When Microsoft first started developing games for PC through its Ensemble Studios, Age of Empires shone through as a rare jewel of real-time strategy brilliance. Fourteen years after Age of Empires III, the fourth installment of the franchise is finally revealed in its full glory.
At the helm of Age of Empires IV development is legendary Relic Entertainment — known for the exceptional Dawn of War, Homeworld, and Company of Heroes real-time strategies.
You might think that there would be no better studio given this responsibility; however, the latest Relic’s RTS endeavor in the form of Dawn of War 3 suffered under a series of bizarre design decisions. Suffice to say, while the Age of Empires IV reveal is welcome news, it is important to lower your expectations given the drastic change of Relic Entertainment’s personnel over the years. Still, the gameplay footage leaves room for excitement.
As expected, the scale of units compared to the size of structures is, this time, far more realistic. In fact, if you were to compare it to any modern release, it would most resemble Total War: Warhammer II — including the formations feature.
To be sure, we can count on Relic to be competent when it comes to baseline gameplay: controlling units, base building, tactics, and counters. It only remains to be seen if Age of Empires IV will be framed within a highly replayable strategic shell or if you will be lead by a leash in a super-linear tutorial campaign through some historic scenario in which your role is simply to play it out — instead of making your own history.
There is no hint of the release date yet but, given how these gameplay trailers go, sometime next year would be a reasonable guess.
Images/videos courtesy of YouTube, IGDB.