This interview could suggest some graphic updates for AOE4 in the near future

This is a good interview and there’s a part relating to the graphic style and why they’ve choosed it. I think they have recognized the critics about it.

" Something I think is really special aesthetically about Age of Empires is that a lot of RTS games have sort of darker palettes that they use, whereas Age of Empires is much brighter and more inviting. I want to talk a little bit about why you think that unique look is so important to the series, and what it’s like nailing down the look of a new expansion or installment?

Adam Isgreen: You know, it’s funny, we were having a conversation with my whole creative team just the other day on this exact topic as we were discussing things for the future, in terms of the optimism that the Age of Empires has always projected. Because it’s true, there’s something, especially the older games, you listen to the music, the pacing of it, there’s a certain cadence to Age that’s not being like, “Hurry up, do this now!” A lot of games, you know, they’ve got pounding soundtracks, and you’re driven to do something and you’re supposed to rush, and especially as genres go longer, the games tend to get faster, right? Everyone wants the gameplay, like “Yeah, I understand this. Give me the new thing. Let me go faster.” And Age was like, “Oh, no, no, no, we have a pace.”

We want people to enjoy the game and be able to explore and have fun, but not feel so hurried. So, you know, when you talk about that, in terms of the style, I think the idea of a bright inviting world is something that’s been mentioned multiple times with Age of Empires. When we were approaching IV, we’re like, “We want to maintain this.” Like I was saying earlier, you know, cinema so portrays a lot of medieval history as drab and colorless, just browns and grays. When we were doing our research, this is why we did specifically a Hands on History about color and pigments. It didn’t look like that, we had color!

There was color everywhere, and there was vibrancy, and some of it was rare. Some of the colors were rare, right? That’s fascinating, that whole thing on purple, purple was this insanely coveted color because you could only get it from this certain snail in this certain area. And so it became like, “We own purple.” I love that, and so as we were looking for the style, one of the things we really wanted to do is have some kind of through line.

I’m a big fan of having consistency throughout the games, and that’s why we came up with that. When we’re talking about, you know, the Hands on Histories and the briefings and the documentary kind of approach. We’re like, well, how are we going to bridge history and real? How can we do this in a way that people will get the connections? That was one of the things where the art director Zach Schläppi at Relic had the idea of this golden ink concept and this idea of the illuminated manuscripts and the writing in gold that they used to do when they’re copying important documents and books and things. And that kind of became that through line that we took through the game.

We’re like, “Okay, we know, we want things bright, but we also want to have this kind of through line.” So you see in the briefings the golden soldiers overlaid over the real world, or in the game where the little people are building up the buildings, because you’re representing the idea of tens to hundreds of years, right? A castle doesn’t spring up in a minute. That was kind of our through line that kind of connects the game and the history and kind of grounds it in a way that you can connect past to the present Because that was the thing that was really important to us was, can we find something to bring people through if they play the whole experience? Where they can be like, “You know what, history is right behind me, it’s not something way in the distance that I have no connection to, it’s literally right here.”

And that was part of why we went with what we went with. I think the other challenge is always in a realtime strategy game, you’re talking about a camera that’s pretty high up right off of the battlefield, and there’s a lot of considerations to the scale of weapons, scale of people, scale of buildings to make everything readable without having to constantly play the zoom in zoom out game, which Ages never been about. We wanted to avoid anything like that. It was a lot of talking, looking at references from the earlier games, talking to people that worked on the earlier games, talking with the community, because there was such an amount of time between Ages III and Ages IV.

There were a lot of expectations of what the game could look like, but the other thing was that we had to recognize that because Ages is a global franchise, people were playing this game all over the world. So we had to make the game run on as much as we could, because we didn’t want to leave anybody behind - there’s still people that are playing on pretty low spec machines, and it was important to us to find some kind of style that could fit that. I think that we did okay, I would say, as we launched the game, and we are still refining. There are some really awesome changes coming up in the pipeline for some of the visuals that I’m very excited about that I can’t talk about just yet, but know that we are definitely always trying to improve our visuals and we’ll continue to do so throughout the life of the product.

So, we could finally see a graphic DLC with detailed textures, new fauna, etc?


Good catch. They might release a free high-resolution texture pack. Since the earlier passage is about computers with low specs, this sounds more likely.

If you wish for bigger changes to the visuals, that’s also not unprecedented. E.g. The Civilization 6 expansion Gathering Storm came with a small overhaul of the whole game’s graphics, improving lighting & colors, adding more models, and replacing some lower-quality ones, and that was over 2 years after release.


So, hope to see something new.

A visual upgrade would be very welcome (and much needed).


I find the entire palette of AoE4 quite a bit more drab than I am accustomed to in the franchise. It feels like the game is constantly being played under overcast skies. I hope that this is as dreary as the franchise ever gets and we return to warm sunny maps.

The drab, two-tone icons really impede my enjoyment of the game. I really do not understand that choice.


I totally agree. I really Hope developers listened the critics.

of course this stuff is coming. its a matter of what its going to be.

the only reason there wouldnt be gfx updates coming, is if the game was dropped

neon pink and greens not bright enough? if anything the player colours are too bright, and the rest too saturated (and this is a common complaint)

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The most of criticism were related to "weapon sizes, model textures, water and effects. So i can imagine something in this sense.

And i think a Graphic DLC would be a “respectful sign” to everyone Who were disappointment with the graphic of the game but really love the franchise.

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I mean these


At least they finally give their motives to their choices in-game, that was I wanted to read. Why didn’t they chose to give darker colors to heavy units-type and light color to soft counter units? It would be part of the charm. Details matter.

i agree on the icons, they suck hard, for me the UI really feels like a beta, and ive played a fair number of betas

still enjoying the game though, even if i wish things would change

not sure this is intuitive.? just as an example, the dark aesthetics on the sofa, from the horses, to the outfits and shields (i particularly like this) . not sure if these light and dark would mess that up as well?

all these units are dark? are they all hard counters? :wink: if anything i think they need to reduce the amount of player colour on the pre-DLC units, so they can have more character, it doesnt have to be dark/light, just more unit colouring


The HUD requires revamp and needs more options, the modern minimalistic approach is antithesis to the “historical feel”.


another issue HUD vise is not just atmosphere but also function, i mean, market not showing prices, or no garrison shown etc. basic errors that shouldn’t be there to begin with

On a similar note to yours, I don’t like how the blacksmith upgrades have the same symbol regardless of the age. In AOE 2, all the streamers say “I’m getting fletching” or “I’m getting bodkin arrow.” In AOE 4, they say “I’m getting the plus 1 one range attack then in Castle Age I will get the plus 2 range attack.” Not knowing what tech you are researching takes some life out of the game.

This is obviously fletching on left and bodkin arrow on right

Is this Fitted Leatherwork (Feudal), Insulated Helm (Castle) or Master Smiths (Imperial)?
I had to google it to even know those terms.


Agree, that’s one of the things I really don’t like, It just is dreary and overcast, look at AoE 2 and 3 nice, sunny and warm looking.


they should also resize some landmarks (eg delhi sultanate) fix textures (ottoman factory landmark) add details/remodel (eg delhi sultanate landmarks).

It’s true, the color palette in the final release feels gloomy and depressing, as you say, if it would always be cloudy, in X019 the colors were perfect, I remember that a lot was said that there was going to be an option to customize the saturation and I never come.

Personally these colors were perfect for this artistic style.


The thing is the AoE2 blacksmith icons are not great. They don’t convey what the upgrades do or which is which very well at all.

I get people not liking minimalism or preferring the more colorful ones for aesthetic reasons or whatever. However, the AoE4 blacksmith icons actually clearly convey what the upgrades do and which level you’re currently on.

Unless you already know what you’re looking at, the AoE2 blacksmith icons do neither.

This is obviously the first upgrade (feudal) since it has one of the three pips lit up. It’s also obviously armor against melee attacks which you can tell straight from the icon without even reading the tool tip.

All the functionally relevant information is clearly conveyed right on the icon. AoE2 does not manage to do that.

You could still do this and have colorful icons, the ones in AoE2 are not a good example though.


In terms of immersion, AOE 2 icons feels real. The icon represents switching to the bodkin arrow head design for better damage. AOE 4 is just like click here for a generic Feudal Age range damage upgrade. I like how AOE 4 is good for competitive play, but there is a lack of immersion and historical experience for the casual player.


I hate the pips with the fire of a thousand stars.

I like cannot even imagine how these icons ever got out of the conference room and into the game. Has nobody in that room played these games before?

With every new icon in AoEO, we players take such immense pride in that art and design. AoE4 uses pips.