Don’t waste your money. Age of Empires 4 was supposed to be the big return of RTS, but let me tell you right now, it’s the opposite of that. In many ways, it feels like a step backwards from AoE2:DE, or Starcraft. If you play at least one of those games, you need to watch this. I wanted to avoid making this video, but the latest stress test sparked something in me. It instantly reminded me of this “modern preorder era” of games that we live in nowadays. Let me give you 60 reasons why you shouldn’t waste $60 on this game.

Big disclaimer at the start. If you’re only interested in single-player, then this video is not going to affect your buying choice all that much. You’ll probably get the enjoyment you’re  looking for from the current game. And to calm down the AoE elitists in the comments, that seem to attack anyone that speaks against AoE4 on any platform – I’m a big RTS fan – played AoE over 20 years ago (I’m that old), played competitive Starcraft 2 for 3 years and even the AoE2 Definitive edition over the last 2 years. Age of Empires 4 was a dream come true… Until I got to play it. You see, I’m not even going to focus on bugs, because those would probably get ironed out over the course of the first year, but design choices, philosophy, approach, attitude. Some of the reasons that I mention will get fixed even before launch, but that doesn’t change the fact that there will still be 50+ others that won’t.

Main issues

  1. Big shoes to fill (Age of Empires 2 comparisons, the franchise in general)
  2. Main developer is Relic Entertainment, that hasn’t done any prior AoE titles (they did make some decent games in the past), and second being World’s Edge that have only co-produced the latest Definitive editions
  3. Relic’s latest game, Dawn of War 3, was a disaster. They even had to cancel the expansion for it
  4. Trying to please every audience type at once
  5. Worst marketing campaign ever (no real gameplay shown until mid September)
  6. Open beta, aka Stress Test, announced just few days before start – while ALL big streamers and creators are playing an AoE 2 tournament in Germany
  7. Constant feeling of Devs trying to “Reinvent the wheel”
  8. Not copying games that did certain things right
  9. Mechanics have been dumbed down so much that the skill ceiling appears to be quite low
  10. The game is far from an esport-viable title
  11. We’re desperate for a new RTS game, so we close our eyes when faced with the truth
  12. When playing AoE 4, I didn’t get a single moment where I was awed or simply impressed by how good the game was
  13. $60 AAA price tag

Now that we’ve set up the stage, let’s look at the gameplay.

Lacking features & other issues

  1. Dated graphics (2010-level)
  2. High graphic settings overload most GPUs out there
  3. 144 fps only achievable on Lowest settings, that make the game look worse than AoE 2
  4. High-contrast team colors make the game look cartoony (not necessarily bad, but makes some people not want to play)
  5. No Mod support at launch, maybe in 2022
  6. No replays
  7. At game end you’re sent back to lobby, can’t analyze the map after finishing
  8. No pause feature
  9. No ranking system shown yet
  10. No veto system shown yet
  11. No patrol action! (Hello AoE fans)
  12. No fully-customizable hotkeys, only basic rebinds
  13. You HAVE to use the Grid layout for hotkeys, no way around it
  14. No mouse button hotkeys other than LMB and RMB, not even scroll up and down available
  15. ALT key is HARD BOUND to camera rotation?!
  16. No proper stand ground function
  1. Crazy 0.3 second input delay, even on nearby servers
  2. Hard to select individual units, making microing hard 
  3. Archer-unit-type projectiles always hit, even without any upgrades
  4. No way to micro against archers, leading to very uninteresting fights
  5. Archers seem to be the strongest unit, without a proper small unit counter (skirmishers don’t exist)
  6. Micro in general doesn’t feel impactful, due to how fights play out
  1. Camera angle choice in combination with terrain verticality, as well building size and height, makes for an awkward gaming experience
  2. Very low max zoom level makes big team games hardly playable
  3. Max zoom level introduces desaturation and a fog effect on far away objects
  4. Due to extreme terrain verticality, your zoom level will often times be offset from the optimal
  5. Generic, non-immersive UI
  6. No individual unit selection panel in UI – how do you micro without this?
  7. No visible menu buttons ingame
  1. Upgrades of different levels look almost exactly the same
  2. Icon inconsistencies all over 
  3. No prices displayed on the market, unless you hover. No way to sell a large amount at once
  4. Observer mode is quite lacking and limited
  5. Minimap is hard to read, most unimportant icons are too large
  6. Attack alerts on minimap are too big, blocking all vision
  7. No way to chop trees quickly, important on maps like Black Forest
  8. No shift click queue flags
  9. Waypoints are gigantic, especially when you have 20+ rally points
  10. High player count team games are seem to end very often with the Wonder win condition, due to price and how you can set up a 10-layer tower defense
  11. Non-military building placement holds little tactical importance, because they don’t block movement
  12. Downgrade to AoE2 in most ways

Known Bugs

  1. Extremely annoying and loud Town Center bell sound
  2. Network issues at high player counts
  3. Occasional unclickable resources (trees, fish)
  4. Chat message delay (up to 10 sec)
  5. Click confirmation markers don’t appear in the fog of war
  6. Hidden civ bonuses (eco, combat, etc)

This game is RELEASING in a month. It’s not going into alpha, or beta, or early access, or any other half-scam devs are selling to us these days. It’s supposed to have close to all features in October! Again, some might get added, but overall, this is a massive debacle by Relic, and I’m not sure we can just blame them. This game is, after all, published by Microsoft. I don’t think I need to go into more detail. Just look at what happened with the latest Age of Empires game called Age of Empires Online. Good chance you never even heard of it? Exactly my point.

This game is made with casual gameplay in mind first, and immersive single-player most likely being pushed as the selling point. However, it’s not a competitive game. There’s no such thing as casual esports. People don’t give 50% when they want to win, they give their 100%. This game cannot support the 100%. It drags you down and rolls you in the mud.

I don’t know… Do I still have some hope for the game? Maybe… Definitely not if it gets released now. This requires at least a 6 month delay. A delay where they’d completely change the scaling, camera angle and verticality choices, and then add all the missing features. But that’s not gonna happen. 

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Gamer, streamer, tech enthusiast, musician, home cook, amateur cyclist. Writes whatever he wants about, since this is his site. Tends to be rough in reviews.

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