In 3 simple, yet profound, far-reaching points:
Number 1 - Bring Civs to Life
In celebrated AoE2, a battle of Vikings vs Japanese is typically crossbows/arbs, skirmishers, pikemen, a few knights… Cool Samurai? Fearless Berserks? Pretty much NOWHERE to be seen. A battle of Ethiopians vs Byzantines? Oh, it’s exactly the very same crossbows, skirmishers, pikemen, a few knights again! What’s the point of having 40 civs, 40 awesome Unique Units, if at the end of the day it’s always the same monotonous sea of skirmishers, crossbow/arbs, pikes/halbs over and over again?
Counter units were supposed to be situational, but in AoE2, 80% of all Unique Units (and all swordsman-line infantry and hand cannons, by the way) are close to USELESS and end up being even LESS than situational… they are non-existant in daily gameplay. In practice, AoE2 Civilizations end up having limited apparent “personality” and uniqueness; virtually no identity, no flair, no spirit of their own.
AoE4 can far surpass AoE2 here… Less Civs, but truly unique Civs that actually made a major contribution to History, less wasted Units, more diverse battlefields!
Number 2 - Readability not Detail; more Macro less Micro
Ultimately, the rise of a classic RTS hinges entirely on its gameplay, not graphics. A great RTS game provides quick and insightful vision while whipping the camera; this is one of the reasons for AoE2’s success. AoE4 should make units and buildings HIGHLY identifiable from far zoom in a flash - even exaggerating some elements a bit is ok… but not overly detailed (and definitely not cute!!). Millions of people stuck with AoE2 for 20+ years, was it because it looks amazing? Not at all. In the end, graphics truly don’t matter much here, the graphics debate misses the point. AoE4 could very well exceed the readability (thus gameplay experience) of AoE2.
Another essential, AoE4 gameplay should definitely feature more macro strategic thinking and decision making, a bit less micro clicking. In a real strategy classic, real-time or not, vistory should not depend too much on “whoever clicks faster” or “better finger dexterity”, simply because that’s not strategy, it’s not even actual tactics, and that’s kind of geeky and lame imho. AoE4 ought to be macro-heavy, a classic strategy game for the ages. AoE4 devs seem to grasp this; it’s looking promising.
Number 3 - The Greatest Design Opportunity of All
Ever since the release of Age of Empires 2 in faraway 1999, a seemingly minor yet deeply revealing fact has remained largely unnoticed: the icon of “Wonder”, the architectural masterpiece that epitomizes the pinnacle of civilization and wins the game. YES… the icon of a “Wonder” for all civs in AoE is none other than the Wonder of the Turks (Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey). Oh no, young son… that is NO coincidence at all.
Loving AoE is revering the past, just like AoE forefathers did. One simple fact to seriously stop and think:
Constantinople (Byzantium, Istanbul) was strategically, geographically, and civilization-wise the most important city on Planet Earth during the ENTIRE duration of ALL historical ages spanned by AoE2 & AoE4… Even economically, it towered above the world’s cities far longer than ANY other metropolis did. Think about one power statement.
AoE4 is much more siege-detailed… the siege and conquest of invincible Constantinople - the greatest city on Earth - by the world’s foremost power, 3-continent superpower Ottoman Empire (Turks), is the most epic and consequential siege in human History by far, and the Turkish Great Bombard is the most iconic siege weapon EVER. Period. Plus, in actual historical timeframe the Great Bombard belongs much more in AoE2/4 than in AoE3! There just can’t be AoE4 without the indestructible Walls of Constantinople and the awe-inspiring Great Bombard in the very first Byzantines & Turks DLC (and pleeeease, no picnic destroying rock-solid stone walls by cavalry tossing tiny cute torches).
What people don’t realize is the unique opportunity AoE4 designers have here… “Mongols are the nomad civ, others are settled civs” Hmmm okay… why binary? Turks are the quintessential “HYBRID” civ, an originally fierce nomadic people that transformed its soul, and inherited the treasure trove of knowledge of the most celebrated fortress of settled Civilization - Constantinople (no I’m not a Turk, son). This transformation is unlike anything else, and it provides an extraordinary opportunity to design a uniquely “hybrid” Turkish civ in AoE4 with both early nomadic conquest and late splendor of a settled Empire, with the gunpowder mastery of awesome mega Bombards and the world’s FIRST modern firearm army (Janissary!) that ultimately ended Mongol-style horse archer global battlefield domination FOREVER (and totally, utterly “disappeared” Mongols from History) while giving rise to the ultra-long-lasting Ottoman Empire that would remain a world power until… World War I.
Best regards to all,