Age of Empires IV will launch on October 28, bringing the fourth chapter of the time-honored real-time strategy game to our screens. It could also bring new life into RTS esports, which has stagnated over the last decade.
It’s been a long road for the franchise, with their initial release coming in 1997, before their second game, Age of Empires II, generated a big audience.
The initial two games were a big hit, with many people becoming attached after they found the CD of the first installment in cereal boxes due to a Microsoft promotion with Kellogg’s.
The game has stood the test of time, with many re-releases of the old classic inspiring new generations, with updated 4K graphics and new civilisations, but the same loveable game as before.
Such is its popularity that it has eclipsed Age of Empires III, with most preferring the older game, despite the third installment switching the formula and going for a later timeline of human history.
Age of Empires IV will return to the standard timeline formula however, with players taking control of armies and empires present in the earlier stages of human history.
The switch to the legendary Age of Empires formula comes in the empires themselves though, with each faction having a more distinct and unique playstyle than in previous releases.
The eight playable factions from launch will be the Abbasid Dynasty, China, Delhi’s Sultanate, England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Mongols, and Kievan Rus.
And while there will be campaigns like the previous games, a big focus sits on competitive multiplayer. The Age of Empires II multiplayer scene exploded since the onset of COVID-19, giving some love to the RTS players at heart.
In an area of gaming which has been quite stagnant since the explosion of Starcraft II in the early 2010s, there’s hope that Age of Empires IV can dawn a new age for real time strategy players.
It’s already generated interest in Australia, with many former and current Starcraft II professionals regularly playing and sharpening their skills.
Ethan “Iaguz” Zugai was a titan in the Australian Starcraft scene for many years, representing Australia in many international tournaments over a long period.
He says while Age of Empires represents just fun and games for him right now, he’d like to get to a professional level.
“Can’t [be a professional] until I’m good,” said Iaguz.
“I quit Starcraft II because it wasn’t fun anymore, I wasn’t getting any better. I’d hit a plateau I couldn’t beat.”
It’s obvious from a quick chat and a scroll through his Twitter timeline that Age of Empires is a game Iaguz is enjoying, and he’s not alone within the Australian Starcraft community.
Names like Nick “HuT” Hutton, Sean “PiG” Krensel and Sean “Probe” Kempen have all been playing in recent weeks, flexing their RTS muscles on the old classic.
It’s all building into the October 28 release, with Iaguz in two minds about the quality of the game and a prediction for what Age of Empires might become.
“It would be churlish to expect [a game] as good as Age of Empires II on release no matter who was making it,” Iaguz admitted.
“I think what’s important is that it’s good enough and I feel optimistic that it will be.
“What I can say is that AOE4 is head and shoulders above most of the instantly forgettable RTS dreck you see pop up on Steam every now and then.”
And when I asked him for a sneaky tip, he only said: “Longbowmen OP, just play English.”
Age of Empires IV launches on October 28 on Steam, with an open beta stress test taking place this weekend on September 18 and 19.