It’s probably safe to say that not many people saw this one coming. The last fully priced game in the franchise launched in 2005, leaving Age of Empires to occupy a revered spot in RTS (Real Time Strategy) history. That means in over ten years all we have seen from AOE was their attempt at the Free To Play model. Hardly surprising then that fans of the series who still play AOE: The conquerors (or any other variant) for that trip down memory lane weren’t hopeful that Gamescon 2017 would see the series relaunch. They also announced a re-master but that’s a post for later.
That being said, we don’t have much to go on about the game itself, a slick trailer (see above) and voice over constitute about all of what was shown. What we do know is that the game is in the hands of Relic Entertainment. Relic has been at the helm of successful RTS games including Company of Heroes and Homeworld. Whether or not this bodes well for the title depends on your opinion of Relic Entertainment, but it does mean that a studio experienced with RTS is at the helm.
Casting our gaze around at the landscape of RTS at the moment, one tends to dominate the market. Starcraft. Whether the original game and BroodWar or Starcraft Two, it’s hard to argue that it has been and remains the most successful RTS game. Will AOE 4 change that? On an E-Sports level probably not, Starcraft is still extremely successful and also has a dedicated fan base and years of tournament infrastructure. On another level however it could provide an alternative that would get people to reconsider the RTS genre. Starcraft is known for putting players off, its merciless ladder system and high barrier to entry don’t help that. AOE:4 depending on genre has the potential to bring the RTS scene back under scrutiny and I for one will be excited to see how it fares.
So, when can we expect this fresh take on a well loved classic to hit Windows 10 platforms? Probably not for a year or more, there is no game-play footage yet available and no date announced. Whilst a shame we can only hope that this means that they wont be rushing the development as a lot of eyes will now be on them and they have a lot to live up to.
What do you think of the announcement? Are Microsoft continuing the modern trend of not letting a good thing die? Would you like to see an E-Sports scene? Let me know in the comments.