Understanding the Frustration with AoE4's "Variant Civilizations" Naming – A Dive into History, Psychology, and Some Suggestions. Discussion

Hello there AOE IV community!

first of all…

  • I am not “Malding”

  • I am grateful and so excited about the new AOEIV expansion! already pre-ordered the expansion.

  • Really happy with the new civs, the new variants, the Xbox release, 10 new maps, and all.

  • not that happy with the naming of the variants though…

I would like to discuss this with you… why are some people (including me) not very happy with the new variant names and some suggestions…

Historical inconsistency
AoE has always prided itself on historical depth. Naming a variant after “Jeanne D’arc” feels like an oversimplification. Civilizations encompass vast histories, not just one individual, no matter how significant.


From a player’s perspective, using terms or concepts like ‘Jeanne D’Arc’ as civilizations feels inconsistent with the broader understanding of what constitutes a civilization. This can increase cognitive load as players try to reconcile this representation with their pre-existing knowledge. The deviation from expected definitions can detract from the overall player experience, leading to potential confusion or reduced immersion. Please devs consider aligning the game’s terminology more closely with commonly accepted definitions to enhance player comprehension and satisfaction.

Need for Cognitive Consistency:
We love the “Variant Civilizations”, but the naming clashes with our expectations. It’s like eagerly biting into what you thought was a chocolate chip cookie, only to find out it’s raisin. The core idea is good, but the experience isn’t what we anticipated.

Humans inherently strive for cognitive consistency. This is rooted in our desire to have a harmonious and consistent set of cognitions. When there are inconsistencies or mismatches in the information presented, like using individuals or orders as representations for civilizations, it challenges this harmony.

This drive for consistency might cause players to feel a sense of unease or discomfort when encountering these deviations. The game’s terminology, by not aligning with typical definitions, could create this inconsistency, potentially impacting player engagement and immersion.

Expectation Mismatch

Player expectations are shaped by their previous knowledge and experiences. When these expectations are broken, it can lead to feelings of confusion or frustration.

Aligning game concepts more closely with established knowledge can foster a smoother and more intuitive gameplay experience.

Did I come here just to complain? No, I have a few suggestions:

My suggestions:

1. Reclassification to “Factions”:

The term “civilization” in the AoE series has always represented broad, culturally rich empires. By introducing unique entities such as “Jeanne D’arc” and “Order of the Dragon” under this umbrella, there’s an inherent inconsistency. Instead of “variant civilizations,” why not classify them as “factions”? Factions would be subgroups or entities that played significant roles within or alongside the larger civilizations, which aligns more accurately with what’s being presented.

2. Aligning the Naming with the New Classification:

With the introduction of “factions,” the naming can be adjusted to better mirror this distinction. Suggestions include:

  • "House of Jeanne D’arc": This emphasizes the influence and legacy of Jeanne D’arc without reducing an entire civilization to one individual. I know this individual is very important to how this faction will work, this is a battle we are not going to win guys… so let’s keep te Jeanne D’arc but let’s improve it by adding “house of” so we are referring to Jeanne and to all the people that fought with her… so is it not an individual anymore but a faction instead.

  • "Order of the Dragon": As an order, this already fits well within the “faction” categorization.

  • Ayyubids Sultanate”: A sultanate can be perceived as a governing faction within a broader civilization context (Abbasid)

  • "House of Zhu Xi": This presents Zhu Xi’s teachings and legacy as an influential faction, rather than a civilization unto itself.

  1. Maintaining Historical Richness:
    By making this distinction, we maintain the historical depth and richness that Age of Empires has always prided itself on. Civilizations stand as broad entities, while factions can dive into the more nuanced parts of history, exploring influential orders, houses, or legacies.

4. Resolving Dissonance:
With these changes, players no longer confront the mismatch between expectation and reality. By searching for a “civilization,” one won’t stumble upon an individual or order. Instead, these entities have their own category, preserving the immersion and consistency that AoE4 aims for.

To conclude, while the concept behind these “Variant Civilizations” is innovative and intriguing, perhaps a simple reclassification and renaming can address many of the concerns raised by the community. I’m eager to hear your thoughts and hope our feedback continues to shape the game we all love so much.

Thank you for taking the time to read all these.

I love this game, I did not come here to complain but to make some suggestions to the community and to the devs.

your friend

-Sherman King


It is definitely better to stick to historical civilizations. I don’t like the idea of variants. It will spill chaos into the game.

Ok so if they are insisting on Variants, first they should not include them in seasons.
Second if they are insisting on keeping them at least call them names that have links to the original civs.
Instead of using Jeanne D’arc who is a historical figure we all love, call it Orleans or Loire which are both areas of France.

I am more than OK with the Ayyubids Sultanate … it is technically a new Civ. Because it is a completely different dynasty than the Abbasid Caliphate. They have their own historical flag and there are historical facts that backup the existence of this sultanate.

As for the order of the dragon, they are technically Hungarians … So why not call them that.

I am not sure how a franchise that prides itself on historical accurate civilizations decides all of a sudden to include variations of civilizations ! And introduce heros. That was unnecessary.

I already paid for the expansion pack. If the devs have some time to salvage this … they still got that option.


Sounds reasonable to me. Might be a bit of effort to replace all the uses of civilizations, however.

I don’t really know much about Zhu Xi or Neo-confucianism, but I don’t think that calling it a house would accurately represent what they’re trying to portray. It seems to me that they are trying to refer to a philosophy.


I have also envisioned creating a secondary directory for civilizations with variant civilizations, and the final image fits my expectations very well. I would also like the flag of a variant civilization to have a flag of civilization on one corner, similar to the Commonwealth


That’s a brilliant idea! just like the Australian Flag using the Union jack on one corner, this way, we know that “Jeanne d’arc” is a faction of the French, and not a completely different standing civ.

My guess is that people feel betrayed because these variant civilizations are called ‘civilizations’ but actually do not meet most people’s definition of civilization.

Maybe it would be better to call them something like ‘bloc’ instead of ‘variant civilization’. That is, they are not defined as civilization, so they have different definitions and styles.

In the Monster Hunter franchise, players typically choose a type of weapons they want to use in a game. The gameplay of different types of weapons is very different and has its own characteristics, so the weapon can be understood as an equivalent to the civilizations of the AoE franchise.

In addition to playing as weapons-wielding hunters, in some games players can also choose to play as Palicoes, intelligent cat-like creatures. This is different from the definition and gameplay of hunters, and it is a different way to experience the game. Maybe this can be equivalent to the blocs of the AoE franchise.


excellent representation here, and I agree with pretty much everything you say here.

I myself is OK with the new variant civ, as they are introducing new mechanics and trying to keep the game fresh and innovative.

But it’s as you say, the lack of cognetive consistency that causes most of the frustrations, not really the variants themselves.

Factions is a perfect rebranding of “variant civ” which just dosn’t have a good ring to it.

Many of the current civ’s are quite broad in their aspects and overshadows other potential civilizations of the region, but not only that, you also have, Minor Faction that played a massive pivotial role in shaping the great empires around the world.

Good example is being the Nizari Ismaili’s, who are heavily linked to the Order of the Assassins,
While they never tried to achieve -empire- status, they were definitely causing the fall and rise of empires who got involved with them. They founded their own state so people of the Ismaili movement that was otherwise prosecuted in their time would have a safe haven to settle.
And they used subterfuge as their means for survival and carving their place among the empires, causing the fall of the Seljuk, Managed to keep Salahidin at bay, as well as the Crusaders, and triggered their own doom when they sparked wrath of the Mongol empire after the death of one of their great khans.
As their own reputation became their own downfall as the Mongol where highly sceptical of thier nature and thus dismissed any diplomatic attempts beforehand.

This is one such “Variant Civ” that could fit perfectly in the game, and a oppertunity the feature of Variant civs brings to us.
And calling it a Faction is perfectly befitting.

This also solves a Issue of lack of Persians being represented in the timeline of AOE4, as the Persians really didn’t have many long lasting empires or states during 10th to 16th century. timeline. Due to being stuck being under either the Arab Abbasid empire or Turk Seljuq Empire or Mongol Empire.

Nice conquer logo :sweat_smile:


There sure are many ways to tackle the issue and this is a good one. Hope this gets considered!

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I agree with most of the points. Yet I think most of the negative feedback about variant civs is purely an interface issue. As we all imagine it as “Jeanne d’Arc” in the middle of civilisations lists.

And since devs already calling it a “variant” and not a civilization, it must be selected as a subgroup of a “parent” civ. And at this point naming is already not that much of an issue: user has already chosen French civ, and when he picks variant, even something as ugly as “French (Jane d’Arc)” would not be all that terrifying .

Now keep in mind we, at least as far as I know, don’t know how it is implemented ingame yet. Maybe they actually made it the right way.


This should be shared multiple times. 100% Agree!

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How “variant” civs are presented can help to keep some ppl happy and its pretty easy thing to do which should’ve been done begin with if they wanted to avoid unnecessary loudness for no reason.

But yeah t his entire post is good

You ppl are woefully confused… each variant IS INDEED the exact same civilization as the parent, period.

This idea swirling around that the variant civs are not indeed civilization means you don’t understand definitions of words???

The word VARIANT explicitly means of the same larger substance/thing. You can’t call anything a VARIANT and it be its own completely separate thing???

So each time you ppl say " variant civs are not civs; not real." You are unequivocally WRONNGGGG. PLEASE PICK UP YOUR NEAREST dictionary. That is an invalid UNTRUTHFUL misunderstanding…

Having said all that…

I too wish there was a way for French and China variants to be coined a name that highlights the heroic themes of interests respectively and simultaneously pay homage to a faction/society/army. I strongly dislike the personage naming scheme emphasis in an AGE OF EMPIRES game. I understand the purpose; that’s why i hope there yet another way to deliver the concepts.


This ain’t supposed to be AGE OF HEROES? This genre is of EMPIRES (thats the singular theme and focus…)

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The AoE series doesn’t even have that many functional EMPIRES to begin with, so I think the devs can get away with adding smaller factions. So, no… It’s not the singular theme and focus. It’s just a name of a game franchise.

And I do agree with OP’s idea of designating variants as factions within main civilizations. The anger is really a word issue.


The name variant civilization made us think Kingdom of Jerusalem or Burgundians not Jeanne d’Arc. So it gave us different expectations from what the devs were actually making


doesn’t even have that many functional EMPIRES to begin with

Now let’s insist on removing every civ but HRE, they are the only one with “empire” in the name!

This is what everyone in community was asking about with this variants and this is great explanation. Inconsistency! Individual as a civ? No

a lot of civs in the game were empires.
Chinese (an empire with multiple dynasties)
Abassid Dynasty (a caliphate that ruled over sultanates and emirates)
Byantines (The Eastern Roman Empire)
Ottomans (The Ottoman Empire)
Mongols (The Mongol Empire)
Japanese (The Japanese Empire)
Malians (The Malian Empire)
French, English, Rus, Delhi Sultanate, aren’t empires but they are kingdoms a sultanate and a group of people that included many smaller polities.


To reference your post to the other guy, @flly , that suggest what you just mentioned hasn’t been the underlining theme across each and every AGE game???

Whether or not each faction ever included were of similar grandeur can be debated, but to telescope onto HEROES within a larger Empire?? That’s some new new shit? No??

This is jeanne of arc an iconic hero of france. This rendition of the FRENCH empire will be retold from an emphasis on said hero throughout her journey. The focus is clear NOT on the Empire she hails from?? It’s mostly if not all about HER.

Let me say one more thing (lulz asap if):

I understand the devs are trying to shake things up and stay relevant in a precarious and niche genre. And big brother Microsoft has dropped Age of Empires studios before… and relic just recently shit the bed on their last blockbuster release and suffered a reduction in workforce. So all that to say Relic HAS to go big or everyone will one day stay home…

But these ideas are so left field from the mold? If it works and the community loves it? GREAT!! BUT what’s the contingency for it not working?? You already have all this angst amongst the community MERELY over the NAMING… what are you gonna do if the gameplay is shit??? How are you gonna recover from that?

Idk…I’m getting AOE3 DE vibes (oh this is a World’s Edge Game?)

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You don’t say, Sherlock!