Test: Age of Empires 4 (Tactics & Strategy)

It’s hard to imagine. Sixteen years from the age of Empires 3, the real-time strategy franchise continues to be played. But, Relic Entertainment, World’s Edge, and Microsoft are playing it cautiously in the upcoming Age of Empires 4 and are focusing on the storied second installment. What you can expect from the campaign, within the civilizations, on medieval battlefields, and in the technology can be found by playing the game.

Four campaigns from the past

The game’s main attraction is the four campaigns played in single-player mode that is inspired by historical events from the Middle Ages. The first one, for instance, is the conquering of England through the Normans and a myriad of other conflicts. It continues with the Hundred Years of War, the rise of the Mongol Empire, and the rise of Moscow. The four campaigns are 35 missions and run through the 15th century. This is why it’s chronologically arranged before Age of Empires 3.

The campaigns do not just take place over short periods. They span over 300 years. Additionally, historical figures such as William the Conqueror are depicted as playable characters with unique capabilities. In addition, these units are not available in the multiplayer component.

Battles in real-time and history documentation.

The battles in the campaigns are connected by elaborate videos designed in the form of a historical history documentary (up to 4K UHD). These documentaries are designed to assist in understanding the context of these conflicts. While doing so, it is a deliberate effort to highlight the past’s influence on the current. The entire film is based on actual historical locations and historical figures. That is the reason you control “real characters” rather than “placeholder characters” as you would in AoE3. The duration of the documentary that, among other things, was shot in “real places” using drone footage and enhanced with animated golden figures is believed to be approximately three hours, though it is often a bit strange to see vehicles drive around the scene while golden soldiers scurry around the landscape.
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Alongside the impressive presentation of the background history, fighting techniques, weaponry, and units are presented in the same manner, such as trebuchets or crossbows work. Sometimes, it feels like you’re watching a professionally-produced documentary about history, but in the middle, you’re allowed to plan and fight battles your own in real-time. These battles are tied to significant historical events and are usually smaller and less bulky in their size. However, it’s incredible how Relic Entertainment, World’s Edge, and Xbox Game Studios try to bring history to life and make it playable. AoE4 is an excellent illustration of “learning by playing.”

Good missions but weak dramaturgy

However, it is important to be aware that the missions aren’t particularly exciting or emotionally engaging. It’s difficult to connect with the characters or their fates. There are too many timeframes and many characters involved and then quickly moving on to the next task years further.

As a result, the missions and mission objectives are designed to offer the diversification, even though there is plenty of battle. Therefore, there are missions that focus on building up as well as multiple front warfares, ambushes from forest areas, captures, additional objectives, etc. However, not every single one of the eight factions playable is given their own mission or equally praised for its fun.

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