immediately after starting age of wonders 4, I decided to create a custom race of Molekin for the tutorial area – a herd, mana-channeling people ruled by High Matriarch Enamaru Onimol. I could just as easily create a race of feudal toadkin or poisoned halflings, but as a selective isolationist when it comes to 4X strategy games, the idea of building my empire underground and popping up like a horde of gophers seemed irresistible. Unfortunately, there’s too much pride in being too creative before learning a game’s systems and synergies, and as a result, Holemind’s proud mole-lok paid a dear price.
This is the first Age of Wonders game since 2019 planetfall, and a return to the series’ original high-fantasy theme after nearly a decade. Like its predecessors, age of wonders 4 Features a story-focused single-player campaign, tactical turn-based combat, and a global spellcasting system. This is the first time I’m playing an Age of Wonders game, but playing within the 4X genre is largely learning to apply the same principles: Explore, Expand, Exploit, Destroy. Once things started clicking, I wholeheartedly embraced the 4X school of justifications that lead an otherwise calm and unsociable person to ruin—if not their own, then certainly someone else’s.
The real magic of 4X games lies in watching them happen: the cynical reaction of an opposing civilization, or the revelation of a fatal weakness that no one saw coming. This happens in moments in multiplayer when staged friends turn into mad enemies (and vice versa). It’s hours plunging into a state of enigmatic victory and being stabbed in the back by a bunch of primitive sadists. There’s a wonderful kind of emergent story that emerges in these games, and in theory, age of wonders 4 Pieces of fantasy sagas should provide fertile ground for them to take root.
practically, age of wonders 4 Simple enough – it usually does what you’d expect it to do, sometimes a little too predictably, at least on easy and normal difficulties where I could play several games to complete. But as the first 4X I’ve played with a much more developed RPG narrative, age of wonders 4 Pushed me into new territory.
As in previous Age of Wonder games, there is a good/evil alignment agenda system that affects the nature of random events, public perception, and socioeconomic and combat benefits (cannibal factions are always evil). From the world of Mageven, the Godir, a functionally immortal group of wizards, explore other worlds and recruit new heroes: unique units needed to find cities, launch sieges, and locate wonders on the map Are. Each game takes place in a realm with different environmental conditions or special scenarios (for example, an undead curse, or a constant state of war). The player begins with a small army and a ruler who can be mortal or divine depending on their backstory. Winning allows the ruler to ascend to the player’s Pantheon, where he can be summoned to appear in subsequent plays.
The campaign’s story involves two opposing factions within Godir – the Orderly Covenant and the chaotic Shadrai Alliance – and features familiar faces from previous games, such as the elf princess Sundaran of the dysfunctional House Iniok. The player begins each chapter as either an agent of the Covenant or Shadrai, tasked with finding the evil Godir or investigating anomalous incidents.
While the Covenant and Shadrai are clearly not pushed good vs bad, it’s hard to avoid associating them with that simple duality. For example, in the third story realm, the player must search for magical artifacts for Shadrai. It’s hard to play a well-aligned faction here because the region is in a constant state of war, which better supports an evil agenda if the player follows a straightforward approach of looting, vandalizing, and conquering.
The good/evil agenda can be a useful system in a regular game, but is felt undermined by the story’s persistent moral overtones. Sure, I’d like to believe that a cannibalistic hero named Nekron the Risen could somehow toy with the goals of the “good” Covenant – but in practice, trying to reconcile Nekron’s inherent evilness with a noble cause seems inconsistent. I tried forcing him to be nice to see if anything interesting came up, but like most 4X mistakes, it was a waste of time and resources, as it doesn’t take advantage of any of his racial advantages. For all the immense possibilities that 4X Games have for telling immersive stories, age of wonders 4 Not the best candidate to play with on purpose.
After my failed Frankenmole experiment during the tutorial, I started the first chapter with a predetermined faction — the first Elves led by Xethyl Silverleaf (a dead ringer for Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel) — and the functional synergy actually happened to be a huge one. It was a relief. I built a vast, flourishing kingdom through the first elves’ affinity for nature and animals, and made a good amount of progress in the astral affinity tree; When I finally unlocked the Astral Relay building, a mid-to-late-game gold-boosting structure, maintaining a massive army was easy enough to achieve military victories.
I also worked on several other factions: The dwarven ruler Tugrum Hammerhall was unusually production-oriented, which made it easy to pump out major construction projects like the all-important Wizard Tower – a unique capital city building that unlocks powerful city features. Is. Experiments with Cinren Tolrath—elven ruler of the Ashborn Hedonists—were less successful, mostly because I’d been so enraptured by the money-gaining success of my previous approach that it was hard to integrate Cinren’s might into my new greed. All of the factions I tried—with the exception of the aforementioned Necrons, who I quickly abandoned—felt well-rounded and cohesive, with the ability to thrive under different playstyles and parallelism.
The combat system is mercifully flexible and offers both auto-combat and manual options; Encountering enemy units on the overworld map triggers a turn-based battlefield instance that roughly reflects the terrain on the map hex. I came to love the auto option as a neat time saver for blasting through the inevitable low-risk battles. This cut down on the very tedious conflicts with petty marauders, and helped me focus on the big fights, which can waste a lot of time – there’s a limit of three armies on each side, but it still took a lot of careful maneuvering. spellcasting, and positioning which can be further complicated by obstacles and environmental hazards. In the overworld, the game really wants you to pay attention to troop formations and hex features, which means thoughtfully moving each unit one at a time. It gets really out of date in the third chapter, which involves a lot of mass military mobilization.
There are lots of minor frustrations: When looting new Hero equipment, for example, the “Open Hero Screen” defaults to showing the player’s ruler even when their gear slots are all full. It meant unnecessary steps to access my list of little heroes – a small but meaningful quality-of-life start when you consider the high baseline micromanagement in 4X games. The two units were not hex interchangeable, which sometimes caused huge errors. Finally, characters using two-handed weapons can’t even have a mount, which is silly; If you’re going to borrow too much from the most successful high fantasy adaptation of all time, you have to let go of elves on horseback.
Despite the agony of learning a full blown 4X in a week on deadline, age of wonders 4 Good fun in the form of a solidly entertaining amalgamation of the familiar things I love. It does brilliantly well in its high-fantasy setting with a sprinkling of earnest humor and cheese; Clicking on each unit produces hilarious grunts and approximations of “hey” that are horrifying bits of audio dorkery in an admittedly serious style. Pop-of-life scenarios are also nice diversions during gameplay, such as dealing with the deranged superstitions of your citizens, or whether or not to take away someone’s dinner banquet. I hit a wall after about 30 hours of play, though, mostly due to the ramped-up combat difficulty in the fourth chapter not matching my single-minded efforts to conquer Magic.
age of wonders 4 Not quite as well-oiled a machine as my longtime 4X ball-and-chain – civilization 5 And 6 — but even in the moments where the writing seems to be going in three different directions at once, it has the right mix of charm and heart to make up for its flaws.
Perhaps my focus on the story dampens the excitement of seeing the computer screw me up; Perhaps the alignment agenda, while useful for an ethical fantasy setting, undermines the chaotic spontaneity that usually makes 4X games so delicious. Perhaps it’ll be more unpredictable in a multiplayer setting, since no one’s going to sabotage you like a friend in 4X. The reality of 4X games is that nobody likes to admit that they’re not as much fun if you’re not winning, so half the battle is trying to keep new players engaged while they learn how to play. have to improve. Being prone to an Immortal Gods drama is enough to keep me around, though I’m not sure for how long. If the repetition doesn’t kill you once you start struggling through the higher level locations, the heist probably will.
age of wonders 4 Will release on May 2 on Windows PC. The game was reviewed using a pre-release download code provided by Paradox Interactive. Vox Media is an affiliated partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Play Gamez’s ethics policy here,