Age of Empires 4 review

need to know

What is it? Historical real-time strategy set in the medieval era.
Expect to pay $60/£50 (or via Xbox Game Pass)
Released October 28, 2021
Developer Relic Entertainment
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Reviewed on Ryzen 7 5800H, Nvidia GeForce 3070 (mobile), 16GB RAM
Multiplayer? Up to eight players online
Link Official site 

On the evidence of its timeless tyranny over the RTS genre, there’s a case to be made that there’s no surpassing Age of Empires 2—now in its ‘Definitive’ form. Its competitive scene is thriving, people are lapping up its ongoing DLCs like bread loaves dished out by a benevolent ruler, and its gorgeous sprites have a cleanliness that 3D graphics just can’t quite seem to match.

So on the one hand, it makes sense that new series developer Relic has decided to loosely model Age of Empires 4 on the beloved second entry. It strips away some of the complexities of Age of Empires 3, returning to that lovely exploration-economy-conquest loop while adding mostly welcome touches of its own. Chief among these are the asymmetrical factions, which will almost certainly elicit screams of bloody imbalance but nonetheless count as the game’s greatest success.

On the other hand, reverence to the past can be restricting, and I can’t help but feel that Age of Empires 4 could have been something more. While I respect Relic’s decision to play things fairly safe, that should result in making what’s already there really shine; polish those mosque minarets and Moscavian onion domes, pump up those population limits, let bodies fly with physics-y abandon upon impact from cannonballs and elephant heads.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Instead, there’s a staid utilitarianism throughout much of Age of Empires 4—everything in it works much as it ever did, but without the flair that could have made it a grand celebration of that timeless AoE formula.

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