Age of Empires 4 – Test, Tactics & Strategy, PC

Four historical campaigns

The highlight of the game are the four campaigns in single player mode, which are based on historical events in the Middle Ages. For example, the conquest of England by the Normans is covered, along with numerous subsequent conflicts. Then the Hundred Years War, the Mongol Empire and the rise of Moscow continue. The four campaigns comprise a total of 35 missions and extend into the 15th century, which is why it is set before Age of Empires 3.

The campaigns not only cover short periods of time, but also span up to 300 years and historical figures such as William the Conqueror are represented as playable characters with special abilities. Incidentally, these special units are missing in the multiplayer part.

Real-time battles + historical documentation

The siege of York in the documentary video.

The battles in the campaigns are linked by elaborate videos that are designed in the form of historical historical documentation (up to 4K UHD). These documentary videos should help to better understand the context of the respective conflicts. At the same time, an attempt is made to show what influence history has on the present. Everything is hung on real historical figures and locations, which is why you control the “real figures” and not the “placeholder characters” as in AoE3. The running time of the documentation, which was made of “real scenes” with drone recordings and supplemented with golden, animated figures, should be around three hours – although it often seems strange that cars drive through the scenery while golden infantrymen drive through the Trudge scene.

In addition to the exemplary presentation of the historical background, fighting techniques, weapons and units are shown in a similar way, e.g. how crossbows or trebuchets work. In places you have the feeling of watching a well-made historical documentary, while in between you are allowed to tact in real time and fight battles yourself. These battles are linked to historical key moments and are usually somewhat smaller and more compact in the playful dimensions of the limit. Still, it’s amazing how Relic Entertainment, World’s Edge, and Xbox Game Studios try to bring the story to life and make it playable. AoE4 is a prime example of “playful learning”.

Strong missions, weak dramaturgy

The siege of York in play.

The siege of York in play.

Nevertheless, one should be aware that the campaigns are not exactly exciting or emotionally engaging. It is hardly possible to cheer for the characters and their fates, too long time frames and too many characters are covered before the next mission quickly moves on several decades later.

Therefor the tasks and the mission goals are endeavored to change, although relatively much is besieged. There are operations with a focus on building up, multi-front wars, ambushes from forests, recaptures, optional secondary goals, etc. However, not each of the eight playable factions has its own campaign or is in the playful spotlight.