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Age of Empires IV – Age of Empire IV test – When tradition does not rhyme with modernity


Old school

Let’s start by focusing on the mode Solo

Neologism generally designating a player or a class of character playing alone, or even the fact of successfully defeating an opponent without the help of his comrades in arms. Some character classes are known for their “solo” abilities (rogue classes, most often – see Snape – with certain spellcasters).

“> solo, as the campaigns have contributed to the fame of the license. Age of Empire IV has four different campaigns, each one centered on a people – the English, the French, the Mongols as well as the Russians – and taking approximately six to seven hours, via ten missions.

As is often the case in this genre of games, the campaign’s primary goal is to help take control of the Gameplay

English term difficult to translate designating both the set of rules governing the game and the enjoyment of the game. An MMOG with innovative gameplay will offer a unique gaming experience to the player. Likewise, a game claiming “good gameplay” will be fun and engaging.

“> gameplay of the title and its different factions. It is therefore quite linear, the player being really taken by the hand, especially for the first of them.

In addition, the developers have decided to give an important place to the historical dimension: exit the fountain of youth stories, make way for a story that draws as little as possible from fiction. This approach can be seen in several ways. First of all, the title offers many cinematics in real shots, which take place at the scene of the events. This helps make that story come alive and works quite well, making it feel like playing a game interspersed with short documentaries. Then, all the missions fit into a timeline, always helping to know where we stand.

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At last, Relic attached great importance to ancillary content, which is quite unusual. Indeed, while progressing in the campaign, the players can unlock many additional videos giving details on the life in the Middle Ages: the operation of crossbows, the creation of castles, etc. If it is easy to miss, these videos allow you to enrich your knowledge of the factions played and are very well made, which is appreciable.

Unfortunately, if the developers have obviously gone to great lengths to come up with a more realistic view of the story, the campaigns give the opposite impression. Indeed, they are limited to a succession of battles, which the explanatory videos seek to contextualize. They give the impression that the peoples only fought for a hundred years, that any peace was only temporary, without the viewer being able to really understand why. The storytelling stays on the surface, especially ignoring all the social aspects, which is understandable in a video game, but gives an odd and unpleasant impression.

These elements help to make the campaigns quite uninteresting, despite the efforts of the developers. This quest for historical veracity leads them to deliver an unattractive story and a narrative centered on battles. Ultimately, this is neither a good historical documentary nor a good video game story. The Age of Empire IV campaign therefore lacks binding, a reason to launch the next part of the campaign.

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It’s in the old pots …

Now let’s come to the gameplay. The amateurs of the license will hardly be disoriented, as the formula remains close to what made the strength of Age of Empire in the early 2000s: the mix between economy and military, resource management, etc. The whole is ultimately quite simple: there are for example only four military buildings and, above all, each offers only a small number of different units, forming a fairly classic trinity: the archers are very powerful, but are vulnerable in the face of the horsemen, themselves quite weak in the face of the lancers.

However, simple does not mean simplistic. Besides the possibility of improving its units through technological research, the game takes advantage of the differences between its factions – we will come back to this – to force players to adapt. In addition, each unit has specific actions that are important to use wisely. Thus, the English archers can pose pikes slowing down a possible cavalry charge or even create a zone of care.

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Age of Empire IV therefore gives an important place to micro-management. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, it doesn’t offer an active break, even solo. It is therefore difficult to fully exploit these strategic possibilities, because the player must always manage a lot of things at the same time, the artificial intelligence never being shy to multiply the attacks in different places. In addition, the whole is rather messy: it is not always easy to see with precision which enemy units are still alive, nor to estimate how long it will take our units to decimate them.

Since the 2000s, another real-time strategy license has developed, taking the place left vacant: the Total War franchise. It is impossible not to mention it, as Age of Empire IV seems clumsy in comparison; active pause or no active pause, the Total War makes it possible to easily manage the controlled units whereas it is often laborious in the license of Microsoft. The strategic potential is present, but the ergonomics are not satisfactory, which prevents taking advantage of it.

It is the same for the economic dimension of the game. Like its predecessors, Age of Empire IV is centered on resources, four in number: food, wood, gold and stone. If the first two are abundant – and food can be obtained in several ways – the last two are only present in deposits, available in limited quantities. It is therefore essential to seize it and to anticipate its needs well, otherwise you will one day find yourself short of an essential resource.

Even if it is quite mechanical, the management part is quite pleasant. The number of buildings thus seems appropriate since it offers many options without overloading the player with possibilities. In contrast, Relic made a rather strange choice: even 16 years later, it’s still not possible to have more than 200 units simultaneously. This is probably explained by a desire to limit the snowball effect as well as the number of things to be managed simultaneously (the absence of an active break, coughing, coughing), but playing in 2021 a game imposing the same restrictions as ‘another released 20 years earlier seems rather strange.

In fact, Relic’s mistake is likely to have sought to be too respectful of the basics laid by his predecessors. It would probably have been better to create a different limitation for villagers and for military units, as well as to allow regiments to be created directly, which would be easier to handle than aggregates of units and therefore allow large armies to be raised without however, having too much to deal with.

That we make service games

If the Age of Empire has always left a place for multiplayer, in particular the third opus, this new born seems to give it even more importance, which may seem logical in 2021. From the start, the player is assailed with daily missions , which can be accomplished in different game modes. Moreover, while the title only has four campaigns, it actually contains eight factions, which are very different from each other, although their basic functioning remains quite close.

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Let us take the case of the Mongols, perhaps the most marked, as an example. They start with their maximum population limit and therefore do not need to create dwellings. In addition, all of their buildings can be moved. As a compensation, they cannot build walls and get bonuses by razing enemy buildings. They also have a special relationship to resources: stone is harvested by itself via a specific building and they cannot produce farms, their agricultural building instead producing sheep at regular intervals.

Thus, each faction offers a new perspective of play, forcing to adapt, whether one embodies this faction or that one faces it.

We quickly understand that as indicated in the preamble, the campaigns are really only thought of as introductions preparing the player for multiplayer. This has the advantage of offering many options, whether they are presets or fully customized parts.

In my opinion, this is the explanation for the choices criticized earlier, the lack of active solo break, the unit limitation and very linear campaigns: Age of Empire IV is a game above all to think for the multiplayer. and it is quite satisfying as well. This is an orientation that we can regret, given the quality of the campaigns of previous games, but which is quite understandable nowadays.

History?

Let’s be honest and direct: I was personally very disappointed by this new album of a license that marked my childhood so much. It has undeniable qualities: its cutscenes, its many different factions or its many customization options. However, of all RTS

Acronym of the English expression “Real Time Strategy”, meaning “Real time strategy game” (ie battle simulation games). Often synonymous with “Wargame”.

“> RTS I played – the old Age of Empire, the Total War, the Halo Wars or even the Dawn of Wars of Relic – I have never appreciated the game’s campaign so little. Indeed, the narration struggles to convince because of this multiplication of fights whose meaning and objectives are hardly understood. look awfully similar from one mission to the next. It is the same for the gameplay of the title: the developers have chosen to stay very close to the three canonical games, but suddenly Age of Empire IV seems clumsy and dated. That’s a shame.

Test carried out on PC by Alandring from a version provided by the publisher.

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