The Age Of Empires Fan Preview that premiered late Saturday was full of content for all fans of the Age franchise. The preview showcased a gameplay trailer of Age Of Empires IV as well as new civilisations coming to the new game, as well as content updates for its Definitive Edition games, including the first major content update for Age Of Empires III: Definitive Edition.
Age of Empires IV updates
The event started by highlighting the first major civilisation in the game – the Delhi Sultanate. The major highlight that came out of this civilisation reveal was that the Elephant is now a playable character – unlike being used exclusively for food in the previous editions of the franchise. The elephant – officially called the War Elephant – is now a part of the army, and two units of the army can attack from top of the elephant as well. Another highlight is that the game now contains multiple sacred sites for a civilisation, where monuments of importance – and not just Wonders – are built. You can have a look at a tease from the Delhi Sultanate in the new game:
We also caught a glimpse of the Norman campaign mode in Age of Empires 4 reveal. At launch, this is going to be one among the four campaigns available, with more campaigns possibly arriving post-launch. It involves the rivalry between King Harold, Duke William and their heirs. Set in 1066, the Norman Campaign sees Harold, King of the Anglo-Saxons, dealing with Duke William who lays claim to the throne. The two collide at the Battle of Hastings but there seems to be more in store. While Normandy is besieged, Harold has to deal with Viking raiders – who have allied with the Northern barons. Meanwhile, the peasantry revolts against a king they don’t recognise. Watch the video below to catch more glimpses from the Norman campaign:
Age of Empires IV Gameplay
Of course, with such exciting details revealed at the start of the event, we finally got to have a closer look at the Age Of Empires 4 gameplay since 2019. Age of Empires 4 is a revival of the series that hopes to capture the old magic while offering something new to veterans and newcomers alike. More specifically, AoE IV was referred to as “a spiritual successor to Age 2” by the game’s director Quinn Duffy. Resources, including wood, food, gold, and stone look exactly like seen in the franchise’s second instalment – except that they are now stacked vertically at the bottom left corner of the screen, unlike being stacked horizontally at the top of the game – and the ages begin with Dark and end with Imperial. Going deeper, core gameplay should also seem familiar to those who have played Age 2.
Developed by Relic Entertainment alongside the Definitive Editions, Age of Empires IV looks a lot similar to Age Of Empires 2 that released more than a decade ago. While the new game retains the similarities of the old one, graphics have been upgraded to make the game feel a little more realistic, while also bringing in new gameplay upgrades. Starting with the Dark Age, Scouts can now help with hunting deer. This will certainly help in this era, where people don’t have much villagers to begin the game with. From the gameplay trailer, it also looks like Monasteries will be a part of the Dark Age as well – which was restricted to Castle Age and above in the older game. The game also shows the process of creating a building in detail. Unlike simply hammering over the base of the building, the new game also visualises the floors of the building being built. Crops in farms also look a lot more realistic than before. Cutting trees also show real effects on the trees as they are being cut, unlike simply rowing the hammer on the chopped tree.
With the Feudal age comes the advent of Stone and Gold Mining. Mines now look a lot realistic mirroring what it would look like in the real world as well. We can also see a keep for herdable animals, helping with further domestication – akin to the renewable feature in AoE III. This age also offers capturing holy sites, tower defense by army, razing of buildings through fire, better view of trading between two markets through carts, and detailed confrontations with enemy army units. We can also see a bridge across a water body, but we are not sure whether this can be built by the player, or whether it will be available pre-built in the map. Castle Age and Imperial Age in the new game are very similar to their counterparts in the old game. There are only very few details we can spot between the games, like building a road between two buildings is now possible.
While the new game has a lot of these familiar elements, there are better upgrades too. Military units can finally be assigned on top of stone walls. This has always been a much requested feature in the Age Of Empires community, and it is glad to see the developers taking serious note of what the community wants and provide it with the new game. Enemy army can also capture defending city buildings, and use them to rain fire on the defending player. With the armies, archers can now create temporary fortifications. Moreover, monks can now convert entire areas of attacking enemy armies to their faction. This is also an upgrade over the previous games, where a single monk could only convert one army unit at a time. As seen in the Imperial age section, troops can now hide in dense forests to ambush attacking player’s armies. We could not spot any hero units in the trailer, though it would be sad if they are entirely not present. They could provide some support that can bolster troops.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the default population cap of 200 is going anywhere. Battles still consist of upto 1600 units on a map, with 200 units per player. While one could specify upto 500 units in a custom Skirmish in the AoE II, we are not sure whether that will be present or not; Although it will be a downgrade if not available. Naval combat is also making a return in Age of Empires 4. Not much is known yet, but the end of the preview event video had a number of ships approaching a castle on a hill. This is good news for players who select the Island maps.
According to the team, the game will come with 8 civilisations to start – each having its own unique abilities and traits – with many more coming through future updates. Chinese, Mongols and English civilisations return, while the Delhi Sultanate will be featured for the first time in the Age Franchise. There are also hints about Vikings returning as a civilisation as well. There will be updates to pathfinding in the new game, and they will feel a lot more realistic compared to the earlier games.
The game will be available on PC through the Steam Marketplace and the Windows 10 Store. Sadly it doesn’t look like the game will be available on the consoles yet. The game will also be available with the Xbox Game Pass PC from the first day – like all other Xbox Game Studios games. The game is expected to release in fall 2021, which puts the launch anywhere between September and December this year. Given the multiple delays we have seen over the past year owing to the CoVID-19 virus, don’t be surprised if there are change of dates. Although fans of the Age franchise have waited for more than a decade for a new game, and they can wait for an additional few months as well.
Age Of Empires: Definitive Collection Updates
Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition is getting its second expansion pack, titled Dawn of Dukes, which will focus on Eastern Europe. It looks like this expansion pack will be available as a DLC that has to be purchased separately. Co-op mode will also be coming to the game at some point this year, which will allow you to play through certain campaigns and battles with friends. This has been a much requested feature in the community as well, which will now allow players to live through a campaign and enjoy success with friends.
Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition is getting the United States added as a civilisation in an update. This update will be free if you play through a challenge, but players who don’t want to go through this route need to purchase this from Steam or the Microsoft Store starting April 13th. It was also revealed that the first AoE III: Definitive Edition expansion is being worked on and will feature African civilisations, with unique African buildings.