Age of Empires 4 – everything we learned from the recent RTS fan preview

units from the new chinese civ in age of empires 4 attacking a landmark

Everyone’s been eagerly awaiting news on Age of Empires 4 for a while now, and we’ve finally been treated to some juicy details and extended gameplay thanks to the Age of Empires fan preview event run by World’s Edge.

The reveal broadcast covered a lot of different topics, and didn’t just focus on Age of Empires 4 itself, but there was still plenty of information to glean from it. Sadly, a concrete release date wasn’t on the cards – all we know for sure is that Age of Empires 4 is targeting a Fall 2021 release, but there were other bits and pieces to take away.

In terms of civilisations, there will be eight at launch from Europe, Asia, and beyond, with a strong suggestion that more will be included post-launch, probably as DLC. We already know about the Mongols and the English. In addition, a Chinese civ has been confirmed, along with a civ called the Delhi Sultanate. The design of each civilisation will be fairly asymmetrical and diverse. For example, the English behave like a traditional AOE civilisation, where as the Mongols will have bespoke mechanics that make them very different to what’s been done before.

There will be some commonality, however. For example every civ has a generic pike, ranged, and mounted units to keep that core combat triangle intact. There are no special hero units, although the Mongols specifically have a unique unit called the Mongol Khan which is like a demi-hero. Campaigns will also feature hero-like units who represent key historical figures that are needed for the scenario at hand.

Age of Empires 4 will have four campaigns, one of which is confirmed to be a Norman campaign focused on William the Conqueror and his descendants. Instead of focusing on the life of one historical figure, Age of Empires 4 campaigns will span generations, covering multiple people, and will serve the historical context in a more documentary-style format.

According to Adam Isgreen there is going to be around three hours worth of footage that will supplement the campaign missions, a lot of it using live footage from real-world locations with superimposed graphics in the style of the game, but also other types of video content as well that they’re not talking about right now.

The battle of hastings, as rendered in age of empires 4

There’s plenty more to take note of, some of which may be obvious but worth stating anyway:

  • The environments are fully 3D, but can still be generated procedurally
  • The ‘Age-up’ mechanic from Age of Empires 3 has been incorporated into AOE4, but made more bespoke for reach civ
  • Not only will a civ’s architecture more obviously evolve over time, so will the language the NPC units use
  • The four ages are confirmed to be the Dark Age, the Feudal Age, the Castle Age and the Imperial Age
  • The end of the fan preview event has some ships. I don’t know what that’s about. Naval combat? A new civ hint?

New mechanics include being able to hide units in woods to lay an ambush, as well as ‘landmarks’, which weren’t given a lot of detail but seem to be connected to the age-up mechanics in AOE4. Each civ will have strategic choices to make as they ‘age up’ ensuring no two playthroughs will be quite the same.

naval units approach a coastal town in age of empires 4

Age of Empires 4 is also looking to operate at a larger scale than previous games. If you take a typical eight-way multiplayer match, Relic are targeting around 200 units per side, for a maximum of 1600 units all duking it out on a single map. In total ,there should be around 600 unique units in the game.

Related: The best RTS games on PC

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out the news regarding new content for Age of Empires 2 and Age of Empires 3, and we’ll be back with more in-depth analysis on the Age of Empires 4 reveal next week. At the time of writing, the Age of Empires 4 release date has been set for Fall 2021.

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