My thoughts and concerns about AoE4 future - Variant Civs

First of all, let me be clear that I LOVE the game and I wanna address these issues very calm and in a polity way. I wouldn’t be writing this long text If I don’t care or If I am a doomer.

Everything I’m gonna say, is my personal opinion. If you liked it, if you loved it, good for you, great for you, really. I truly wish I liked it, I wish I was feeling like that. However, I am really pessimistic about it.

English is not my native language, sorry in advance for any mistake.

I’ll be talking about the history inspiration and then about the gameplay. I am concern about both!

I was really excited about this expansion. I was sooo hyped. Every content creator that signed the NDA was telling the game has a bright future. AoE4 is entering the golden age, the biggest expansion yet, etc.

Now that we know what’s the expansion is all about, my hype went down drastically. I am very concerned about the future of the game. I’d say they are changing the AoE4 identity, and I don’t like that.

I am gonna say the easy and good stuff first.

  • I am really excited about Japanese and ByzantinesBoth civs looks waaay beyond I’ve imagined in AoE4. disguised Ninjas? Aqueduct? Wow!
  • I am really excited for those 10 new maps and fixes for our existing maps.The only issue gameplay-wise of current state of the game in my opinion is some maps. Beasty made a video recently talking about that I agreed on almost everything and he also said he liked those 10 new maps and said they are also fixing the current one. Really happy for that
  • A new campaign! Awesome!
  • 2 beautiful biomes, great!

Now, the hard part and what’s bothering me:

4 variant civs.

The marketing team of AoE4 didn’t say 6 new civs like every content creator is doing. And any marketing always wanna to escalate and round everything up. So I’m intrigued.

We don’t know much about it. But what I know is very concerning.

Let’s talk about what is a civilization first: Each civ has a historical inspiration from a empire/dynast over several centuries, from around 800 to 1600. Some civ more, some civs less. In gameplay they are translate to unique units, unique building, unique technologies and the way you layout your base. Every civ has a influence bonus, you have to layout your base in that favor

  • Ottomans, build around blacksmiths
  • Malians, build houses around gold
  • English, farms and network of castle
  • Chinese, taxes
  • French, build around keeps
  • HRE, everything connect to emergency repair
  • Mongols, around Ovoo
  • Rus, wood bonus with tower influence
  • Delhi, everything connect to research timer decreases
  • Abbasid, everything connect to gathering bonus
  • Japanese, we don’t know yet
  • Byzantines, something with aqueducts

Every civ has their own landmarks with their bonuses as well. Unique music, voice lines even per age, architecture, so much attention to details. Really well done. Every civ is very unique and plays differently.

When AoE4 was announced with “only” 8 civs, they said they were very unique, and not only one unique unit per civ, one tech and research tree differences like AoE2. And they delivered what they promised. AoE4 was announced in 2017, of course they were already working on AoE4 at the time, then it was release in 2021. So at least 5 years of development to delivery 4 campaigns and 8 civs. 1 year later, 2 more civs FOR FREE and no campaign, and now, another year later, 2 new civs plus 4 variant civs plus campaign. It’s way more content in the same timeframe.

We are moving from 10 to 16, that would sound amazing, but I raise some concerns.

How variant are those civs?

We know they share some units, buildings, even landmarks. They decided to lose the uniqueness about each civ. How is gonna affect balance-wise the game? If the shared-units and shared-landmarks are changed, both civs are changed? They are going against what they told us when they announced the game. It looks like they are trying to increase the number of civilizations no matter what. They choose to increase from 10 to 16 in one year over 3 years with the pace of 2 new civs each year was going.

Variant civ is easier to implement, you have “a lot” of the asset already done. I get that, I am developer myself. I know that cut costs but to me is going to AoE2 direction. And if you tell me “Order of the Dragon and HRE plays very different”. Yes, in AoE2, based on civ bonuses and one unique unit, you play totally different as well.

Now let’s look about the history inspiration: before, a civ was inspired by an empire, a dynasty. But now, is based on a PERSON, a very tiny frame of our history. It should be abstract not centered in a person. (unless in campaign) Order of the Dragon lasted a bit over a century, not several centuries like the others, and it started at 1408, in the game is already imperial age. Ayyubid dynasty, they didn’t even last a century.

Every civ in the game lasted at least 5 centuries and they overlap each other. I know Chinese never faced the Mayans, for example, but the idea they existed at the same time, from dark age to imperial age. It’s where the devs get the inspiration from and translate to the game. And We create those wars.

They are trying to “re-imagine” if that civ would start from the dark age to imperial age. I don’t buy that. How a person that lived only 19 years old (real sad for her, even the way she died) could be a “civilization” from dark to imp?

How can they choose to prioritize that over the civs we are waiting for.

I really think they should have made 3 or 4 new civs over variant ones.

if you don’t care about the history, I am not talking about accuracy, I just want the inspiration to actually have a good base and be consistency.

Gameplay, now let’s talk about the actual Gameplay:

Jeanne dArc is a hero, she gains exp, level up and even has a ultimate ability. I don’t like that, I don’t know how that is gonna fit in AoE. My reaction is, WTH is happening to AoE.

If you don’t like it, just don’t play it, very simple

Sorry, not that simple. I still have to play against it. A tank hero with skills.

Why am I playing without a hero and you have it?

Aussie Drongo said “I think every French main is gonna be a Jeanne dArc main, why would ever you play vanilla French again”. (not exactly the words, but something like that)

Why is that? Or because it’s OP, or it’s because it’s the same civ, or close as mush as the French, with a hero and the classic French hasn’t. How to balance that? Really, how to balance something that you can actually affect the classic version. How to know how to balance something that is going waay beyond our core gameplay.

It’s clear the Jeanne is not like the Khan of the Mongols or the King from the English. How a AoE has a unit with a ULTIMATE ABILITY? That is gamechanger in moba games. And we are bringing this to AoE.

I love watching tournament, and when you wipe your opponent’s army, it’s insta gg in most cases. Imagine a hero ability that can do something like that.

What happens if she dies? Respawn or an injured hero like the campaign? The injured hero is very unlike, you may lose for the rest of the match if your opponent guards it well. About the respawn like the Khan, well, she starts as a villager so you can tower rush at the very beginning without the risk of losing the villager. Because you can get her back afterwards.

At level 3 she can summon units. Really? She can be raiding your base, she levels up, and now you have an army raiding your base. You can train more at keeps, but the skill one just summons at your side from nowhere? And then at level 4, she can summons even more units.

Jeanne late game:

  • A tank unit
  • Mobility on a horse
  • Powerful Handcannoneer
  • She can heal units
  • She can summon units
  • She has a “power ultimate ability”

We don’t have anything like that in AoE

For you guys that like or even love these changes, one question for you: Do you like play moba games like Dota and League of Legends, or RTS games with hero-unit like Warcraft 3?

Because I don’t like play moba and I like WC3, but I don’t like the heroes, it’s too APM-heavy for me.

AoE was not about hero units. It was about resources and fighting with your army, raiding your opponents eco. But now it looks like it’s gonna be hero-vs-hero.
The variants of the future “civilizations” are gonna be hero-based as well and changing a lot the core of the game.

another example, devs “inspiration for variant civ” according with their blog post

Looking at the landscape of play, we saw opportunities for fun RTS experiences we hadn’t yet explored. To cite just one example, we realized we had gone into elite units, but not an elite army. What would an Age of Empires version of a low-unit-count army of powerful units look like

low-unit-count army, so instead of a army of 20, is a army of 2, 3, 5? Is it like mystical creatures from Age of Mythology. It sounds like it

I LOVE AoM, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t wanna see something like that in AoE

Like a unique unit called Gladiator, 4 pop, 800 HP that has a passive skill that spins every X seconds dealing aoe damage.

I don’t like the way things are going.

I am really concern about it.

I have so many questions, but if I could ask the devs just one: Why you guys took a decision to change the CORE of the game?

I really wish I am wrong I wanna be wrong

I wanna this game to thrive, to be more amazing that already is

but my feeling about reading all we know about variant, i am very very very pessimistic

Again, for those who say:

If you don’t like it, don’t play it

I wanna play AoE4. But I don’t wanna play with or against. One is up to me, the other, no. And It changes way too much the gameplay

I really hope we can discuss with like adults. #peace :dove::v:t2:


I knew they will change variant civ names except Joan D’arc, I knew there is a political agenda behind it… pretty easy to see it


Ultimately it was a weird choice to make a civilization focused on a single person, they themselves even admitted in the blog post that they are stretching history into “what if” scenarios by making the variants (due to the whole time jump thing). I actually think the civ is very well thought out, does a decent job of sticking to her historical roots, and seems like a lot of impressive work has been put into it. I actually think it’s a net positive for the game if it ends up being balanced and they add more civs based off of people.

But, no matter how much you dislike the Jeanne civ, there is absolutely zero way in 2023 that they would or could ever justify removing a female character from a franchise, especially if the complaints arise out of a claim of “historical inaccuracy” or that “they should have chosen an actual commander or leader of armies.” They immediately jumped on the bandwagon for claims that Empire of Jade was “insensitive and exoticizing” as well as the fact Sultan’s army was simply “too vague”. Any mention of a civ just simply having the name of a single person was completely ignored, and that’s only for one of two reasons. 1. They simply put too much work into focusing a faction on a single person so any consideration to alter or change it is immediately thrown out. 2. It’s Jeanne of Arc, gotta have representation. Most likely it’s a solid 80% the former and 20% the latter.

I don’t believe this to be the case, for it would mean that their interests in her are disingenuous. I think it is more likely that someone at the offices was simply dead set on adding hero units somehow, maybe to leave their marks on the IP like every up and coming designer does, and this is the result of that. We know there are other upcoming civilizations with hero units, like Saladin for the Ayyubids.

Unlike Saladin who is relevant to this expansion, I wonder if Joan was picked simply for having already existed in the game through the old campaign. There are in fact other more relevant people in this time period that would work better with the new campaign, but it would require them to make new assets for them.

Why do all of that when there are perfectly available assets already in the game for Joan and her civilization?

So it’s just laziness then? Lol.

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Not to mention how to balance her now,

Yeah, that’s going to be a nightmare. It would be laughable if this game would be not e-sports friendly either since e-sports friendly IS THE ONLY supposed plus the game has right now.




I think the variant civs should be just that, a sub-category you select in your lobby. You select The Chinese, and you get to pick between its variants… Imperial China and Order of Jade for example.

Names need reworking especially Jeanne dArc as it needs to fix in as such a sub-category.

Pick Civ
“The French”
→ Kingdom of France
→ House of Orleans
→ Frankish Crusaders

They could do a lot with this.


Well, if they had set their minds on making 4 additional civilizations, they had to make that work somehow. I doubt they were given either the budget or people to actually make them new.

I don’t mind much of that though. If they wanted to go down in this direction, I would’ve liked them to instead produce civilizations that fit within that. A variant of HRE could’ve been a country that existed within the HRE, which would allow you to reuse assets as well as keep it historical and fit the theme of representing a civilization. Same would be applied to China, French and Abbasid (which they did, with the Ayyubids).

What I do mind however is the stubbornness of wanting to introduce entirely new and foreign design principles that aren’t traditionally associated with AoE type of games. AoE is a very specific type of RTS. Its style is why I buy Age games instead of Starcraft or Warcraft type RTS. And Relic did well in respecting that for AoE4 so far, so it is extremely bitter to see someone having disregarded all of that just for the sake of trying to make "unique “civilizations”.

There is another element of laziness here. You can make civilizations feel unique without breaking massive design principles. Yet they chose to take the easy road instead of the proper one.


Had a good laugh.

I really wonder how this is going to turn out. Devs obviously trying to aim for a wider audience while causing anger for large parts of the current playerbase.

Apart from that it seems nobody seems to discuss/cover the issue of balancing 16+ unique civilisations? There’s a reason AoE2 has many yet very similar civs and WC3 and SC2 have only got a few but very different races. I don’t envy the guys that have to balance this because at some point the complexity will go (or is already going) through the roof.


I distinctively remember a sizable portion of the audience complaining about the introduction of any new civilization, lest it’d harm balance. They seem to now have entirely jumped into accepting the variant civilizations wagon. Funny how quickly things change when gameplay is on the line.

2 new actual civilizations is bad. But, 6 is so much content who cares if it doesn’t fit the game!!!

They saw that in two years, the competition no longer took off and they said that’s it… we’ll do it like WC3 and that’s it…

I think any discussion about balance is massively premature.

I also think that if people don’t like the concept, there’s very little that can be changed to make them like it.

To that end, I’m not sure what can be discussed. This is what, the fourth or fifth thread or so ostensibly about variants but mainly about Jeanne? All of which have been active after the infodrop. We’ve all had these arguments already. Nearly everyone here has been active in all the rest.

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The Ayyubids are the only variant civ being introduced that really interest me. If nothing else, this “variant civ” system could allow them to introduce new civilizations that would only be subtly different from existing ones given the game’s asymmetric approach to civ design. I’m a bit surprised the Crusaders aren’t another variant civ they’re adding given the new DLC’s theme though.

The information given about jeanne was so little did the landmarks changed? did the unique units changed?,is it only gonna add jeanne to normal french? crayz questions in my head

I just can’t stop laughing, level 4 heavy cannon? OMG,


Yes this was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen, definitely in AoE it is.