With Nothing to Prove, ‘Age of Empires IV’ Makes a Confident, Relaxed Return

My dad played Age of Empires. I'd come home from college and the jewel case would always be next to his armchair where he played on his laptop while half-watching a football game. These were RTS blockbusters but the fact that my dad would keep playing them years after my friends and I had abandoned them always made them a bit suspect. When Ensemble Studios' Age of Empires 2 came out, I was quick to leave its colorful villages and castles behind for the icy vacuum of Relic's Homeworld. I was done with the base-building past of the RTS, the future beckoned.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wxdeky/with-nothing-to-prove-age-of-empires-iv-makes-a-confident-relaxed-return
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Using cutscenes and mini-documentaries to set the historical and modern context for campaign missions sound like dope additions to the series. I’ll keep an eye out for the game down the line – not exactly hurting to play an RTS at the moment, but the mood does strike me every now and then.

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I’m very excited for this game. I was an avid StarCraft fan for many years but stopped playing it for various reasons. Really want a new RTS to pick up and fill that void.

It’s a shame it sounds the campaign isn’t very interesting. SC2 set a high bar for campaign mission design, and I’ve never been able to get through an AoE campaign in the past. Found them too slow/plodding and just not very engaging.

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I got back into AoE 2/3 when the definitive editions came out, and knowing that 4 is a continuation of those games makes me excited. Just run skirmishes against the AI over and over is all I need.

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Okay so I’ve played a handful of campaign missions and I actually really like them! They are all narrated, so it feels like a documentary, but instead of actors and larpers doing reenactments, you are the one reenacting the historical events using your units. I think it really works!

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I’m really interested in the documentary approach to the campaign. Together with the Assassin’s Creed Discovery Tours, this might be a sign that historical education/contextualization will be bigger focus in this medium and I love it. As most people’s knowledge concerning history (in the US and everywhere else) probably barely exists outside of the very superficial overview in school, pop-culture is most likely the only place where there exists any direct, explicit contact with history and thus I deeply believe that creators of historical fiction have, in contrast with other creators, a kind of educational responsibility. Historical narratives are all around us and our view of history does effect our view of the present and future drastically, after all.
The approach that Assassin’s Creed has chosen, where it creates a pop-culturally lucrative, but historically more than questionable, representation of a time and place and then adds an exploration mode to the game, where the devs will tell you exactly what is bs and what isn’t and any nuances in between, is a very good one imo.
The AoE4 approach of integrating a pretty direct documentary approach into the campaign, sounds just as promising, but I have to see how detailed and non-dramatized it actually is, seeing as documentaries can be quite dramatized for the purposes of entertainment, as well.

On that note, I want to recommend History Respawned to anyone interested in the topic. A Podcast/Youtube Channel from an historian that is all about history in video games. He regularly invites other historians to talk about a particular game that is related to their field of expertise and how well the game handles it. Sometimes they also talk about how video games, as a popular medium, are treated in history departments in academia and any changes that have already taken place or are just beginning.


(EDIT: Not sure why this automatically links to the newest episode, but you can just go on the Soundcloud site through the link above the episode name)

For anyone interested in the politics of the podcast: very much a left-liberal host, but every guest is different of course.

EDIT: I almost forgot, but something that is occasionally mentioned in the podcast is a project by a few historians called “Historical Games Network”, where this topic is also discussed more academically (sometimes, they also invite game developers to talk or write about their approach to history and game design). There is a Youtube Channel, as well, where events are uploaded.

Or the direct link to the introductory post: Hello World! | Historical Games Network

EDIT: Oh yeah, just to set expectations: I cannot guarantee that people coming at this primarily from an entertainment perspective, will necessarily like this podcast or the more academic project. It very much is about history and video games as a social medium, not strictly entertainment (though they also try to explore this topic).

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Before Xbox, Age of Empires kind of fell in with MS Flight Simulator or Encarta interactive software with an educational underpinning (just don’t call them games). As a UK lad, I was pretty much taught about the Battle of Hastings as soon as I started learning about history, wasn’t aware of everything that happened after - so I appreciate that old educational spirit is still alive in Age of Empires 4.

I played a bunch of the game the previous weekend. I didn’t realise Relic were behind it, as I loved the first two Dawn of War games and the Company of Heroes games kind of offered the same tactical small scale squad command. I’m not sure if they’ve done anything monumental with the actual Age of Empires gameplay - though the presentation is certainly excellent.

I still love the resource gathering in these games, and though it isn’t total war - I like how they’ve souped up the combat, so you can feint with charges and break enemy lines. I like how they handle seige equipment too, where your squads have to raise it rather than building it from a workshop. I am on the mission where the French king is coming from you and you have to make a last stand. I have no idea how I’m supposed to halt all that cavalry. Part of me thought this was the game telling me how my character failed and was wiped out by the King of France.

Wonder if the Cobra car cheat still works?

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