Microsoft dropped the gameplay trailer today for AoE4 and officially becomes the first RTS series to be able to count past 3(no, CnC 4 doesn’t count and you know it). You can take a look at the trailers on their Youtube page below:
It’s nothing special in terms of what it presents but it does mean that we are looking at a return to a medieval setting which frankly scratches my head given that the previous mainline game had already moved the timeline to the colonial era.
That said, we can still gleam some information about what this trailer has shown off so let’s get to it.
In the beginning we can see a golden hawk/falcon that flies across the screen and is also prominently featured at the end credit title; This is mostly used in the central Asian and steppe cultures as a form of hunting which might translate into some form of starting scout unit in the game (AoE features wagons/scouts/explorers previously as their first scouting unit).
The scene then transitions into an aerial view of the city featuring Anglo-style buildings and in the bottom left corner we can see farming returning to Aoe1/2 style of mechanic with singular farms instead of a singular resource building that fits 10 workers in AoE3.
Over in the next shot we can see up on the castle walls some up-close view of some spearmen with English/Scandinavian cross motifs (likely English) and some lance Calvary running in the background.
This also confirms some sort of mounting-on-walls mechanic similar to the likes of Stronghold Crusader and the Empire Earth series.
The shot then pans into the incoming Mongol army with steppe riders and a heavy infantry unit that I can’t identify (likely don in Chinese-style lamellar armour). It then promptly ends in a siege of the city with our favourite bois that can shoot 90kg projectiles over the range of 300m.
Age of Empires is a series that really holds dear to me and was actually the first piece of media that really got me to be interested in History in general. I’m slightly sad to say that I’m a little disappointed about the regress time-wise. I would rather have the series progress on with the times to the Napoleonic era than to have concepts and gameplay rehashed but with new, shinier graphics.
Certainly, if you think about it, AoE: Online had already been a semi-remake of the first game albeit being mainly multiplayer focused. The recently released Definitive Edition of AoE2 (expansions included) and to another extent the Definitive Edition of the first game had already done content like this and I don’t get why Microsoft or Relic would rethread on old ground for such a (pun intended) historic RTS titan in the genre.
Yes, I’m sure we’ll get new campaigns, new historical battles and scenarios that didn’t make it into AoE2: DE; perhaps the fabled Chinese dynastic campaign that we never got from the third game.
Yes, I get that Ensemble Studios founder, Bruce Shelly has said in some interviews (most recently here in 2018) that he would rather not advance the series too far into the future to be yet another WWI/II or sci-fi strategy game that was rife in the market then.Although, if the AoE3 artbook were to be believed, it might have been the plan long ago to have something like this.
To me, Age of Empires had always been about bringing something new and innovative to the table along with high quality, boundary-pushing graphics that looked great for its time. The series has never been about doing the same “type” of thing over and over.
While Ensemble’s first game didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it was a fresh take in perspective that was more grounded in real life military strategy compared to its contemporaries. The second game made the leap forward in unit control, formations and stances that was widely adopted in military strategy which again, made it stood out. The third game, though not as widely praised as the last, had unit/resource shipments that made every civ unique and was still era-appropriate.
Even the spin-off Age of Mythology had abilities and powers that reminded me of Populous from bullfrog back in the day.
Look, I’ve sunk thousands upon thousands of games especially on the second and third series and I especially hope AoE4 will do me the same. Relic cannot just make a “safe” game that rests on their laurels and actually make a game with interesting mechanics; not just rehashing what the series had done previously.
I sincerely hope that there is something that is yet to be seen, perhaps a Empire Earth/Rise of Nations style tech advancement system that covers a large span of history and the likes. Anything that can uphold the legacy of the series and make both old and new fans alike be interested in this title.
It’s time for the RTS genre to rise from the ashes and slay the titans of the MOBA/Battle Royale genre and keep the Wololo for years to come.