AoE4 is not AoE2 is not AoE3

For context of my perspective, I am a long time Age of Empires fan that played AoE2 on CD back in The Zone days and have been with this franchise since the start, purchasing and playing every iteration, remaster, expansion, DLC, etc. I have over several hundreds of hours logged between AoE4 and all three definitive editions, which doesn’t even include the the CD, HDD or other versions of the game. So, anyway…here’s my take for anyone that cares to listen.

AoE4 is a solid entry in the franchise, but here’s the kicker…it was never going to make everyone happy. It’s very clear that the devs tried to make this game a culmination of the franchise and take pieces from each title to try and create a nice blend of mechanics. Frankly, this is exactly what I wanted from AoE4; a good blend of the AoE franchise. Every game in the series is vastly different from each other and I enjoy different aspects of every game. For me, I was hoping that AoE4 would be the crossroads that connects all three previous games…and that’s exactly what they did.

The problem with this design philosophy is that AoE4 was never (and is never) going to be AoE2 enough for the hardcore AoE2 fans…or AoE3 enough for the hardcore AoE3 fans. I see frequently on these forums several folks that will complain in one post that the game isn’t enough like AoE2 or AoE3, while immediately going to another post and complain that it’s not innovative or different enough. This is an oxymoron. My advice is to let AoE4 be AoE4 and stop overly comparing it to AoE2 or AoE3. We already have AoE2 and AoE3.

AoE4 is not, by any stretch of the imagination an “AoE2 clone”. When comparing AoE2 and AoE3 you have two very different games that are reaching two very different demographics.

AoE2 is very geared towards the competitive scene and big micro plays. It was made during the height of the RTS genre and it leaned heavily into that competitive appeal during the height of the genre’s popularity. AoE2 is fantastic and, personally, my introduction into the series. However, it does come with a very steep learning curve compared to the other titles, if you haven’t been playing it for the past two decades.

AoE3, on the other hand, was very much built for new players. Not just new AoE players, but players new to the RTS genre, as a whole. They stripped a lot of the micro out and attempted to make it more accessible to players that have never touched an RTS. Keep in mind that this game was made during a decline in popularity for RTS games, so the franchise was obviously looking at ways to be more broadly accessible and bring in some new players.

But what about AoE4? AoE4 is the fulcrum. AoE2 and AoE3 are two completely different games sitting at very opposite extremes of the RTS spectrum. AoE2 is highly competitive and complex, whole AoE3 is more user friendly and easier to pick up. AoE4 sits in the middle of those two extremes, which places it in a precarious position. As stated earlier, it’s not AoE2 enough for AoE2 fans and not AoE3 enough for AoE3 players.

This is not a discussion on which game is “better”, but rather what role each game fills. AoE4 clearly aimed to fill the gap between the extremes of AoE2 and AoE3. Frankly, I think they succeeded at this in several ways by taking bits and pieces from each game, while adding new things on top of it. Drop off points from AoE2, semi-asymmetrical civs from AoE3, sacred sites from AoE1, just to name a few. I can go into a deep dive on what concepts and philosophies it took from the other games (and I may do that in another post later on), but that’s not what this discussion is about. This is about letting AoE4 be its own game and stop the hard comparisons to AoE2 or AoE3. Yes…It is going to have elements from both games. No, it is not going to have EVERY element from both games. They have to strike a balance between satisfying to VERY different types of players and I feel that we, as players, need to be more realistic with our expectations by not expecting this game to have everything you loved from the other games in the franchise, but expect that it will take some thing from your beloved title, while being understanding that it will take some concepts and mechanics from the titles that you don’t like. Again…let AoE4 be its own game and stop looking at it through the lense of whatever your preferred game is. You already have that game.

That being said, yes. AoE4 DID play it safe with AoE4. No, they didn’t innovate. Because, frankly, the majority of the AoE community does not receive innovation well. I said it. Remember when AoE3 tried to innovate and push the series forward by introducing a lot of new concepts and ideas? I do. I remember the backlash that it got from the die-hard AoE fans and the criticism that it still gets today for being different, sixteen years later. It innovated and added new things, which resulted in it “not feeling like an Age of Empires game”. But, they did add new things. They innovated in small ways on the series, including: hunting with your scouts, sheep following your scouts, standing on walls, adding Masteries (which I can get into a whole discussion about how great these are as another layer of learning the game and making new players aware of the practical functionality of different civs and their unique mechanics, beyond basic mechanics in controlled scenarios).

That being said, no. It is not a perfect game and there are fundamental QoL things that need to be added to make the game more polished, such as a global queue, Shift-Queue markers and ranked games. Yes, there does need to be some balance changes and optimizations, but that is going to be true for this game’s entire life. Remember…they are STILL making balance changes and optimizations to AoE2, 22 years later. AoE3 and, yes, the “holy grail” AoE2 both suffered from poor optimizations and massive imbalances at launch that had to be ironed out over time. Many never played AoE2 (or were even alive) when it launched, but it had just a tumultuous launch with a bunch of game breaking bugs that needed fixed (anyone else remember the Teuton TC Rush?)…and the first patch for that game didn’t come until almost a year later.

TL;DR - AoE4 is a very valiant effort to try and appeal to two VERY different player demographics. It has and will take some ideas from AoE2, but not all of them. Same goes for AoE3. Love AoE2, but hate AoE3? You’re likely going to love some parts of AoE4 and hate others. Love AoE3, but hate AoE2? Same goes for you. For me, I loved both AoE2 and AoE3 for different reasons and AoE4 seems to be a very enjoyable balance between the design philosophies that each game offered. It’s a healthy middle ground between the extremes of both games and, for that reason, is likely going to become my new favorite in the franchise.


I agree your thoughts man. If devs make the game innotive age of 2 fans says that " ı dont like it. This game is not age of game. " They also dont like age of 3. They dont like age of 3 new mechanics. Also devs make the game what microsoft wants. I think microsoft wants devs to make Age of 4 as this game. Age of 2 fans dont like new mechanics.


I agree you. (20 character)

It feels more like a spiritual successor to Empires Dawn of the Modern world. Only it remains in the first two ages. The similarities are striking.

1 Like

Honestly, I would say that Empires took more from Age of Empires than Age of Empires 4 took from it…or, more specifically, both Age of Empires and the Empire Earth series share the same DNA, since the co-founder of Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires) was the founder of the studio that made Empire Earth (Stainless Steel Studios). He basically made Empires Earth to be the spiritual successor to the first Age of Empires and made what he originally wanted Age of Empires to be.

1 Like

Maybe they gathered inspiration from all 3 games? I mean here are similarities present in Empires Dawn of the Modern World.

  • Moving Buildings
  • Auto Harvesting Structures
  • Generated roads between buildings
  • Unique Factions
  • Walls being thick enough to hold units. (Even though EDotMW doesn’t hold units)
  • Dynamic Music
  • Color coordinate buttons to distinguish units from upgrades and so on.
1 Like

Yeah. That’s what I mean. Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is part of the Empire Earth series. It was designed by the same guy that helped design the first Age of Empires. Some of those features were also present in Age of Empires 3, such as Auto-harvesting, dynamic music and asymmetrical civs. But, the bones of both game series were designed by Rick Goodman and he’s gone on record saying that he designed Empire Earth to be what he originally envisioned for Age of Empires, so it’s logical that the two franchises would share many similarities.

I think that is so cool tbh, I just hope people find the combination of ideas in AoE4 not too confusing or Frankenstein.

In terms of aoe2 vs aoe3, you mean macro than micro. AOE3 base macro is more noob friendly. But then you have different dynamics in aoe3 which makes it hard to master cause of the very asymmetric civs, card shipments etc…

AOE2 has a small hurdle at start to learn then from there it gets easier…whereas in AOE3 easy to pick up at start then u hit a wall

AOE4 is like 80% AOE2 and maybe like 5% AOE3.

It’s AOE2 with a bit of AOE3


I don’t really reckon it’s that close to AoE2. For a start, they stripped pretty much all micro from the game. Homing arrows are both unrealistic and offer no opportunity for even fluke dodges. Just give ballistics from the start, make arrows faster, and give them a miss percentage at higher range. The art style is totally different, as well as most of the unit system. That’s just some stuff, there is more.

1 Like

There are less direct take-aways from AoE3, yes, but the conceptual ideas of AoE3 is far more present in AoE4 than I think a lot of folks realize. Things like houses not only supporting 10 population (as in AoE3), but also changing the housing mechanic to be more forgiving. It was a small change to allow units to continue producing when you are at max pop and also allowing for houses to be constructed faster than villagers spawn. It makes for a more forgiving system that gives players a warning before they are about to be housed, rather than abruptly grinding everything to a halt. The standard opening is also more intuitive and easier to pull off for new players than it was in AoE2, much like it was in AoE3.

So, yeah, while they didn’t explicitly directly translate a lot of the mechanics from AoE3, the concept and ideas of being more user friendly that AoE3 had are there and present, in one form or another. With that in mind, I would say it’s more 60% AoE2 and 40% AoE3.

No way it’s 40% aoe3. Home city shipments, no resource drop of points, batch training and very asymmetric civs is the hallmark of aoe3.

Aoe4 has none of that other than having more asymmetric civs than aoe2

1 Like

AoEIV has a lot of AoM in it too, more so than it took from AoEIII imo.

Totally agree with you @LocTalon .All my complaints with the game are technical ones.

Extended comment a bit off topic

My favorite is Age 2, I started playing with Age 1, and I think they made a decent job to blend together the various games of the franchise. A bit on the safe side, but, as you well explained, the task was very hard.
I do not consider balance a problem: not even the Mongol tc. These things are fun! Bound to happen no matter what. Easily fixable. Discussions about balance is a fundamental part of the genere. I love that in Age 2 we are still tweaking the civ after all these years.
Then there is to consider the will to appeal to a broader audience: new to the franchise and new to genere also. I strongly support this view. But here the problem starts in my opinion. I do not consider less deep mechanics a win for the inexperienced players! I spent almost 20 years playing Age 2, in single player and campaigns, without knowing what split formation was there for: then I saw the pros play and I understood. But that never prevented me to enjoy the game before! The same goes for many other things. As a matter of fact, the moment you realize that your knowledge of the game has made a step forward, is a very rewarding one. I fear that in Age 4 the new players will find few of those occasions. I appreciate though all that can be useful to ease the journey: art of wars challenges, masteries, the new difficulty level in the campaigns etc.
So, in my view of Age 2 player, Age IV has great potential. That doesn’t mean that we should be “forgiving” with its many technical flaws; as some people seem to prefer. I would like to know how many of those that “the game is perfect/awesome/etc. as it is” will still be playing the game in a couple of months. Especially if significant improvements do not come soon.
I could summarize saying that Age IV has done right the difficult part and missed the easier one. Maybe its the lack of experience with the franchise on part of Relic (used to a different kind of RTS), maybe it was the publisher Microsoft (and its marketing team), I do not know.

1 Like

As I said, there aren’t as many direct translations, but the elements are there if you look deeper than surface level. AoE3 set out to be, overall, more accessible and forgiving to new players, far more so than AoE2 ever was. AoE4 accomplishes the same ideas that AoE3 had, just in different ways (as mentioned above).

But, there are also a lot more takeaways from AoE3 than just asymmetrical civs. Ranged shots not missing was a thing in AoE3, as well. The entire “constructing buildings to age up” was taken directly from Asian Dynasties. Houses supporting 10 population, instead of 5 (offers a bigger window to new players). Not having to reseed farms. The entire farming system is, imo, a perfect fusion of AoE2 and AoE3, where you have only one worker per farm, like AoE2, but you do not have a residual cost to maintain the farm, after it is constructed, like AoE3. Showing how many villagers you have on each resource, while a feature that was since adopted in the DE versions, was a feature that AoE3 had since launch. Resources also last FAR longer in AoE4 than they did in AoE2. The time it takes to deplete a single gold or stone mine is more equitable to AoE3 than AoE2 (not to mention the design aesthetic for gold and stone mines came directly from AoE3, as well). Docks healing fishing ships is also another direct take away from AoE3, as in AoE2 you had to task a villager to repair damaged ships. There is also the neutral trade sites. While they were implemented differently than the trade posts in AoE3, I cannot be convinced that idea did not spawn directly from the Trading Posts mechanic. They just, again, fused elements from both games by taking the player trading mechanic in AoE2 and giving it a function with neutral sites from AoE3. The only difference is that you have to make the traders yourself, rather than having a unit automatically generated.

Oh yeah. I, by no means, think that the game is perfect. There’s still some work to be done with polishing and stability, but that’s literally been the case with the original launch of every Age of Empires game to date. Every. Single. Game. has launched with game breaking bugs, glitches, crashes, exploits, lag and oversight that had to get fixed after launch. No developer can expect and plan for every possible scenario on the same iterative level as thousands of players playing at once.

They took the time to develop the Definitive Editions leading up to the release of AoE4 and I think that it needs to have the same core feature suite that all of those games offered (global queue, shift-queue flags, customizable hotkeys, the option to “choose your interface”, whether you want to use thee game’s default UI or use the “Definitive” UI. There are still several things that need to be considered and iterated on, but I think the game has good bones. I loved both AoE2 and AoE3 (though I have almost triple the logged hours in AoE2) and I think AoE4 gave us the best of both worlds. If nothing else, they just rounded out the franchise. If you want a super complex and competitive game, play AoE2. If you want something that’s more casual and macro oriented, play AoE3. If you want something that sits somewhere in between of those two experiences, now you have AoE4.

1 Like

I’m not suggesting there are no elements from aoe3 in aoe4. I just don’t agree that aoe4 is 40% of aoe3 when none of the main hallmarks of aoe3 was implemented (except for civ asymmetry which is still below aoe3)


There’s more than two player bases in this franchise. There are five. And now there are six.

1 Like

It doesn’t have to take any of the big “hallmarks” from AoE3 to take a lot from it. AoE4 is not AoE3 and it is not going to have the exact mechanics and everything that AoE3 had. I would say that complex unit and economy micro were hallmarks of AoE2, neither of which are very present in AoE4, if at all. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t take a good amount from AoE2. Beyond that, a lot of the mechanics that AoE4 did take from AoE2 are shared with AoE3, so those are a wash.

As for the asymmetrical civs, there is just as much variance in the AoE4 civs as there were in the base AoE3 civs. They didn’t really start stretching out to vastly different mechanics until the expansions. In all of the base game civs, they all had staple units that every civ had (such as musketeers, skirmishers, hussars and dragoons or some kind of variation), they all gathered resources in the same manner, save minor variations (like the Dutch villagers costing gold). I would even argue that the base civs in AoE4 are MORE varied than the base game AoE3 civs. Not a single base civ in AoE had as much variance from each other as, say Mongols Ovoo vs. Rus hunting mechanic vs. Chinese Dynasty mechanic. On top of that, every one of them were European based civs. Not to say that AoE3 had no variation or asymmetry at all. There was plenty! But, the really “outside the box” civs did not come until the expansions and I expect that we will see the same pattern with AoE4.

Back on topic though, we can go back and forth on the exact arbitrary percentage that AoE4 is comprised of AoE3. Maybe I am being generous with 40%, but it’s certainly a hell of a lot more than 5% and certainly a lot more that came from AoE3 than only civ asymmetry, as noted in the entire paragraph above of all the ideas and concept that both games have in common.

AOE 4 has some things of AOE 1 tho, with the sacred sites control (callback to ruins victory)