[REVIEW] Age of Empires IV – Hold on to your trebuchet!

Ever since the dawn of man, war is what drove human nature to dig deep into our intellect and find new ways to vanquish our enemy. What started as a necessity to survive turned into a way of life for some great individuals. The most effective killing machine would bring the inventor fame beyond all belief. This is the way mankind separates itself from other animals. In that same way, Age of Empires has separated true men from the gaming animals, I suppose.

From club-wielding cavemen to shieldbashing Vikings, through war, societies were built. Science has skyrocketed and evolutionary changes were accelerated by the speed of light times infinity. This is found in the way Norseman build their ships to cross oceans. Just think, Alexander was named “great” by the age most of us aren’t even done sucking on mommy’s teats, or in some mommy’s cases, udders! Not me though. I was too busy sucking the juice out of my social life, playing Age of Empires, which finally got its fourth major installment.

The time we had to wait for this “new” Age of Empires game has been exponential. Most coders working on this version were probably still latching on to mom’s boobies when AOE III was released and even re-released as a Definitive Edition. JK, of course. Because that was released one year before AOE IV (talk about great timing). We got all hyped, but what has changed?

Actually… Not a lot. Age of Empires IV feels more back to basic. The developers really listened to the fans of the franchise who bashed part III. The controls for instance, although refined, take you back to Age of Empires II. While the sound effects, graphics, map layouts, colors, lightings, and many, many, more have been taken all the way to the current century, this version seems to be missing actual new elements.

That is, of course, what happens when you listen to the die-hard fans of AOE II, who bashed your third take on the game. Those chair-rocking, walker shufflers would rather sell their false teeth and catheters to the Devil than have another AOE be made anything other than a pearl from the past! And a pearl it has become, a yellow salt pearl which was extracted straight from their peehole.

While all of the above could be stated as truthful, I was surprised to see that AI has changed a lot since 1997, when Age of Empires first saw the light of day. The way armies attack used to be pretty straightforward in all previous games. They chose one strategy and stuck with it to the death (or retreat). One playing part IV will quickly notice the AI of the enemy adapting to your playstyle. During attacks, they change tactics to look for an “opening”. Yes, they literally walk around, out of sight, and jump your army from behind. You know, to attack them right up the sphincter. This leads to tight situations and sweaty moments, to say the least.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I kinda liked it. You know… my playtime… with Age of Empires IV… not the attacking of the sphincter persé. Also, there is just something powerful about blasting balls… from your trebuchet into a stone wall. Or jamming your storm ram into the gate over and over again! #nohomo

In the end, Age of Empires IV is a pretty decent game. It plays great and even had a few surprises in store, yet feels familiar in many ways. New players in the genre should definitely give it a fair go. As for the older generation of builders, it is a steep price for a new title which is basically a remake of AOE II. Then again, I haven’t had this much fun with a real-time strategy builder game in years. In my book, Age of Empires IV a solid game taken to the steep expectations of the 2021’s gamer community.

Feel like giving Age of Empires IV a try after reading my review? It’s available for literally zero bucks if you’re subscribed to Game Pass.

The Victories
Gameplay feels similar to AoE II (which is good)
Everything feels familiar, but not too rehashed
AI actually gives you a form of intelligent resistance
Playing with balls hasn't felt this good for a long time (#nohomo)
The Defeats
Age of Empires IV doesn't really do that much new
The retail price might be steep, considering it's not that innovative