Age of Empires 4 is in development by Relic Entertainment, creators of the Company of Heroes series and other beloved strategy games. It’s the first new entry in the series in well over ten years—AoE 3 was released all the way back in 2005—but we won’t have long to wait.
Age of Empires 4 release date: Fall 2021
During the fan preview event, Microsoft and Relic finally gave us a release window: it’s expected out this fall, but you’ll get a chance to play it sooner. A closed beta will kick off before launch, letting you start your conquest a bit early.
Check out the fan preview
Accompanying the fan preview, we got a preview of our own, which included a few minutes of the game in motion and more details.
“Three big things fans will want to know about right away: the plan is to launch with eight civilizations (largely from Europe and Asia, but not exclusively), there will be four campaigns tracing the histories of some of those civilizations, and naval combat is in. I would’ve liked to see a lot more of AOE4, but the short glimpses I got were still enough to pick up on how many changes can fall under the umbrella of modern.”
Age of Empires 4 will have 8 civilizations, but there’s room to expand
Eight civs is a decent start, but Relic plans to keep expanding them. It’s not clear if they’ll be appearing in free updates or premium expansions, though.
“[Eight civilizations] is where we’re starting,” Relic told us. “The detail we’re putting into the civilizations and the focus on making them more unique—you can imagine there’s a reason StarCraft had three factions the entire time, because doing asymmetrical balance gets massively complicated. For us, starting with eight is a big endeavor, and then we’re going to keep expanding.”
Age of Empires 4 will contain 4 historical campaigns
Previously, Age of Empires has focused on historical figures, like Joan of Arc, or given us more of a story-driven campaign, as in AoE3. This time, however, we’ll be getting four campaigns that give us a longer view of a civilization’s history. In the Norman campaign, for instance, you start as William the Conqueror, but eventually you’ll witness the conflict between his kids, and then their kids, and so on.
“You get the whole story of the Norman conquest, from the time this ambitious duke made his way across the channel and said ‘this is mine,’ all the way to the point where you’re signing the Magna Carta and laying the foundations of what England is today,” said narrative lead Philippe Boulle. “We bridge the gap between missions with these wonderful historical films. We worked with documentarians to go to all kinds of locations like Hastings and Dover, where these events happened. And that’s just one of the four campaigns we’re shipping with.”
Watch the Age of Empires 4 gameplay reveal
As announced back in August by Xbox Games Marketing GM Aaron Greenberg, the first gameplay reveal of Age of Empires 4 was shown during X019. The reveal was a bit lighter than anticipated (the whole trailer is only a minute long), but it’s still something.
Age of Empires 4’s campaign will show ‘humanized histories’
In an interview with GamesRadar, creative director Adam Isgreen hinted how Relic is evolving the RTS campaign in Age of Empires 4. “We’re doing something very different with the campaign… I can’t talk about it, but it’s really crazy-cool,” he said. “I can say that we will be bringing history in a fun and exciting way to people – the way we coined it for Age of Empires 4 is ‘humanised histories’.”
Age of Empires 4 will ‘modernize’ the series without overcomplicating
Talking to GamesRadar, creative director Adam Isgreen shared Age of Empires 4’s goal to not overcomplicate the new game in an attempt to modernize it. “Generally speaking, the longer a genre exists, the games that are responsible for taking it forward tend to make it more complicated. With Age of Empires 4, it was important for us to be like, ‘okay, how do we back away from that?’. We do not want to take on all of the complexity that we see in RTS games today,” he said. “This is a fresh start for us. We want to modernize the series and that means we are going to do things differently.”
How far along is Age of Empires 4’s development?
Microsoft has been pretty tight-lipped about Age of Empires 4, including at E3 2019 when we tried to needle Phil Spencer (Microsoft’s EVP of gaming) for more info.
He did say that the game is “making good progress” and that Microsoft has been impressed by the capability of the team at Relic developing AoE4. Apparently Microsoft and Relic are both learning a lot about the AoE community’s hopes for AoE4 thanks to the concurrent development of the Definitive Edition for Age of Empires 2, which is being developed by a brand new studio dedicated to Age of Empires.
Age of Empires 4 has the same composer as The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 composer Mikolai Stroinski announced on his Facebook page in January 2019 that he’ll be composing the soundtrack to Age of Empires 4. Perhaps this is a sign the game is making progress, and that we’ll hear more about it soon.
Age of Empires 4 trailer: here’s the reveal from 2017
This trailer is all we’ve seen of Age of Empires 4—it leaves the style of game totally open to interpretation, though we anticipate some mix between Relic’s in-depth style of strategy with the resource-balancing and long tech trees of AoE.
Age of Empires 4 is being made by Relic, creator of Company of Heroes
Relic added a few words on its own website about Age of Empires 4 back when it was announced. “[We] couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the legacy,” the blog post reads. “We can’t wait to tap into our strengths as a studio to fuse historical context with deep strategic gameplay, and to bring this franchise back to the forefront of gaming and into the hands of its beloved community.”
Age of Empires 4 will be Relic’s first game produced for a publisher other than Sega, its owner, since it was purchased by auction in the selling off of THQ’s assets in 2013. Speculating, it’s likely that Microsoft paid Sega for the right to work with Relic, as it probably did for Creative Assembly, the Sega-owned studio that developed Halo Wars 2.
In 2009 Microsoft disbanded Ensemble Studios, the original creators of Age of Empires, eight years after acquiring it in 2001.
Age of Empires 4 won’t have microtransactions
Speaking to PCGamesN at XO19, creative director Adam Isgreen said that microtransactions aren’t in the game’s future. “The idea of microtransactions in a real-time strategy game isn’t a thing,” he said. “DLC, expansions – all of that is things that we’re going to be exploring for Age 4.”
When is Age of Empires 4 set?
Judging by the animated concept art in the trailer, Age of Empires 4 won’t take the series to a singular new era. Instead, a variety of armies from previous games in the series are featured in the footage: Native Americans, British Redcoats, Roman legionnaires, Japanese samurai, and others. It’s unclear whether these are the units or factions we’ll control in Age of Empires 4. Hopefully they won’t take the form of individually purchasable armies, as Relic did with Sega’s Company of Heroes 2.
Finally, hat tip to Bill Gates, who presumably got this whole Age of Empires 4 thing rolling after answering this question in a Reddit AMA in March 2016: