement, every villager allocation, every tech, should have an interesting choice behind it. It should never be busywork.

StarCraft 2 moved in that direction, Age of Empires 4 moved in that direction, and I believe other RTS games will as well. I believe there’s still fat to cut from the RTS formula.

I’ve played a fair amount of AoE2: Definitive Edition in recent times, and as much as I love it, the early game has a lot of thumb-twiddling. In those moments, I wish it was a shorter game. Age of Empires 4 does us a service here and we should praise it.

I also love the asymmetry of the factions, though I haven’t given enough time to the Rus yet to really learn its early game. I feel like the Chinese are still the weakest, but I keep picking them because I love the siege weaponry.

How about you? What are your favourite/least favourite parts of the game? Would you recommend it? Why?

Let us know in the comments below, and if you have any good tips, let us know here too!


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