After more than 13 years in hibernation, the Age of Empires series returns for its fourth performance. In August 2017, publisher Microsoft Studios announced that Age of Empires 4 was alive and kicking and was developed by Relic Entertainment, the team behind Homeworld and Company of Heroes (which is a lot of pedigree).
Since then, not much has been revealed about the game. As we progress in 2019, the hope is that something new will come around Age of Empires 4. Until that day, this is all we know about Age of Empires 4.
(Updating: Age of Empires 4 did not appear on E3 2019, but Phil Spencer has said that news will come before the year is out. Read on to find out more.)
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The latest installment of the historical real-time strategy series Age of Empires.
- When can I play it? There is no release window yet but it will be at least 2019 in 2019
- What can I play it on? Windows 10 PC is the only confirmed platform
What is Age of Empires 4?
Age of Empires 4 is the latest version of the historical real-time strategy series Age of Empires, which was founded in 1997.
Follow-ups to the original were released in 1999 and 2005, and there were a few spin-offs during that period, including two Nintendo DS titles and the popular Age of Mythology, which was inspired by myths and legends rather than by the history. Apart from those DS games, the series is only on PC.
Age of Empires 4 is the first game in the series developed by Relic Entertainment – all other Age of Empires games are made by Ensemble Studios, which were folded in 2009. Relic says that the ' historical context wants to merge with in-depth strategic gameplay, and to bring this franchise back to the forefront in gaming and in the hands of his beloved community. "
Age of Empires 4: release date
Unfortunately, no release date has been announced for Age of Empires 4 – not even a difficult date. It can be a long way though, because everything we've seen from the game is a trailer full of concept art in 2017, suggesting that the development was in its infancy at that time. If we gamble on it, we would say it will be no later than the end of 2019.
On which platforms does Age of Empires 4 come out?
So far, the only thing we know is that it goes to Windows 10 PC – so bad luck if you use an older version (although this may be a good excuse for upgrading). With Microsoft Studios as publisher, the door is also open for a release on Xbox One, although there is no word on that front. For the same reason, other consoles are unlikely to arrive, such as the PS4 or the Nintendo Switch.
Age of Empires 4: trailers
The announcement of the game was marked with a trailer – and it's still the only one we've seen so far. It is exclusive concept art for the game, with large-scale battles between different groups. View it below:
Age of Empires 4: news and rumors
The news is coming
After Age of Empires 4 was announced on Gamescom in 2017, everything went a bit quiet. Those who hoped for an update during Microsoft E3 press conferences for 2018 and 2019 also remained disappointed. Shortly after E3 2019, however, an interview with PC Gamer Phil Spencer confirmed that the game is still making progress and that more news will be revealed in 2019.
Spencer didn't give away much, but he said Relic is "making good progress" on Age of Empires 4 and that they are ready to "talk more about it this year" when it is "in the right context."
When we hear more about the game exactly in 2019, it is not yet known, but a Gamescom conference is coming out, which would be the ideal place for Microsoft to give an update, considering the game there for the first time was announced. We just have to wait.
Age of Empires 4: gameplay functions
Previous Age of Empires games have focused on one history period: for example, Age of Empires 3 has described the European colonization of the Americas.
However, judging by the above trailer, Age of Empires 4 was able to paint with a wider historical picture, with many empires returning from previous games in the series.
In the trailer you can catch a glimpse of Indians, British red coats, Romans and Japanese samurai. It is possible that this could only be an example of the style and themes, but it would surprise us if they did not appear to some extent in the final game.
That said, history is unlikely to be interrupted by bumping armies from two eras into the campaign, so expect a story set over a longer timeline. And then the Romans might clash with the Redcoats in online multiplayer.
As for the actual gameplay, we do not expect it to deviate too far from the formula that fans of the series know and appreciate – it would be strange if the developer could not extract that ore of support. So there will be the usual 4X rate (explore, expand, exploit and eradicate). However, the last game Age of Empires was over 10 years ago, so we expect it some changes in terms of UI and mechanics.
Age of Empires 4: what we want to see
A slimmer user interface
The Age of Empires games have always had decent user interfaces – most of the things you need are two or three clicks away and, generally, when you move a mouse over a button, you can discover what it does. But when I go back to it now, it looks a bit old-fashioned, with a large box that covers most of the lower part of the screen and can be overwhelming at first glance.
If the series is to attract new players (and the more the better), the user interface must be elegant and inviting. Age of Empires Online, another spin-off, might be a good guide: that game had much less on the screen at any time, so you could see more of the battlefield. Smaller contextual menus that only appear when you click on certain elements would work well.
Renewed unit tactics
The Age of Empires games have military tactics and the positioning and positions of your units can provoke a fight. But for the most part, fights are won by the largest army and they are quickly over. We would like to see tactics play a greater role in combat, and that it is easier to make small adjustments to groups of units so that they do exactly what you want.
There is hope: Relic has a lot of pedigree in this area. Imagine your Age of Empires with the unit's Heroes movement when you are close to the base of an enemy. That is not what Relic will shoot at (after all, this is about collisions of large armies instead of small attack forces), but we are sure that it will be even more refined than what we have seen so far in the series.
Age of Empires reveals on its smaller scale. You start with a town hall and expand from there, never really extending beyond a single settlement. Rise of Nations, also published by Microsoft, could be a good way to expand the game; in that game you can build multiple cities and combine them in large territories.
If you apply that to Age of Empires, you get multiple production locations: one city could concentrate on food production and transport the finished product to a nearby city, which is itself making military units. Planning the structure of your empire, instead of just a single city, would add a new layer to the game.
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