Age of Empires is a series that probably needs no introductions. Launched in 1997, it stole the hearts of RTS fans for many years. For a decade and a half we received only refreshed versions of classics or variations of the well-known mythological strategy game formula. Finally, at gamescom 2017, the fourth installment was announced. We had to wait another four years for it, but it looks like it was worth to wait - three days before the game's official release, its first reviews appeared on the web. Critics are almost unanimous: Relic Entertainment delivered a hit as expected. I encourage you to take a look at how the title was rated by the critics.
Age of Empires 4 - selected reviews
- CGMagazine - 10/10
- GamesRadar - 5/5
- GamingTrend - 95/100
- Wccftech - 9/10
- PCInvasion - 8.5/10
- COGConnected - 84/100
- Game Informer - 83/10
- IGN - 80/10
- PCGamesN - 80/10
- TheSixthAxis - 80/100
- VG247 - 4/5
- VGC - 4/5
- PC Gamer - 77/100
- WellPlayed - 7/10
- ScreenRant - 3/5
- Metascore: 84/100 (out of 35 reviews)
As you can see, the reviewers are fairly consistent; most of the notes oscillate around 80%. There were a few more strict reviews, such as those from WellPlayed and ScreenRant, but these were more than covered by the nines from PCGamesN and GamingTrend, and tens from GamesRadar and CGMagazine. What elements of the game gained the journalists' recognition, and which were frowned upon?
The story campaign received special praise. Interestingly designed missions provide an adequate challenge, and the gameplay diversity of the nations (with their unique traits, units and buildings) prevents us from getting bored. In addition, many reviewers drew attention to the interesting intros - they take the form of short documentaries and contain valuable historical information that corresponds well with what we see later on screen. In other words, Age of Empires IV teaches and entertains.
The gameplay formula from classic RTS games has seen some minor and, it should be noted, well-received changes, but at its core it remains old-school. Some critics even claim that the gameplay sticks too closely to the genre's foundations, but veterans who are hungry for a decent RTS experience shouldn't mind. They'll appreciate the aforementioned tactical innovations, such as the ability to prepare ambushes in tall grass. However, they may not like the relatively small scale of battles - the number of units was limited to 200, which, especially on large maps, seems like a misunderstanding.
Some critics took special note of the unit AI, which, unfortunately, is not up to a genre standard. Apparently, however, its level can be perceived very subjectively, because this was one of the issues that divided the reviewers the most. Experts dissatisfied with the AI complain especially about pathfinding and the fact that the computer can not make good use of the produced units - which is particularly evident in unscripted skirmishes.
Another debatable element is the audiovisual setting. Some complained about the soundtrack, saying it was bland, while the graphics were criticized from almost every angle. The greatest criticism fell upin unit models, which did not look too impressive even on the trailers and gameplays advertising the game. The rest of the visuals may look appealing, but - in short - isn't extraordinarily impressive. Nevertheless, there were many opinions describing the graphics as charming, so I guess everyone will have to decide for themselves whether they like it or not.
To sum up, we can come to the conclusion that Relic Entertainment has delivered a fairly safe game, which, although it introduces some novelties to the RTS genre, at its core sticks to the solutions developed years ago. The sometimes limping artificial intelligence and the graphics that don't suit all tastes are the biggest drawbacks of Age of Empires IV, but they shouldn't stand in the way of those who want to get acquainted with the engrossing, varied and skillfully presented story campaign.
Age of Empires IV will be released today this thursday on Steam, Epic Games Store, Microsoft Store and Xbox Game Pass.