So, we’re here to talk about Age of Empires 5. I know, I know – the fourth game isn’t even out yet, and not until October at that. The idea that Microsoft and World’s Edge would be thinking about Age of Empires 5 already is… ambitious, to say the least. But we’ve been seeing a lot of interest in the topic already (here you are, after all), and it’s easy to guess why.
Age of Empires IV covers the same rough time period as Age of Empires II, and will include several of the same civs, albeit there is a lot more asymmetry in their design now. As a way to relaunch the series for a new generation of gamers, it’s an understandable choice given the runaway success of Age II back in the day. But when Age IV was first announced, many of us were hoping for a wholly new setting.
And given that we know a lot about Age of Empires IV at this stage, we can absolutely engage in some theory-crafting as to what we’d want from a fifth game. Any kind of fifth game for follow-up, we’d hope, would pick a different time frame, or perhaps be a bit more ambitious in its design goals, similar to how other Age of Empires rivals have attempted to iterate over the years.
Empire Earth was a great RTS series that took Age of Empires’ core mechanics and applied them to the era-spanning themes of Civilization.
Instead of being locked to a set group of eras like in the various AoE games, Empire Earth would start in prehistory and take you all the way through to the near future. It was designed by Rick Goodman, who was one of the original designers on the first Age of Empires games.
Personally, I’ve always preferred the second game (which was developed by a different studio), as it did some neat things with the map, such as dividing it into chunks of territory you could fight over specifically and expand your nation’s influence over, something that was also seen in Rise of Nations. We don’t talk about Empire Earth 3.
Rise of Nations was developed by Brian Reynolds of Civilization II and Alpha Centauri fame, and so despite looking like an Age of Empires-style RTS it specifically attempted to borrow ideas from things like Civilization and turn-based strategy games, and convert them for use in real-time. You could control any one of 18 nations, each with their own set of unique units, but like Civ these entities are detached from the actual history, with a lot of freedom over how you model your civ over the course of a game. RoN also spans the same time frame as Empire Earth and Civ, from the dawn of man through to contemporary eras.
A fifth Age of Empires game would ideally explore different time periods at least, although we wouldn’t necessarily argue for a completely uncovered one. Considering AoE3 takes you up to almost the Age of Napoleon, we won’t think anything beyond that would work with the context of the game in isolation.
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Even Company of Heroes is thinking big with a brand new ‘campaign’ mechanic in the third game that ties everything together. Between that and the experiments done by Empire Earth and Rise of Nations, assuming none of this gets introduced into Age of Empires IV via DLC, we’d want Age of Empires 5 to be more ambitious in what it offers beyond the ‘meat-and-potato’ RTS mechanics.
As the wise philosopher Plato once said, “Go big, or go home.”