My issue with the new "variant civs"

So I think having “variant civs” is a great idea.

Making civs in AoE4 is labor intensive. Unique architecture, unit skins, voice lines, music, and that’s all before you get into the actual functional design.

Variants allow most of that to be cut out, but still make a civ that plays completely differently. Great, that gets us more civs than we could have otherwise. Getting 6 new civs to play with in the expansion is crazy, amazing. I am stoked to try them all.

HOWEVER, now we’ve seen what these four new “variant civs” are called and it’s… odd to say the least.

My two issues are:

  • Missed opportunity
  • Consistency

It’s a missed opportunity because they could have pulled new civilizations into the game, ones that were culturally and aesthetically quite similar to the existing ones, but still help pad out the map as it were.

The consistency is really what kills me though.

We have Order of the Dragon and Sultans Army which I guess are small subsets that exist within the base civilization. Already a bit odd and inconsistent when picking which “civilization” to play.

Then there’s Jeanne d’Arc which is literally just a person. Like it’s not even “Army of…” or something?!

And Empire of Jade, which I have no idea what that is and cannot find any historical information about it.

So in addition to leaving the consistency of civilizations we had going, these four don’t even seem to be consistent within themselves.

Going back to Jeanne d’Arc. I assume she’ll be a hero unit for her faction since they mentioned heroes? If so this introduces another issue with consistency. These civs advance from age to age, with changes in language, architecture, and clothing through time. And sure you may have the same villager live from the beginning of the game to the end, but it’s an abstraction. That unit just represents a certain portion of your civilian population. However, as soon as you name that villager… See the issue? So it doesn’t make much sense to have a named hero. The Khan works because it’s just “Khan”, once again an abstraction. This time of having a leader in battle. Maybe she won’t be a hero throughout the game though, in which case ignore me this paragraph is moot.

And I understand that things in the game will always be inconsistent with reality. I only ask for internal consistency.

It just all seems like a very strange way to go about what is initially a great idea to expand the game. Very, very odd to me. Like it’s going to be weird every time you’re picking a “civilization” from the list to play.

I struggle to think of anything, as yet unrevealed, that will make these not seem strange.

Don’t get me wrong, I think how they function is the most important. I’m very optimistic that gameplay wise they’ll be great. I just think this is a strange design decision that could have easily been avoided.


I also see it as a great opportunity, but missed (not uncommon in the series btw).

There have been endless arguments regarding AOE2 civs such as “Burgundians is too narrow for a full civ” “Romans existed too short in the timeframe” “Slavs is too broad a term that overlaps with Poles” etc. And even with 1/2 unique units per civ, some already seem really forced.

The “variant civ” gives the freedom to address most of such inconsistencies. It’s a great way to incorporate the civs that are “not different enough from an existing one, but different enough from the rest”, “lacking contents for a full civ” or “not significant enough”. But then they end up creating the biggest inconsistency ever with it.

Using the variant civs to represent some sub-factions irl is such a natural idea. I believe that’s what many people immediately come up with when seeing this concept in the trailer. I cannot imagine that nobody brought this up in their meetings and they ended up spending time making such awful names like “Empire of Jade” “Sultan’s Army”.