Age of Empires 4 trailer breakdown: fortresses, priests, and the eternal war between red and blue

It sounds like Age of Empires 4 has been in development at Relic for quite a while, and I'm keen to see how the Company of Heroes and Dawn of War studio adapts a beloved classic for the modern age. We have finally seen a little bit of Age of Empires 4, and it looks lovely. Only a brief video was shown at this week's X019 event, but there's plenty to speculate on, so let's do just that.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

I don't remember glowing magic birds being part of Age of Empires, but maybe my memory is rusty. This might just be a cool visual device for the trailer, but to me it looks like a scouting device that peels back the fog of war—as represented by contoured hills and tree outlines.

Look! There's a classic Age of Empires guard tower. At the top we can see a wooden wall, which is attached to the larger stone-walled castle beyond. The unaesthetic angle of the wall, jutting awkwardly from the castle to the river, suggests to me that the walls are player-placed constructs, which bodes well for base-building fans.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Voila. This looks awesome. Note from the stripe on the bottom of the walls and buildings that this is the blue team. The blue team is destined to war with the red team for all ages, because that is how history works in Age of Empires. This is as it should be.

This could just be a big prefab city, but the awkwardly close placement of the castle to the cathedral to the bottom right again suggests that a player has plonked these structures down. If you can organically create fortresses like this by placing buildings, that's awesome. Building up your base is a deeply satisfying part of Age of Empires. Hopefully we'll spend less time watching villagers hack trees in this one though.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Yellow: This is the horse building, where the horses are made.

Blue: Age of Empires 4 priest confirmed!?!

Green: Our first look at some villagers, who seem to be going about their business in an automated fashion.

Red: Age of Empires 4's turrets look like judgmental owls.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

It's war! The blue team, with their pikes and halberds, look like typical medieval western forces, while the red team look more like Saracen warriors. The units are large but coherent, which implies a Total War style unit selection system rather than ye olde Age of Empires chaotic box select everything and right-click system. 

It's interesting to see little leaders running up and down inspiring their troops. I wonder what effect they will have on your armies in the final game. Will they be independently controllable? Will they come with units?

In the distance we can see a small red team base. I wonder what limitations will be placed on building structures in the middle of the map. Nice to see a siege tower lumbering along with the rest of the army.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The fighting breaks down at the front lines, which looks nice and chaotic. The blue team is defending with the help of some barricades, and hilariously a building at the bottom right straight up explodes, Command & Conquer style.

And that's it. Fade to black, flash the logo, and leave us all with lots of questions. It's hard to glean much from the trailer without being able to see any UI, but it looks hugely promising. The colourful art style seems absolutely spot on to me. I can't wait to see more of it when the game's ready to be shown.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.