Does the game need a much longer darkage? Let’s say 2000 food (same gold cost, if not removed) to reach the next age. Since farms last forever, don’t need to reseed. It should not be so bad. Leave the same cost for the next ages. In AOE4 you can still make villagers while aging up.
This will allow much more early game combat. And might make the game more balanced.
Combat comes earlier than you think in this game. The dark age is for building up your eco. The transition from the dark age to feudal age comes quickly and most players will start making units in the feudal age.
Eco first, then military.
No, definitely not. How would this create more early combat? You just took away 600 food that could have been spent on military units.