Strategy and Wargaming News – 11th April – Age of Empires 4 Gameplay revealed, release date, new details, in-depth analysis

Dearest reader! I’ve been watching you! You’ve been flocking to the SaW Inn this week only to find it with it’s door semi-open, with no new content and me nowhere to be seen. Worry not, I have returned. Actual, real life job kept me rather busy but I remain undetered from writing a couple more words, even if it’s Sunday, at 2am here. After all, you’re always welcome! Come in. This week, Wargaming folk will be better off squashing their expectations, no new announcements or major news, and that’s that. However, if Real Time is where it’s at for you, then rejoice. The chimney at Relic and Microsoft finally spews white smoke! Chonky gameplay bits of Age of Empires IV are here!

Age of Empires IV Gameplay Reveal

I’ll avoid any kind of mean comments on the reveal videos because I don’t want to eat me words later this year, when the game is released, but I’m afraid some things are looking rather off in these videos…

Age of Empires IV is one of my antecipated games of all time, don’t get me wrong, but after Relic dropped the ball HARD with Dawn of War 3, hopes of a new timeless classic have been kept in check. By the looks of it, reasons for skepticism weren’t unfounded. Cartoony proportions, overtly colourful and generic units with ashen models, janky attack animations, floaty movements, and constantly dropping FPS had me scratching my head as to how I feel about it. Stronghold 2 and Civ VI keep coming back to mind.

Look at the size of that sword! That makes no sense, please Relic, you can do better

And, with the recent release of Age of Empires II Definitive Edition the question of “do we really want this?” needs to be discussed, even more so when it’s getting a new expansion called Dawn of the Dukes, focusing on Eastern Europe and a co-op campaign.

But Microsoft showcased some of it’s new mechanics , a couple of which I was not expecting to see, like the ability to hide out in the woods and set up ambushes. Manning the walls is finally here, after all this time and cavalry charges also seem to be a thing now. New formations and active skills.

UI in the trailer showing what seems to be active skills with Q, W and E. Formations below with Z, X and C.

Active skills are a great way to introduce depth into combat without creating more units but I’m expecting to see some historically sound abilities. Take for example these ones I just made up, “Shield Wall“: If 10 man-at-arms are together in the same formation they can form a shield wall that increases their armour stats. “Cavalry Charge“: If out of combat for more than 30s, the first strike deals extra damage or area of effect up to three units, with the first suffering 40% damage, the second 20% and the last one 10%, to simulate the effect of the powerful cavalry charge with it’s subsequent waning. “Shields Up“: melee units with shields raise their shields to reduce 15% damage incoming from arrows, this would allow for peons to tank the arrows while the cavalry moves in for the flank. If done particulary well, active skills are a welcoming addition. But please, before doing all that, fix the size of the arrows and their trajectories animations.

What with this game and oversized weapons? That’s not an arrow, that’s a small spear! Lady archer over there could impale 2 soldiers and a horse with a single shot.

The terrain looks fantastic and the building models are okayish but there’s some sort of disconnect in the way things look in the Norman Campaign reveal- with units appearing proportionate to the terrain; fast-forward to 4:20 on the gameplay trailer and the chinese Chu Ko Nu archers look gigantic next to buildings. It’s hard to suspend my disbelief when the terrain looks so convincing and detailed the units look bland and uninspired.

Norman Campaign Reveal
Gameplay Trailer

Look, I’m not railing against it, I swear! Hey, maybe Relic could pull a switcharoo and lend half of the terrain department to the units one. Because seeing Mongol cavalry hoisting oversized joisting lances just doesn’t tickle my fancy in the right way. Hey, maybe I’m looking way too much into it.

Population is capped at 200 by the looks of it, but that is still unconfirmed. That’s what I got so far, and I’ve spent more than 2 hours rewatching everything, will update when new details arrive. Age of Empires IV will go live Autumn 2021.

Door Kickers 2 has a replay system and 4 new maps

This is pretty much self-explanatory, with the replay system being added to DK2, I’ve written that “Overall, Door Kickers 2: Task Force North is a great game and a considerable improvement on what was the tried and true formula of the original. Is it worthy of your time and money? Of course, if you enjoy free-flow, top-down tactical engagements with somewhat realistic and brutal combat“. One of the best tactical wargames of all time is only getting better. Also, there are 4 new map and 2 new enemy types. They’ve also plugged some sound flaws with new ones for different equipments, explosions and ambiental noises.

Hearts of Iron IV teases DLC ahead of PDXcon

Not a lot is known other than “Barbarossa and the unannounced DLC will focus on the Eastern Front and the core of Hearts of Iron, which is warfare – particularly land warfare. Historically the Eastern Front was without doubt the most important front for World War II. It was the largest confrontation in history and is where Hitler’s expansion was first stopped and pushed back signaling the eventual doom of the axis powers. There are several areas we want to improve here. Weather does not feel impactful enough, while historically it had a massive impact. Logistics currently doesn’t have much player interaction and is mostly something you have to deal with only when problems appear, and finally the combat and division meta has been stable (with an emphasis on large divisions) for a long time – something we hope we can shake up. As you can imagine, these are all things that affect the game on a deeper level and take a lot of work to get right.

In our new system, supply flows from the capital (the total amount available depends on your total industrial base) through railways, where the level of the railway acts as a bottleneck.

“Rivers also had a huge importance on the eastern front for transport and supply so they will work essentially like basic railroads now, where you need to control both sides of their banks to use them to ship supplies around.

Slowly Hearts of Iron IV is becoming another timeless classic from Paradox, if you want to read the whole thing click here.

I’m afraid this is it for the week. Stay tuned for my review of War In The East 2 and my Strategical Showcase of Warhammer 40,000 Battlesector. I’ll see you around!


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