We all know them, these games that captivate you round after round in front of the screen and don’t let go. Until it’s sometime one o’clock in the night or later. But that’s what makes it so appealing, and developer Triumph’s Age of Wonders is no exception. Soon you can get lost in a new part when Age of Wonders 4 is released in May 2023.
After less than ten years, part three will be continued, if we leave out the sci-fi offshoot Age of Wonders: Planetfall from 2019 for a moment. With Age of Wonders 4 it’s back to the fantasy realm and this time you can conquer it even more individually than ever before.
Customization is a big thing in Age of Wonders 4
One thing Triumph saw as important with the new part is taking the customization options to the next level. On the one hand, this refers to the variety in the game itself, for example with regard to the mission design or the procedurally generated worlds. Although the latter does not necessarily have to be the case. There is a selection of pre-made worlds that you can choose from. Don’t feel like it? Create your own realm using modifiers, preferred factions, number of players and so on.
The process of choosing your leader is similar. A pre-made selection of different races are available, each with their own specialties and starting Tome of Magic. This determines which skills and spells you start with. It doesn’t matter whether it’s goblins, dwarves or orcs, you can expect what you are used to from fantasy here.
Again, if you don’t like any of the pre-made options, get creative yourself! Play a little creator and create your own race with its own ruler. From body types and clothing to basic skills, you can determine a lot here. Different factors affect different aspects of the gameplay, both in terms of the general management of your empire and the battles themselves. You can make detailed changes here, align things, and really dig into it to create something that’s perfectly attuned to you.
Basically two extremes. Creating everything yourself in detail can feel a bit overwhelming, especially at the beginning of your first playthrough. But, as is usual with these games, Age of Wonders 4 isn’t made for just one playthrough. Try a different approach later, a different map, a different race. And if all this is too much effort for you, no problem, there are the ready-made options for that. So everyone finds their way into the game more or less quickly.
The working core is preserved
Aside from this greater flexibility, Age of Wonders 4 builds on the strengths and foundations that have been established in the series over the years. This means that the game is basically confirmed again from two halves. Once the part where you manage your empire on the world map. Little by little you uncover the map, find useful things, roaming enemies and discover other realms that turn out to be friend or foe. In your cities you build new buildings, recruit additional armies and heroes. Little by little your empire grows until you are finally victorious or perish.
Age of Wonders 4’s victory conditions are nothing new to those familiar with turn-based strategy games. The military victory, in which you simply destroy everyone else, is just as much a part of it as dominating the world map. There is also the possibility of a magical victory.
Your initially created or chosen leader is basically the key to everything. They rule your capital, conclude trade contracts, alliances and other agreements. And, of course, jump into the fights. If there is a conflict, you have a classic round of battle with different types of units. Your heroine or hero is of course much stronger, they fall back on their individual skills and can sometimes tip the scales in a battle.
This is especially true when the odds are balanced before an argument. In that case, it may be better to intervene yourself. Of course, Age of Wonders 4 doesn’t stop you from doing supposedly easy fights. Ultimately, it always depends on you whether you really fight every fight or let the light battles take place automatically.
Things that make the difference
As mentioned, the initial decisions alone provide a lot of flexibility. And in the further course of the rounds in Age of Wonders 4 it goes on like this. One reason for this is the mentioned Tomes of Magic. There are 54 pieces in total and in several stages, they give you access to buffs and spells. These in turn have to be researched and in between new tomes are added.
Which one you choose is up to you, but in the end many combinations are of course possible. Things that might surprise your enemies because they don’t expect them, because they have strong synergy effects and so on. In short, it’s fun to develop your own faction over time in Age of Wonders 4 and explore all the new possibilities that come your way. This is what real depth looks like, where you think carefully about what to choose next.
Depending on what you do in the games, the race you initially create can end up looking very different. The appearance changes, new skills, strengths and weaknesses are added. At the same time, it may change the way you fight, what additional spells you look for. As I said: flexibility! It runs through Age of Wonders 4 from start to finish and should ensure that no two games are the same.
And these are just some of the aspects that I mention here. Listing them all would probably go beyond the scope. But it speaks for Age of Wonders 4 and the depth it wants to offer you. There is so much you need to consider that could change. But that’s what makes it fun and exciting at the same time. What could be better than a game that always changes a little bit and plays differently depending on what you choose and what you might feel like doing?
Age of Wonders 4 definitely has the potential to keep you busy for a long time thanks to its vast flexibility and many options. The preview version that I was able to look at was already running very well. Although of course I only put a fraction of the time into it that you can later put into the game. All the better that it is already a great pleasure to move around the maps round by round, to discover the world, to expand and to develop. You turn strategists out there, make sure to bookmark this game!
Developer: Triumph Studios – Publishers: Paradox Interactive – Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S – release: 05/02/2023 – Genre: Strategy, round strategy