The curious case of AoE 4 graphics (lots of screenshots)

I may be alone here, but I’d be very interested in playing a version of this game with large buildings (keep unit size as-is) and tweak building/unit costs and production times to fit the reduced amount of sqft. IE a TC sized Barracks takes up more space, but should compensate in production time vs smaller 2RAX currently.

I’ve tried a few mods where they scale the units down, that makes gameplay difficult to be honest. Keep unit size/scale as is, increase building size and/or height.

You can just increase building height a bit while leaving it’s foundation area untouched. That’s what AoE 2 and 3 have done forever. Buildings are a bit taller than they are wide when compared to real life counterparts.

Maybe not alone, but I’d guess you’d be in a very small minority. Changes like that would make playing this game in the long run very very tedious and moment-to-moment gameplay very cumbersome.
That’s on top of other things, like the need to rebuild a lot of maps. Even now terrain due to obstacles like natural resources makes placing buildings tricky because of their size-footprint. Making it even bigger would limit the placable area even further. Or the subject of obscuring vision and making it harder to find and order units, both eco and military.

Zoom is still underwhelming for my taste. It’s improved versus the beta build, but that’s not saying a lot- in there camera felt almost like a joke or a bug. Or at best out of place, and fitting more in other subgenres of strategy/rpg games. Not AoE.
Building and their size, shape and footprint have serious implications, it’s not meaningless, it’s part of the broader game balance and pillar of game feel, but it’s easy to mess things up in a way that leads to subpar player experience.

Plus a lot of assets in terms of model and texture detail are kinda weak, I wouldn’t want to see them upscaled, no sir.

Yep, to fix the buildings proportions it is not necessary to change their width, a better approach would be to redesign them with less useless space and increase the height. But it’s more than obvious that they don’t care about this… the toy world must be a feature!

1 Like

An upgrade to produce 2x units st the same time fixes the barrack spam that you see in all games and that look horrible, I still don’t understand why you need to build 10000 military buildings, at age lll or IV those should be producing units 2 or 3 units st the same time.

1 Like

Many buildings dont need changes. Others only would need bigger doors. A few only need to be a little taller (little). And for the last the production buildings (stables, barracks, archeries, etc…) that need a redesing because they were reduced by more than half and this couldnt be fixed. But wouldnt be neccesary a complete redesign.

For example see the stable:
Visual enhancement of buildings without compromising playability - Age of Empires IV / IV - Discussion - Age of Empires Forum
The thing is that these changes only would have the game more beautiful and dont affect the gameplay.

And if you want I can share surveys where it is seen that most people would prefer better proportions

Yeap, game is unplayable without Radeon sharpening.


You are speaking for the developers, all I can say is that the game looked s lot better with x019 building proportions, I did not noticed any redability issue… Everyone was ok with that trailer but they changed for a minority.

Things certainly got better, but still I’m way too spoiled by older games. Part of that is of course habits, as we say here- ‘habit is second nature of a human’.

Sometimes it’s causing small problems- for example I’m used to maxing quick and fast drag box selections of my army that is slightly scattered in certain area, or just gathering units after production from multiple building.
In 2DE and 3DE it’s working as intended, but in IV I’m still catching myself doing that too fast and because of camera zoom and view on playable area making that box is causing camera to pan, because I have to move the cursor much closer to the edge of the screen. Nothing game breaking, it affects both players, for me it’s just slight slowdown here and there and these things stack up.
I don’t dwell on this issue anymore because there’s no point- Devs improved things and hinted there are and might be even bigger issues with engine, it’s performance etc.

Also personally I have good eyesight and just love big camera zoom, big FOVs, compact and scaled-down GUI etc. Sadly IV is lacking these things. I’d love to be able to scale down HUD like in other games to 75-80%, at least 90%.
Microsoft cares about accessibility options, but everything is one way only :confused: Bigger fonts. Why not an option for smaller? Bigger cursor, why not smaller? Big icons, why not an option for smaller ones?

Since it’s a screenshot thread- Brits on Arabia, max ingame zoom in three recent installments:


As for the blurry textures topic. Here are shots of AoE 4 vs C&C: TW (15 year old game - show this to someone who isn’t into RTS and ask them which one is newer). The texture sharpness and how crisp everything looks vs AoE is striking. Bear in mind that this forum’s compression murders quality:

Desert/dry terrain:

Water rendering:

God rays? SAGE had flippin’ god rays back in 2007:


Yeah engine is not cutting-edge to put it in a polite words :slight_smile:
There is a case to be made for artistic direction (watercolor paintings etc), and certainly there is a bit of that, but it only justifies a lack of detail and simplicity to a certain extent.

Main reason for how things look is the incentive to make the game looks as easy and clear to read as possible, at the same time keep it looking modern and natural and certainly look apart from classic, old 2D games.
And I’m sure it’s working but overall I wonder if that is a net positive. Only a fraction of players engages in multiplayer outside of dipping their toes. And only a fraction of these people also besides playing watch pro competitions on a regular basis. And I imagine only a fraction of them could possibly complain if IV looked more detailed, crispy and visually busy.

For players that prefer singleplayer modes it must be an objective loss - campaign, despite often neat map design and interesting plot, also often look kinda samey, a bit bland and unimpressive and don’t really come close to being jaw-dropping picturesque and impressive as previous titles were when they came out. There is a visible improvement and advancement between I and II, II and III.
IV? Hmm it’s debatable overall, and technically I don’t think it is.

Tone and style aside, that’s their game from 2011. And visuals, tone and art style is only part of what makes DoW II (and expansions) awesome- sound design is amazing, physics and destruction stellar for its time, voice lines spot on, music kicks ■■■, visuals great and hold up even today. I’m not sure for how long AoE IV will remain impressive, despite its charm.

I hope besides new content, Relic will also work on improving technical side of the game, as much as that engine allows it.

1 Like

It’s multiple versions ahead of the same engine you’re praising in DoW II.

The main difference is DoW II ran terribly. Literally terribly. It’s possibly my favourite Relic game to date, but the only title by Relic that had worse performance was I think CoH 2 on release. And that was made either side of THQ collapsing, Relic losing half their staff, and subsequently being bought out by SEGA.

That terrain deformation? Ran on the CPU. It turned The Last Stand matches into single-frame slideshows at times, nevermind actual MP games.

It’s funny. I know @EricGonzalezM knows what the engine is capable of, because he’s made threads and posts about it. But comparing it to Tiberium Wars does nothing but remind me of how poorly that game’s art style has aged (just look at the water insecting with the ground mesh). And I played a fair amount of that back in the day myself (was one of my uni’s CompSci club’s go-to LAN games).

All of us have our preferences at the end of the day. I have nothing against people preferring a sharper-edged, more “realistic” style. But it has little (if anything) to do with the underlying tech that Age IV has gone for a softer presentation overall.

1 Like

Technically I’m sure its the case, but in practice engine number difference doesn’t translate to a difference and advancement in gameplay.
I can’t remember when I got DoW II, got my CE edition rather early on, and never had any issues with performance. Never had an ultra high-end PCs. But I’ve played mostly single player, skirmishes, Last Stand and only a bit of PvP MP. But MP and netcode and game optimization in PvP environment is not really what I’m focusing here.

Game was very impressive back in the day, and still very much is. Of course, a lot of that are things I’ve mentioned that are not really related to technical capabilities of the engine, but it doesn’t change the end result, which is something very much different from the initial excitement.
Here, instead of talking about how great combat feels or units are animated, people were and to some extent still are talking about lacking features, underwhelming visual quality of many assets, weird scaling of units, weapons, missing arrows, bodies popping out of existence instead of sinking int other ground or decomposing like in iirc even OG Age of Kings, dated destruction, dated wated, dated and stiff animations and thing like that.

Relic did a phenomenal job with DoW II, Chaos Rising and Retribution.
First issue that comes to my mind (besides lacking map selection in The Last Stand, only two maps I think?) are microDLCs with skins and such, but that’s more on the SEGA side I imagine.

People were divided and a lot of players prefer the classic DoW 1 approach, but I love both of them, even more DoW III because of how different and fresh the approach was back in the time, compared to DoW 1 when it came out.

11yo and even when looking at unit models from a much closer distance than usually in game they still look good

A bit more care paid to how destruction works, how debris looks, how much gore there is would substantially elevate combat in AoEIV, I hope they’ll get there and catch up with their own legacy.
Age of Empires II got HD edition 14 years after release. Age of Empires III got DE 15 years after release. Let’s hope IV will be improved to the point where it can last half this long without looking ridiculous :slight_smile:

1 Like

Yes, it feels weird… it’s like a mobile RTS that tries to emulate the most modern RTS of pc…

Of course, if they try to sell it as the successor of aoe 2 they will do badly…

Yes, I also play Tiberium Wars (I have both games in high graphics) and I don’t even tell you Red Alert 3, which urinates in AoE 4…


Yes, we know that CoH 3 would be the top of the Essence engine… and one more thing DoW 2 came out in 2009, not in 2011…

Yes, at least until 2025 xd…

Actually dow2 is the relic game that runs better a lot better than COH2, 0 issues and I was able to play it with my older computer that run coh2 at 20 fps lol.

This is one of the threads where I praise the potential of Essence, but let’s not confuse potential with what we are actually getting in AoE 4. Until devs change the sun position, let us tweak the default camera angle, fix the strangely difficult-to-view water reflections and add some form of sharpening, the game remains visually plain, dated and uninspired.

Water not elegantly transitioning to ground you say? Hmm… I wonder what game is this in my thread opener above:

In fact, TW has the upper hand because it has waves, apart from the small undulations both games have. A screenshot doesn’t make it justice.

There are just so many little details in TW and all later incarnations of the SAGE engine: When you place a building over trees, the trees fall down instead of popping out of existence. Large units topple trees. Heat distortion and fire effects are still top notch, units visually change as they absorb damage (could you imagine a trebuchet looking more damaged as it loses health?), buildings have different animations when they’re producing or idle. You can even rotate buildings as you please and just as AoE 4, units spawn from the front, so rotating is a strategic need. The only part that dates it is the shadow resolution. It shouldn’t be that difficult to justify better graphics on a 2022 game vs a 2007 one, but here we are.

1 Like

In fact CnC always had excellent details from the first game and this very well in the CNC Remastered, for example the units when they are in standby mode, do push-ups or when they are fighting they throw themselves to the ground to improve their aim in addition to heavy vehicles running over the units and of course occupying the buildings from RA2…

1 Like

I suspect some of these issue has to deal with the fact that AOE4 is the first major title Relic has made that deals with random map/seed generation.

It’s highly probable that most of these terrain issues (see MegaRandom) are due to the way generated maps are “created”. The campaign delivers amazing looking landscapes. roads, etc. (handcrafted)

The game looked great in my first closed alpha/beta waves. The fidelity is there, looks like you also played in closed testing, you should know what I’m talking about.

Relic should add a new “Next-Gen” setting to address graphical complaints. The issue this thread is discussing mainly ties in to unit/building scale and behavior. -That said, I do agree many of the Essence engine capabilities are weirdly “nerfed”.

I understand the desire to have a consistent art style no matter the power of the PC, fully support that. That said, making things look nice on models, terrain, builds, etc. is possible without killing/changing art.

Comparing an RTS like AOE/SC2/COH to Total War is Apples/Oranges. The various things an engine has to communicate on the fly are vastly different.

In a Total War game, units aren’t individually controlled. 200+ man squads of Men at Arms etc. are essentially a “unit” with a wide variety of idle, movement, retreat, combat animations. The game isn’t computing moral, animation, stats on a “per unit” basis.

CoH is the real benchmark game to use here. That said, CoH doesn’t have to compute micro/macro economic mechanics to the degree of AOE.