Age of Empires, a series of real-time strategy games which first debuted in 1997, was one of the pioneers of the RTS genre of computer games. Each edition of Age of Empires focuses on players developing and building up their chosen nation through technological research, city-building, economic production, and military expansion.
While each successive game in the Age of Empires series has made improvements on its predecessors, they have primarily been subtle tweaks and changes. With the next major installment due out in Fall 2021, Age of Empires 4, the franchise could use a more extensive shake-up and modernization, especially with the last main entry in the series being Age of Empires III way back in 2005.
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One of the core elements of the Age of Empires series, and one that fans have been hoping for an update to since its debut, is the population capacity. In Age of Empires the total number of units that a player can have at any one time, including both workers and military units, is determined by the population capacity. The original Age of Empires started with a population capacity of 50 but received an expansion in 1998, The Rise of Rome, increasing the cap to 200, and has remained consistent at a maximum of 200 units throughout each entry. The only official exemption to this design choice was in the Age of Empires II HD Edition DLC The Forgotten which released in 2013 on Steam.
AOE 4 Needs to Increase Population Capacity
An increase in the population size in Age of Empires 4 could create much more dramatic and intense battles and allow for even greater levels of strategy. In addition to improving opportunities for dynamic military strategy and the scale of combat, an increase in the population capacity could create more depth to the economic aspect of AoE 4 as well. The balance of workers to military personnel plays a key role in the development of a player’s chosen nation over the course of a match, and more units to work with means more strategic depth.
There are many other less fundamental changes and tweaks that Age of Empires 4 could employ to reinvigorate the series while keeping true to the formula that has kept gamers hooked for over 20 years. Even though the aesthetics and art style of Age of Empires have been long beloved by fans, graphical improvements in Age of Empires 4 could go a long way to increasing the game’s overall immersion. While the HD and Definitive Edition versions of the three main Age of Empires titles have updated the graphics and mechanics somewhat, the foundations of these games are very dated at this point, and an entirely new set of graphics and gameplay additions that take advantage of modern hardware could make a huge difference. Minor bug fixes and quality of life improvements could also greatly improve the gameplay experience, with common frustrations including problematic A.I. pathfinding and logic.
Age of Empires helped create an entire genre of computer games, and over twenty years later still manages to keep tens of thousands of gamers riveted with its tried-and-true gameplay formula. With Age of Empires 4 set to release in the Fall of 2021, fans of the series will know soon enough exactly how the long-awaited sequel will improve upon the highly regarded real-time strategy series.
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