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Age of Empires 4 Season One kicks off the Festival of Ages next week

Ranked multiplayer and mod support are the headline acts in the first of a series of seasonal updates for Age of Empires IV from Microsoft and Relic

Age of Empires season 1 release date: A women dances with her daughter in the street as onlookers watch on

2022’s first major update for RTS game Age of Empires IV, titled Festival of Ages, is due to arrive next week. The update introduces ranked multiplayer seasons, a content editor, mods, seasonal events, and a host of balance and quality-of-life tweaks. Developer Relic Entertainment showed off the new updates and features in a trailer and a developer livestream.

Possibly the most exciting introduction for players will be the content editor, which is launching in an initial beta state and allows players to tweak a wealth of options, create their own maps, and rebalance units to their desires, so you can finally give your favourite civilisation the overpowered units they always deserved. Players will also be able to craft entire mods if they wish – a few examples of which can currently be experienced in the Public Update Preview beta.

The other major addition with this update is the introduction of Seasons. As the name suggests, things will kick off with Season One upon the launch of the update, with Season Two set to follow in the coming months. These will feature Ranked Seasons for competitive multiplayer, allowing players to prove who’s truly the best of the best, as well as Seasonal Events which will offer rewards for completing in-game challenges.

Following initial testing in January, the first Ranked Season is set to last for 12 weeks, following a fairly standard ranking system that sees players play five placement matches to determine an initial rank before attempting to climb their way from Bronze rank all the way up to Diamond, and eventually to the elusive Conqueror rank. Finishing in a specific division will reward players with Monuments to place in their Town Centre, along with matching portraits and coat of arms pieces to customise their player profile.

Another very welcome change is improvements to hotkeys – while the much sought after fully remappable keybindings aren’t expected to arrive until Season Two, this update does offer up several improvements to hotkey functionality, such as support for additional mouse buttons, added functionality for adding and removing units to and from Control Groups, and new global hotkeys to more easily cycle through categories such as idle villagers and structures.

There will also be some additional quality-of-life improvements including patrol move, a randomised civ selection, and the option to fully reveal the map at the end of a match so you can see exactly where it all went wrong. Of course, you can also expect some balance changes, but full details on those are due to arrive when the update lands. While an exact date wasn’t given for the launch of Season One (an initial date was provided but later said to be incorrect), it has been slated to go live next week.

Check out the Season One trailer below:

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Our reviewer was very impressed with the game at launch, but noted the lack of ranked multiplayer as a standout absence in their Age of Empires IV review, so it’s nice to see it finally on the cusp of launching. If you’re looking for other games to sate your real-time strategy needs, we’ve got you covered there too.

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