There isnt many things i think aoe3 got right but havong to expand on the map for food before resorting to farms is a concept i think this game aoe4 needs to do a better job capturing.
Let Emglish keep their faster gather rates but reduce their discount from 50% cheaper farms to 25%. Likewise make mongol pastures cost 250 wood OR increase the sheep generation to 3min.
Having a civ bonus that gives you reliable SAFE sources of food is fine, but it SHOULD NOT be more rewarding than expanding out on the map.
Also I’d like if berry orchards outside your TC range should have 12 bushes instead of just 8. Deer should be adjusted to have 1 herd close with 7 deer and a mid/edge herd with 12 deer. Lastly boar should have 3000-3500 food and always both spawn near the center of the map to be highly highly contested.
Safe food should never be the best dource of food EARLY? IMO.
Having rich potent sources of resources out on the map that can by comparison dwarf early farms/pastures will combat these defensive fast castle meta plays. Dark age and feudal NEEED to be meta play, how does it make sense to design a game where 2 of the 4 ages of the game you want to get out of them as quickly as possible with most civs???