In my friends group, I’m the huge rts fan. I play on competitive ladders, I watch pro tournaments, and I even put on aoe2 and Starcraft streams in the background as I go about my day. Over the stress test weekend, I was able to persuade a gaggle of casuals to be on my team for a few rounds of aoe4. At one point we even had a full team of 4 on a Discord call.
In 1v1 games I fret over all the small stuff. Not being able to reliably task my tc gather point to a dead sheep. Not being able to select 3 villagers from a tightly packed group of 12. Having my garrisoned units always pop out at the same spot instead of the side of the building closest to the ungarrison waypoint. In short, I fight tooth and nail in this game to achieve a granular control over my units and buildings, the details of which are discussed in this recent post from sc2 players.
However, in a voice chat with 3 rts noobs, none of that stuff really mattered. My biggest micro/macro return was in teaching and coaching my friends while playing my civ on “auto pilot.” And you know what, we all had a blast! It’s pretty obvious that this game lacks the fine controls and finessed UI/hotkey system to optimize gameplay and control. Yet, despite that, it is a FUN game. I’m disappointed that I can’t hit a hotkey to instantly select my blacksmith, or choose which units to ungarrison, etc., etc. It’s a bummer. But, despite this, the music, the overall civ design, the sprawl of buildings and the spamming of units, it all feels like Age of Empires.
As the game stands today, I think it can do a lot of good for the rts genre. My friends all expressed interest in playing more. They all want to learn more. I bet they would have a blast in the campaigns. If they do purchase the game, I probably would as well. I will boot up other games to satiate my competitive nature, but when they want to hang out and play as a team, this game is a riot!
I wish this game was polished and refined enough to feel fair and competitive at launch, with all of the controls, UI, and hotkeys needed to be a sweaty ladder god. I want this BECAUSE this can be a great game. But, that seems unlikely. Maybe it will get there in the future, who can tell? I mean, AoE2 was originally balanced around 75 pop when it was released. Even though I’ve been frustrated and I rage a bit about the lack of fine controls, it brought a smile on my face to teach my teenage nephew how to task villagers and build houses for the 1st time and see him raze enemy keeps in multiplayer by the end of the evening.
All of us fans are excited. We want it all. We want to be able to see waypoint flags, we want to identify enemy unit upgrades, we want all sorts of stuff that seem essential for games to feel fair and competitive. I guess I just want to say that aoe4 seems fantastic for newcomers to the genre and it’s a fun game to play casually. I just hope that the game stays popular and profitable long enough for competitive play to feel viable.