Age of Wonders 4 is a turn-based fantasy strategy game developed by Triumph Studios and published by Paradox Interactive. Players play as a faction to expand their empires and try to conquer the various fantasy realms. This is done through various diplomatic, military, economical, and technological advances. Age of Wonders 4 is the fifth mainline game in the Triumph Studios franchise coming almost ten years after the release of Age of Wonders 3 in 2014. It is the sixth main Age of Wonders game, with Age of Wonders: Planetfall releasing in 2019.
In Age of Wonders 4, there are three main ways to achieve victory, along with two less common ways. The three main ways are Military, Expansion, and Magic. For Military victory, you must eliminate all non-alliance players in the realm via combat. Expansion victory is achieved by claiming a certain amount of providence on the world map and then lighting three beacons. A Magic victory is done by learning high-level Tome Magic and then casting a World Spell.
Age of Wonders 4 allows for players and A.I of formed alliances to jointly get these victories which is a small but nice benefit, especially when going for a Military victory. In games with a designated turn limit, a Score victory can also become an option to which, at the end of the turns, the faction with the highest overall score, which is based on economical, expansion, military, diplomatic, etc., is deemed the winner.
The last way to achieve victory in Age of Wonders 4 is by doing certain specific victory conditions as they pertain to the story. Completing these Story Missions along with a few of the high-tier realms can look different. One of the key variations is to ask players to eliminate a specific Faction or high-level beast/mob/ruler of the realm. Age of Wonders 4 is like other games in the genre, and while the story mode adds unique elements to the game like lore and story events. That said, most of your time probably won’t be spent here but rather just playing through a customized game.
To that point, Age of Wonders 4 has tons of customization built into the game that allows for tons of replayability, and this starts first and foremost with the realms. There are obviously set pre-made realms both from Story Missions but also for any game you choose. However, players are allowed to customize each realm to their liking. This includes various options ranging from the type of environment to hazards and even which creatures roam freely. Players are also able to choose the basics of turn-based strategy (TBS) games which include the size of the map, type of map, amount of players, and more.
The newest and one of the coolest aspects of Age of Wonders 4 is that for the first time in the franchise, players can now create and design their own custom factions and Ruler. In previous iterations of Age of Wonders, players had to select a faction in which everything had already been pre-made. Now players have the ability to design their own factions and customize them as much as they want.
Players are able to select their race, body and mind traits, culture type, society traits, and even their own starting Tome of Magic. These choices dictate the players starting Affinities. There are six Affinities in Age of Wonders 4, and they each have their own set of skills, powers, bonuses, and downsides. Players are also able to customize the overall look of their units, from their Ruler to general army units. This includes banner and colors, but on top of that their height, weight, and more. If you don’t want to spend all day making your own, then don’t fret like previous iterations those pre-made factions are still available to players.
Creating your own faction not only leads to variety on the outside but also within the game. Players already had plenty of different playstyles available both from an empire standpoint( like Military or Economic empire) to a combat standpoint (Magic or Physical ) but the ability to mix and match leads to even more combinations and possibilities for players to check out. Age of Wonders 4 added another resource called Imperium which is used to buy powers and skills within an expansive skill tree called The Empire Tree.
These upgrades and bonuses open up over time based on the type of your faction’s Affinities. Each Affinity Power has its own branch with a general shared branch that unlocks based on the total number of affinities your empire has. While each of these Affinities do have an opposing Affinity Power, it does not mean the player can’t acquire any of that Affinity. Players now have the choice to stack Affinities for even more bonuses within one branch or try to spread things out so they can hit some upgrades from each branch. The decisions and choices are all up to the player.
With all this customization and variety at the forefront of the Age of Wonders 4, it gives players unlimited possibilities allowing for tons of replayability. There may be only three ways to win a game, but there are thousands of possible journeys to get there. If you want to make Human battle mages that focus on powers of Nature, then it is possible, or if you want to mix it up and make Molekin dark magic archers, then sure, why not? There are obviously some good and bad options for creating a faction or which affinities you choose when it comes to achieving certain victories, but there are no wrong options that are all up for the players to decide and learn.
A bonus in the replayability is players get their own Pantheon that you level up over time, by completing games. This unlocks different realm options, different starting Ruler aesthetic options, and even some starting gear or trait options. The Pantheon also allows players to save previous Rulers they have used or sometimes faced in the past. These rulers can be used again in another game by the player or depending on how selected can be added to the potential Rulers pool a player may face or add to the Hero pool that players may be able to recruit in another game. All of these options are great for players both in terms of creativity and replayability. Triumph Studios really did an amazing job of giving players reasons to try different strategies, experiment, or even just keep playing.
Age of Wonders 4 wouldn’t be an Age of Wonders game without tactical combat. The Age of Wonders series allows players to control every aspect of their empire, and this includes tactical combat using their armies. The option of how to do combat once again is up to the players on how they decide to do combat. Outside of changing game settings, players, by default, can do both auto or manual combat in any given game. If a player loses a battle, they are given the option to watch the replay of the combat if they chose as they can learn from mistakes, but this does add time. The best part of the overall combat selection process is that all retries of battles force the player to do manual combat. I really enjoyed this option as it allowed players the ability to try auto combat but not just sit there rerolling auto combat over and over again.
The combat system, while very fun, is also most likely the most challenging part of the game. If you don’t make your armies properly or even know what units are in each army can lead to lots of having to stop and think about what is going on. It can also be a very time-consuming process as there are battles up to 18 on 18 units. I am not entirely sure how this all works out in multiplayer games, as I mentioned, it can be a big time consumer with the possibility of people waiting awhile. Doing one of the 18 on 18 battles, took at least a good 30+ minutes to complete. For players that love turn-based tactic combat then, this adds a whole other dimension to the game. For others, this can be totally skipped or a nice add-on for a change of pace while playing.
This is a turn-based strategy game that involves countless decisions and choices that range from managing cities, armies, and resources to 18 on 18 combat, and also it is a beautiful game to look at. I know this design, colors, and art aren’t usually thought about in these types of games, but Age of Wonders 4 stood out. The vibrant colors and artwork from the load screens to the general realm and unit designs are a highlight of the game’s design. The game looks great and gives players that fantasy theme to immerse themselves in.
Overall, Age of Wonders 4 is a fantastic entry in the Age of Wonders series, giving players freedom and choice. The game is so full of customization that it gives unlimited possibilities that no two games will ever be the same, nor would anyone want them to be. We know, much like other Paradox Interactive games, more updates and content are coming down the line, and I’m truly excited to see where Age of Wonders 4 ends up.
Age of Wonders 4 is available now on PC and Xbox from Paradox Interactive.
Age of Wonders 4
Age of Wonders 4 is a fantastic entry in the Age of Wonders series, giving players freedom and choice. The game is so full of customization that it gives unlimited possibilities that no two games will ever be the same, nor would anyone want them to be.