Age of Empires 4 coming from Company of Heroes devs

After returning to Age of Empires II for an ‘HD’ re-release and several years of new expansions, reviving the long-dormant real-time strategy series, Microsoft have finally announced a brand new instalment. Age of Empires IV [official site] is in the works at Relic Entertainment, the folks best known for the Company of Heroes, Homeworld, and Dawn of War games. What a treat! And what a surprise.

Microsoft also revealed a release date for Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, the revamp of the first game. AND they confirmed that Definitive Editions of 2 and 3 will follow. Strat-o-rama!

Age of Empires IV is coming, and that’s about all we know beyond being able to pick out empires and eras from this announcement trailer:

What’s most surprising about AoE 4 is that Relic are making it. For over a decade, they’ve worked on games published by their owners – THQ, and now Sega. I didn’t know it was even a possibility for them to make games for others. I certainly am keen to see what they’re doing. We don’t yet know what they’re doing or when we’ll get to play, though.

“Stay tuned for more details, we cannot wait to tell you more,” the AoE team say.

Far before then, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition will launch on October 19th. Unlike the ‘HD’ version of AoE 2 that’s been receiving expansions over the past few years, AoE’s Def Ed brings all-new graphics as well as underlying improvements and bunging in expansions. For those who worry about things changing too much, today’s AoEfest did include a list of things that will stay the same.

Presumably the Definitive Editions of 2 and 3 will follow similar paths. And you’d hope that those new AoE 2 expansions — The Forgotten, The African Kingdoms, and Rise of the Rajas — will be included? Details on all this are thin for now, announced only this evening while surrounded by a crowd of men wearing capes. Gamescom.

If you’re an AoEhead, you might want to watch the replay of tonight’s stream for more fan fun and a look back over the series’ history. And do read our look at the mod team who revived Empires.

66 Comments

  1. DarkFenix says:

    Oh dear, of all the worst dev studios to resurrect an old beloved classic, they’ve picked the cream of the crop.

    Cue Age of Empires 4, a hybrid MOBA, action RPG, FPS, CCG, and rhythm game. With a few RTS elements thrown in on the side of course.

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      Graham Smith says:

      Relic are amazing and make the best real-time strategy games around these days.

      • lich0 says:

        Relic, the people behind the DoW III fiasco? That game is a complete failure and even CoH2 became a DLC\microtransaction infested mess. It’s safe to say that at this point they aren’t capable of producing anything with quality.

        Funnily enough the last good RTS came from ex-Relic guys – Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak.

        • Xocrates says:

          DoW III only real sin is not being as good as the previous 2.

          Like it or not, DoW III is easily one of the better RTSs in recent years. Sure, it made a few dubious decisions and took several risks that didn’t pay off, but there really is nothing fundamentally wrong with it.

          • DarkFenix says:

            DoW3 is one of the only RTS games in recent years and I think you’re being very lenient on it for that. Systems like cover, suppression, morale, and other features that gave the gameplay a bit of depth were either gutted to almost nothing or removed altogether.

            The game had an absurd grind element added to it, I’d love to know who thought that was a good idea.

            Map design is the worst it’s ever been, mostly looking like something a former intern from LoL thought would be great.

            DoW3 suffers from a lot more than not living up to its predecessors, it’s a genuinely bad game. I hated DoW2 but I can at least admit it’s a good game on its own merits, DoW3 isn’t even that. And apparently its commercial performance reflects that as well as the player reviews, after all why else would they be giving everyone 50% off coupons less than four months after release?

          • Seth_Keta says:

            DoW III’s sins are far greater than just not being as good as DoW II. The biggest sin is making it feel like a MOBA instead of an RTS. There is no RTS. You just create a swarm then rely on heroes. That’s a MOBA.

            There are also better RTS games that have been released in recent years. Someone already mentioned one in the other comments.

          • Xocrates says:

            @DarkFenix: I genuinely don’t know how to reply to you. From my reading none of you arguments point to a “bad” game, as they stem from “I don’t like this feature” or “one of both of the previous ones did this one thing a bit better” which we had already established.

            You say that DoW III isn’t good even in it’s own merits, what do you mean? Aside from failing to get an audience, where do the game’s design or mechanics actually get in the way of each other or the game’s overall goal?

            @Seth_Keta: I’m sorry, I simply do not buy the MOBA argument. It’s unimaginative bullshit that does not mean anything. The game takes some ideas from MOBA’s sure, but Dawn of War always had heroes, and they were often quite powerful. That type of play has an history of around 20 years on RTS by now, and it’s not because it was expanded a bit that the game became a different genre.

          • Flopper says:

            A man builds bridges all his life, sucks one dick, suddenly he’s a cock sucker and not a bridge builder.

            DOW 3 was the only less than amazing game they’ve made. Has everyone forgotten the Company of Heroes series and DOW 1 and 2? All amazing games.

          • fuggles says:

            @flopper – the outfit was not a stellar title either!

          • DarkFenix says:

            Seems more like you didn’t read my arguments, period. The gameplay has the depth of a teaspoon, map design is awful, and there is a needless grind (which helped destroy any semblence of a multiplayer community). Which of these things is merely a matter of preference within the series?

            The game also attempts to Frankenstein in elements of multiple other genres, which ends up compromising quality in any given one of them.

          • Xocrates says:

            @DarkFenix:

            “Game has no depth” – Why?

            “Maps are awful” – Why?

            You’re stating subjective opinions as if they’re facts. Even if you’re right, with nothing to back it up it’s hard to take it seriously.

            And regarding the “grind” – it’s a progression system like in many many other multiplayer games. Sure, I don’t like it either, but its mere existence doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. So, again, elaborate.

          • ChiefOfBeef says:

            The game has ‘no depth'(I’d say very little rather than none) because of top-down design. Rule-based systems work from the bottom-up, with players having a large amount of control over outcomes, but top-down design makes things predetermined. A key example of this in ‘Dawn of War’ 3 is the Escalation system; every set period of time, player income increases.

            It could be considered the opposite to how upkeep in Warcraft 3 worked, with the more food you use by fielding units making income more taxed and the gold lost forever.

            But Escalation is about the pace of the game being determined by the developer rather than the players. Less considerations for balance have to be made. Top-down design is lazy and usually not much fun for players.

            The maps are terrible because they are ‘arena-like’, an indication of the MOBA overlap. They are also for the purpose of a lazy attitude to balance, to reduce depth and because this iteration of Relic has little enthusiasm for the 40K setting no care is taken to make these look like believable battlefields.

      • DarkFenix says:

        Is it even possible to say that with a straight face after DoW3 and CoH2? If you said this 10 years ago I’d have wholeheartedly agreed, but now? Not a chance.

      • -Spooky- says:

        Relic? The guys behind CoH2 and still no cam zoom out in 2017?

    • DavishBliff says:

      your avin a laff m8

    • Solidstate89 says:

      What the hell are you blabbering about? With Ensemble having closed its doors years ago, Relic is the premiere RTS game dev outfit.

      • DarkFenix says:

        To be the premiere RTS game developer, one would need to develop top notch RTS games. Relic haven’t made one of those since CoH1, 11 years ago.

        • UncleLou says:

          In your humble opinion, of course.

          • DarkFenix says:

            Well okay, many would argue DoW2 is also a great game. CoH2 and DoW3 though? Those are both generally regarded as being shit.

          • UncleLou says:

            CoH 2 is not “generally regarded as shit”. It has, for example, 76% positive reviews on Steam (out of more tan 20k), with the vast majority of negative reviews saying “400 hours played, thumbs down because of DLC”.

            Again, your humble opinion (which is fine), but it couldn’t be further from the consensus you’re trying to sell it as for some reason.

    • rocketman71 says:

      They’re certainly not going to do worse than the shitty P2W thing that Robot released.

    • Asurmen says:

      Because Relic are totally known for doing that.

      Oh, wait,they’ve pretty much only ever produced RTS games. Silly me.

    • Frank says:

      In contrast, I would say Relic is too good to be working with a publisher like Microsoft.

    • KFee says:

      wtf are you talking about, Relic is awesome.

    • wanderingchaos says:

      Literally the most disappointing thing to hear. Relic hasn’t just messed up in games. They’ve outright shown that they no longer understand WHAT made their games popular in the first place.

  2. Zorgulon says:

    I wonder what historical period it will be set in. Strict chronology (and the fact they’re remastering all the previous games) would suggest that it will be Napoleonic through to the Victorian era perhaps? Perhaps featuring the Scramble for Africa, and the Spanish-American war?

  3. BooleanBob says:

    This is something of a make or break opportunity for Relic, I think. If Company of Heroes 2 got a lukewarm response, Dawn of War III’s was decidedly chilly. But here they are, making the first instalment in over a decade of an enormously popular series.

    Combined with the fact that the genre is kind of starved of competition at the moment, this could be an immensely profitable venture. But put out a turkey and consign the big-budget RTS to another few years in the wilderness and they might never recover from the reputational damage.

    Personally I hope they knock it out of the park.

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      The Almighty Moo says:

      You and me both, but I’m concerned about Windows store exclusivity. MS may well be hoping for AoE to be their killer app and I worry about Relics date when it isn’t.

  4. trooperwally says:

    Well naturally I’m excited because it’s AoE and AoE1 and Aoe2 were basically my childhood and teenage years. But I’m also cautious because AoE3 was decent enough but seemed to lose a fair bit of what made AoE2 so awesome whilst adding in a load of cruft.

    At the moment the sceptical side of me is winning the battle in my head. What AoE4 needs to be really awesome is great design. And as with all great design it’s as much about making tough calls about what you can do without more than it’s about cramming in snazzy features. If they make a streamlined, historical RTS which looks beautiful, has a great soundtrack and memorable sound effects (you know the conversion sound from AoE1…) then that’s all it needs. If they add RPG elements or something then it’s heading in the wrong direction.

  5. sterlins says:

    Please don’t relegate this game to windows 10 exclusive. I know valve takes a cut if they sell it on steam, and maybe they don’t want to support their competition, but no ones gonna buy this game if they don’t release it on steam. Windows 10 store needs some severe changes if they are gonna continue to exclusively sell on it.

    • bills6693 says:

      My exact thoughts. It could be the best RTS in a decade (we’ll see…) but if it’s a Windows Store exclusive, it’s doomed to poor sales. I hate exclusivity, it is so bad for competition. Release on Steam, Windows Store, GOG etc. Allow consumers some choice! If you want to sell through your store, make your store better!

    • darkath says:

      I doubt Sega (owners of Relic entertainment), who have been quite business savvy recently, would allow such a terrible business decision

      • sterlins says:

        Is sega involved in this? I thought microsoft would be the publishers for this since AoE is their IP. I guess it could be a joint effort, but if it’s just microsoft I’d imagine they’re gonna stick to their past policies of releasing their games on windows 10.

        • Xocrates says:

          Sega owns relic, so the game would straight up not exist without Sega’s approval.

          Granted, it’s entirely possible that Microsoft is funding the whole thing and Sega doesn’t particularly care what they do.

          • Relkin109 says:

            Sega does own the IP but Microsoft has paid to publish these games. It’s been confirmed by several other gaming sites that the remaster of 2 and 3 as well as the new 4 will be windows 10 only on their windows store. Disgruntled sighs abounds.

          • shde2e says:

            It’s exclusive?

            Well, I hope someone will make another good RTS like AoE and such then, because this one isn’t going to amount to much.

  6. Pizzzahut says:

    Disappointment in 3, 2, 1…

  7. kud13 says:

    So many conflicting thoughts about this…

    1) Relic. Relic make squad-based RTSs. I dunno how I’d feel about an AoE that’s squad-based from the get-go (mind you, I loved the formations gameplay of Cossacks, which is the AoE3 we should’ve had, so who knows?)

    2) moving AoE 2 and AoE3 to DE. This isn’t a big deal for AoE3, but AoE2 has a strong community that’s already fractured between steam-based HD and community-supported original AoC and the Voobly multiplayer platform atand community patches). There’s been a lot of fan-run developments to reconcile the 2 platforms, and we’re now at a point where you can even use your new HD expansion civilizations on voobly with all the benefits of community-patched AI and pathfinding as well as better netcode.

    The chances of such cooperation being allowed for WinStore exclusive DE versions? Slim to none.

    3) This is Microsoft’s big push to rekindle their “Windows gaming” (to quote Phil Spencer). Sceptics are saying that if these DE versions flop on WinStore, they’ll nevitably come to steam. I’m not so sure, and I don’t want the AoE series to become collateral damage in the latest round of “platform wars”

    4) this situation is confusing, but i’m adopting a cautiously pessimistic outlook.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      It’s not because Relic usually makes squad-based RTS games when working on their own franchises that they’ll necessarily make AoE, a well-established franchise, with squads.

      It’d be like expecting Alien: Isolation to have RTS elements and a crappy strategic map because Creative Assembly did it.

  8. Thule says:

    Tentatively excited about this, however I’m somewhat worried about this as well considering it’s Microsoft and Relic. Microsoft can screw this up by making it exclusive on Winstore or something and Relic hasn’t made a good game since DoW II.

  9. racccoon says:

    I just hope there’s a change somewhere.

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    FhnuZoag says:

    I think Relic *are* the premier RTS devs these days… but mostly by process of elimination. Nobody else seems to want to do them any more (Total War doesn’t count). They’ve been pretty inconsistent lately, but still I’m hopeful.

    • foszae says:

      Considering how savagely they’ve desecrated the CoH and DoW franchises, there’s no way that Relic counts as a ‘premier’ developer anymore. It’s just a brand name that has lost all connexion to its glory days. It’s nothing but an abattoir where RTS goes to die

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        FhnuZoag says:

        A bit mean. Ardennes Offensive was pretty good.

      • Sargonite says:

        I think you completely missed FhnuZoag’s point. It’s not that Relic necessarily makes great RTS games, it’s that they’re basically one of the only studios left who will touch the genre with a 10-foot pole. Who else is making RTS games? The only other studio I can think of is Petroglyph, so in terms of the latest games from active RTS developers it’s Dawn of War III versus 8-Bit Armies.

        Blackbird has been posting job ads for people with experience developing first-person and VR games; Uber is making some dinosaur VR game; Blizzard will keep milking the Starcraft II cow but there’s no reason to think they’re making any more RTS games; and most of the other studios that make RTS games have shuttered.

        That said, I hold out some hope that Empires Apart might be good, but as far as I know it’s a mostly unproven team. There’s Northgard, maybe? I’m honestly not sure if that’s an RTS or a city-builder with combat, but if it counts then maybe that’s a light in the darkness, since I’ve been hearing good things.

  11. fish99 says:

    Not setting my expectations high here, since A) I didn’t like CoH, and B) I don’t think AoE translated well to 3D. AoE2 was (and still is) such a good and fun RTS though (that I spent hundreds of hours playing) and we don’t really have anything that has filled that niche since, so here’s hoping for the best.

    The inevitability of this being locked to the Windows 10 Store and UWP pretty much guarantees low sales and a small playerbase though.

  12. Gomer_Pyle says:

    My jaw literally dropped when I read that headline. At first I thought it was some mean joke by Alice, but then I saw the trailer. I am so freaking excited right now!

  13. fuggles says:

    I feel old! Relic have certainly made traditional non squad RTS at the time (probably) of some if you hark back to impossible creatures – and who wouldn’t want to hark back to impossible creatures?

    It’s an odd move by relic, the first time not on their own ip (wh40k aside). I have to assume this relates to dow3s poor reception, whether rightly or wrongly deserved. Certainly they made some less optimal decisions – they only had to make an awesome single player game with some good single player campaign expansions. Heck, even a survival mode would have been easy.

    I assume this is a last chance saloon for relic, so good luck. I would rather it was age of mythology, so won’t be buying it , but hopefully paves the way for Dow4.

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    The Almighty Moo says:

    I have every faith in Relic, but am concerned about them becoming casualties in the platform war more than I am about AoE doing so. If it sells poorly Relic will get blamed regardless of how good the game is and then we will have lost a studio still producing good high production values RTS games. Even if their most recent output hasn’t been as well recieved, it’s still no reason to condemn them, and maybe the whole genre temporarily, to the fire.

  15. VisibleMachine says:

    Is Russel Brand in it?

  16. zulnam says:

    1) all these games will be Windows 10 exclusive. Microsoft has managed to bring exclusivity on the PC market, trying their hardest to make old OSes obsolete.
    2) all are windows store exclusives.
    3) AoE 2 DE. Remake of a remake.

    I have no trust in microsoft. Over the last year they have shown some very ugly colors and this is the nail that hurts the most. To see a beloved series, one that meant so much to PC gaming, become an OS exclusive.

    Fuck you, Microsoft. I’d rather game on linux than install windows 10.

  17. Premium User Badge

    SuddenSight says:

    I’m surprised at all the comments saying there hasn’t been a true RTS competitor in over a decade and that Relic are the only developers in town.

    Literally yesterday there was a “have you played” for Deserts of Kharak!

    Recent years have also seen Grey Goo, Halo Wars 2, Planetary Annihilation, and Cossacks 3.

    And off the beaten path there has been Northgard, Offworld Trading Company, and Tooth and Tail (coming soon).

    I guess my point is there has been quite a few RTSs in the last 3 years. But the games that sold (Planetary Annihilation) were only okay and the games that reviewed well (Homeworld: DoK) didn’t sell?

    I am interested in a new AoE game, but I feel a little skeptical that it can find a large audience. It seems like the game will have to win over AoE 2 fans, which is a tough proposition (see starcraft 2).

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      SuddenSight says:

      And ashes of the singularity! I knew I was missing one. Ashes of the Singularity came out in 2016.

    • Ur-Quan says:

      I think the point is that most of these were single RTS games by new studios while Relic has been consitently putting out RTS games over the years

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        SuddenSight says:

        The developers for Cossacks 3 are literally the same as for Cossacks 1 and 2. The dev team for Homeworld: DoK and Planetary Annihilation included team members from the original Homeworld and Total Annihilation, respectively.

        The Age of Empires series was a huge hit, as was Dawn of War and CoH. So I can understand how the name recognition is a bit bigger here.

        My point is the idea of there being “no competition” or “no new RTS games” is a bit of an exaggeration.

        The “drought” in new RTSs is over, and the new games have not been smashing successes. I don’t think RTS games as a genre are dead. I really like Offworld Trading Company, and most of the other games have sold well enough to get expansions. But I doubt RTS games in the AoE style will be AAA box office hits like the AoE games of old. Though if any game was going to reverse that narrative, this would probably be it.

    • Archonsod says:

      Not to mention Eugen’s Wargame series and the recently released Steel Division.

    • Shmooboo says:

      Well technically the best RTS games on the market are Paradox games. Grand Strategy yes, but also Real Time, so they count.

      I think all strategy games have to be developed with Paradox’s recent run since Crusader Kings II in mind. They don’t just make games for hardcores anymore. Their design philosophy has gone mainstream and everyone else needs to step up now.

    • fish99 says:

      Not seeing stellar review scores for any of those.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      And all of those recently released RTS games bombed pretty hard. Grey Goo was highly underwhelming, stuck in the early 2000’s as far as mechanical design goes but with some flashy cutscenes and a really boring Hollywood story. Halo Wars 2 is still stuck with the depth of a puddle because it’s a console game first and foremost. Planetary Annihilation has had tons of issues (be it game design, AI, graphics, performance), lacked many features people expected until the standalone expansion Titans, and even today still doesn’t even have a singleplayer campaign (no, their galactic war crap doesn’t count). Cossacks 3 I haven’t played so I can’t tell, but the Cossacks series was always a particular niche. Ashes of the Singularity manages one thing and one thing alone: to make you want to reinstall Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance and grab Forged Alliance Forever (which you should do right now), because that game did everything Ashes tries to much much much better. Deserts of Kharak had a really nice feel but the gameplay felt cramped by the combination of large units and small maps with lots of blockers, and really the entire way through you just wanted to go back in space again.

  18. Ur-Quan says:

    To be honest I’ve kinda lost all faith in Relic after Dow 3.

    One of the blandest RTS games I’ve played in years.

    My guess is that most of the talented devs left the studio for greener pastures after THQ wnt bankrupt.

  19. TotallyUseless says:

    If it’s from Microsoft surely there won’t be any Steam releases. *sigh*

    No thanks, AoE3 still is fine, and SC and SC2 are still filling my need for RTS.

  20. Vanderdecken says:

    Wait, Charles Dance?

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