WinterGaming's thorough review of AoE4 (a competitive player's perspective)

He goes into depth about many details from a competitive/esports point of view, and I have to say I fully agree with all his points. Game is lacking in many departments here, and is a step backwards compared to certain predecessors in the genre. From around minute 30 he talks in length about the UI and lists the lack of an UI selection panel listing selected units/buildings individually as the no1 minus. This is my no1 complaint about the game as well. But other issues are very important too.

Worth a watch if you want a different kind of review than the usual media outlets.

I wish more competitive and high level players would be vocal about such important feedback. Who knows, maybe this way the game will be brought up to par, beyond casual play, sooner rather than later.


Nice detailed review from someone that knows RTS games very well and talks about both the good and bad points in a fair way. Wish the devs would watch and maybe have a doubt or two.


Simple question : what is the proportion of very competitive players in any given game? Is it over 1% ?

The top 1 % seems not to be satisfied with the game.

What if the bottom 85 % are?

This guy seems to know his stuff and he looks honest. I liked his review. But to who was he speaking? The top 1% ? The top 5 % ? Probably not even the top 10 %.

I’m not there. I liked his post, but he was definitely not speaking to me. I will judge the game by myself.

This being said, I hope that this game will have a better competitive future than what he expects. All depends on how the devs support the game and listen to the players. We’ll see that soon enough I guess.


I would say the proportion of competitive players that need these features (and by that I dont only reffer to pros - the “very” competitive like you say, but people who like to play on the ladder vs other players, people who like to compete in MP, who like to watch streams and tournaments facilitated by such features) in a properly made RTS for MP is at least 1/3rd for sure. On the long run this is what keeps an RTS alive, and by alive I mean with a healthy strong player base which then attracts further investments into the game/franchise. People who keep playing it en masse continously years after launch.

Basically the holy grail of any RTS today, like Quinn Duffy the AoE4 director himself put it, is to figure out how to eventually move single/casual players, that play the game a bit and then move to other games, to the multiplayer scene and have them continue competing there. This is why AoE2 flourished for so long, this is why SC2 flourished for so long.

Yes, in the beginning there’s people trying amazing campaigns and scenarios, but then most of them move on to other games. Look at Homeworld, phenomenal RTS when it comes to single player campaign - probably the best in RTS history, but not so much when it comes to its competitive side, very limited functionality for PvP. And it is dead now, apart from the ocassional players coming back to relive that amazing experience every once in a while, there is nothing happening. And it never made lots of money, it’s one of those games like Thief or System Shock, which altough amazingly good, did not sell many copies (hopefully the finally announced HW3 is going to focus on the competitive side as well)

You cant say things like, for example, I dont care if there’s no pause in MP because that doesnt affect me / I dont care if there no proper spectator features because that doesnt affect me. etc. Just like someone wouldnt say to you “I don’t care if this game is too complicated for casuals because Im not a casual”. This attitude leads us nowhere. Both sides are very important parts of the community.


There are many examples that show that the support for a game lives and dies with it’s viewerships - and therefore with it’s competitive scene.
If you want a publisher to continue to work on the game and to release additional content, you better have a lot of viewers on youtube, Twitch or e-Sport events, that bring money via commercials/sponsorships.

So, even if the competitive scene is only 1%, it is the most important group even for a big portion of the casuals. It doesn’t matter for those who are satisfied with the release version of a game - that’s true.


The UI thing is not exclusive to competitive gameplay. It’s very frustrating even when playing for fun.
Someone once said it is more easily to remember. No. That is even less memorizable than the complex shapes in previous games. In those games you at least associate some shapes and colors with their effects/tiers over time, but with these overly simplified icons with only dots indicating the tier, the only thing you can remember is “the number of dots” and that is something you have to check every time, and the dots are extremely small.

I think the best approach is AOM and AOE3 unit upgrade icons where you have similar basic shape for the same type of upgrade, but significantly different in color and patterns. Unfortunately in both games unit icons do not change with upgrades. It would be better to have similar design for every series of icons.


Someone needs to personally put this in front of the creative directors and developers. The UI discussion from 31:50 onwards is so spot on which the vast majority of the community was arguing for in the beta’s. It is awful in every sense, from competitive to casual.


Every person can find useful features and tricks from “competitive players”. And you dont need to utilize these tricks and features for 100%, u can be affected by a few: minimap/hotkeys/voice chat… it’s depends on you.

For active playerbase of aoe2 it’s 15-25% who affected. Starting from 1100+ MMR u will be 100% affected. (what percentage of total playerbase - who knows). But why u even care about people who play only complaints in RTS game?

Is it many? - yes. Why? because some publishers cared even for small amount of blindcolor people. etc.

And if they dont care, they could just remove ranked ladder… why do u need ranked ladder and dont care about “some competitive players”, keep only compains.

And one should be delusional to not understand that popularity in E-sport bring more popularity for the product.

PS anyway, good review. One can remove some parts which one dont care about.


He’s speaking for anyone that comes from other RTS games and plays at somehow not ultra casual levels, meaning having a keyboard involved in your controls.

Only cause there are newcommers in RTS or ppl start at another point than ladder players from other RTSs, doesn’t mean they don’t suffer from similar issues such as control and UI problems.
I’d argue even more so, since especially those without at least 100-200 apm are going to struggle compensating the bad hotkeys, building menus, zoom level/camera movement and action panel on the bottom.

Alot of crtizism, why stuff that has been figured out in RTS history before and done right in the definitive editions with quality of life and controls, getting actively ignored in this title even after critizism here in the forums.
Rightly critizised and glad someone brings it up between all this sugarcoated reviews of “next big banger rts”.

The gameloop is great but the game itself lacks content and has alot to work to do when it comes to polishing stuff.


Exactly. Unless you are absolutely just A-moving or right clicking into everything, every single player regardless of skill level should want to see the individual units they have selected in a command group, with individual icons so they can see which units are getting injured and which units they need to pull back from the fight.

This isn’t about skill level or competitive v casual, its about basic functionality. Even people who just play the campaign need to know about individual units in a command bar (for example hero units) without having to manually search for them on the battlefield. The individual units on screen aren’t distinct enough and have low readability as already pointed out.


also need this differentiation in eco & blacksmith techs… the icon reuse is so strange especially since it makes the tech names useless… i think the community will be talking about “ranged weapons 2” instead of whatever the actual techs are called because of the lack of icon character.

The game seems to be very macro based. They don’t really want you to be controlling and micromanaging every single soldier you have.

I think their goal was to make a casual RTS which people will enjoy. They didn’t want to make it an APM fest and got rid of mechanics that only people with high APM can use (quick Walling for instance).

While the game has many flaws, most notably in the UI, I think this aspect of the game is great. They even have a separate lobby where you can play Co-op MP against the AI.

I’m sorry, competitive players, but if you don’t like the fact that your high APM isn’t being respected by the game, then there are games for you out there where you can have fun.

I personally like playing a little against the AI on Sundays with my friends. And I have been doing this for 15 years. I like non-competitive AoE.


I’m a pretty casual AoE 2 DE player, I don’t play ranked, but even I immediately hated many of the things that he raised as problems in AoE 4. The issues are so numerous that I’d need to be a paid employee to spend the amount of time it would take to write them all down in detail for the devs to ignore (I’ve been there with Forza Horizon 4 and am never wasting my time in that manner again). As it is, for some of the most glaring issues, I posted on threads others had created, to support what they were saying, but even if they fixed all those things, there’s a mountain of lesser issues I’d want to see addressed before I’d see any point switching to it from AoE 2 (and there’s no way I’d want to play it alongside AoE 2 when it’s so different).


I can add here my point of view as I am from the Rocket League Esports scene since 2016, and yes, while is important a good grassroots community on a competitive game with community tournaments to help and motivate to grow future elite players, when devs support a game it makes the difference in all aspects. In that case, they are an excellent example of how to do things right, now is a tier 2 and waiting to be a tier 1 esports game in the next year.

AOE4 is just on the begging and the expectations are huge, who knows what will happen and how compromised will be publisher, dev team, and other variables like game popularity in the first years.

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All due respect, this argument doesn’t make sense.

Adding the basic mechanics and functionality talked about in the video will not effect anyone’s ability to play casually. People don’t have to use control groups or edits hot keys or anything like that.

Not having them will absolutely hinder other peoples ability to enjoy the game who want to play more competitively.

Also, a casual player presumably isn’t playing to get better, so things like ‘APM fests’ don’t really apply anyway. Those players aren’t going to care nor try to max out APM to match whatever the pros are doing. Quick walling wasn’t a feature in AoE2, it was just a cool little trick pro’s found that everyone tried to copy because they thought it was necessary (it’s not).

Finally, I would argue that features like the UI making it hard to distinguish between upgrades actually makes it more difficult for casual players, rather than using easy to recognise symbols. Competitive players will just remember hot keys, casuals will have to sit and read the upgrades every time because they’re not obvious.

If their aim was to make a ‘casual, easy RTS game’, that’s fine - they shouldn’t have used the Age of Empires brand. Having a lower skill ceiling and less features and functionality than the other standard bearers in the RTS genre will ultimately lead to people moving on after the campaign and a few online games.

Let’s not forget - the only reason this game even exists is because of the major success of AOE2 and the DE editions of the 3 mainstream games - primarily kept afloat by the ‘APM fest’ pros. If they had all moved on 20 years ago, we wouldn’t be getting a new game right now.


as much as i hate the constant complaining here, but i have to say that the top 1% are the ones who keep competitive games alive.


I’m a casual player of AoE 2 DE, and I have very extensively modified my hotkeys, and I use control groups all the time. I have been teaching a friend how to play, and when I got him to set some of my custom hotkeys, where I have F1-F4 to select and centre control groups 1 to 4, he immediately said “oh that will be SO useful”. You don’t NEED to do that sort of thing, but it makes playing the game a lot more enjoyable if you can control things how you want to.


That was my point, responding to the previous post (not yours).

Of course all of those options make things better and easier, even for casuals.

He was arguing that those things addressed in the video don’t matter (or only matter to high level players) and the game is targeted to a more casual audience.

I 100% agree with you and feel that all of the features in the video need to be addressed to make the game more enjoyable for the whole community.


They may have reduced the APM requirement for battles (or gimped it by bad controls…), but certainly added APM requirement in other areas: The limited zoom for example forces you to jump around the map a lot more. Constantly moving the viewport even to view a single battle. Same goes for the now even more important production macro gameplay. Combined with missing hotkeys for closest production buildings and no global queue, you ahve to jump back to your homebase a lot more.

It’s not such a clear design decision as you want to believe. And pros will master those APM actions just as they mastered the unit micro APM requirements in AOE2.

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Just like someone put it here, having features such features/improvements will not hurt ultra casual players in any way. You will still be able to play your game the same. I don’t see any excuse from the devs not to have these improvements.