Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Age of Wonders 4 Preview

Age of Wonders 4 is coming out next Tuesday, and I pre-ordered it, because the game looks absolutely fantastic, and I enjoyed Age of Wonders: Planetfall very much. And due to some streamers being already allowed to show gameplay, I already know quite a bit of detail on the game.

The biggest selling point of AoW4 is the extraordinary number of choices you have when setting up the game. You have numerous options to create all sorts of fantasy worlds, with many different challenges. Then you can create your own faction, out of many different races, but with additional modification choices. And you can create your ruler with different skills and tomes giving access to different schools of magic. If you always wanted to play a necromancer ruling over a tribe of frogs in a world full of lava lakes, AoW4 has you covered.

Other new features of AoW4 are more subtle: For example, every city has two separate construction queues, for buildings and units. No longer are you stuck in the typical early game dilemma of many other 4X games, where you need to decide whether to build a granary or a scout. Considering that combat is a far more essential part of the game in AoW4, that is a good design choice.

AoW4 is closer in gameplay to Planetfall than it is to AoW3. It uses the same system of expansion by provinces, instead of just hexes. So you need to consider the terrain of the province you expand to, as well as resources and special wonders structures. Wonders provide a lot of content in the form of events and fights and treasures, and then boost the resource income of the province they are in. Also like in Planetfall there is the option to “try out” automatic combat, and decide whether you want to fight manually only after you saw the outcome of automatic combat. That saves a lot of time for people who usually always play manually, just because they distrust auto combat.

Combat is similar to all previous incarnations of the series, but with more distinctive troop types. For example shock troops have the ability to negate retaliation attacks. But while different factions all have some sort of shock troops, they are all somewhat different, due to other abilities. That gives a large variety to the tactical combat encounters. And in AoW4 the healing after combat depends a lot on whether you are on your own or enemy territory, which gives a larger strategic dimension to the building of outposts and cities. New in AoW4 is that only heroes can build outposts and cities, there are no more settler units.

The one thing that worries me about AoW4 is bugs and crashes. Watching several streams of the game I have seen several occasions where the streamer needed to reload because of a bug or crash, and even one where the crash was recurring and the streamer needed to start a new game. A week before release that is not the state you want your game to be in. And Paradox has form, a lot of their games are rough at release; fortunately they don’t “fire and forget”, but keep developing and making their games better over time. But if I were a more patient man, I should maybe have waited and not bought the game before release.

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