July 12, 2024

Age of Wonders is a series of turn-based strategy games that were first released in 1999 by the Dutch game development company Triumph Studios. The games are set in a high fantasy world and feature elements of role-playing games as well as 4X strategy games, which involve exploration, expansion, exploitation, and extermination.

One of the defining features of Age of Wonders is its complex and customizable gameplay mechanics. The game allows players to choose from a variety of races and classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Players can also customize their units and buildings, making strategic decisions about what resources to prioritize and which technologies to research.

Age of Wonders has had a significant influence on the 4X genre. The series helped to popularize the genre, and many of its mechanics and ideas have been adopted by other strategy games.

Now, Age of Wonders 4, the highly anticipated latest installment in Triumph Studios’ fantasy strategy franchise, is finally here. With its release on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S on May 2, strategy gamers around the world can once again immerse themselves in the rich world of Age of Wonders. As the mortal leader of a nation, players must navigate complex political and military challenges to grow the power of their people and expand their territory. With improved graphics, new gameplay mechanics, and a wealth of content, Age of Wonders 4 promises to be the ultimate 4X strategy experience. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at what the game has to offer and see if it lives up to the high expectations set by its predecessors.

AT A GLANCE
Release
Date: May 2, 2023
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S
Developer: Triumph Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Final Score: 9/10

Age of Wonders 4 is a captivating strategy game that immerses players in a fantastical world brimming with magic, power, and ancient beings. What sets this game apart is its unique event system, which injects unexpected twists and turns into the 4X genre, keeping players engaged and invested in the game’s narrative. Additionally, players have the freedom to create custom factions, leaving a lasting mark on the game’s countless worlds and adding a layer of depth and replayability.

With Age of Wonders 4, every decision you make and choice you take opens up new possibilities and tactical advantages, allowing you to explore new powers and try new tactics at every turn. The game’s deep, multilayered strategy system enables you to craft your followers in unique ways, combining bodily forms, societal traits, and arcane powers to create anything from a clan of cannibal halflings to mystic moon elves. The game’s powerful tomes of magic allow you to enchant your armies and see your people physically transform into angelic beings or a horde to face their enemies.

One of the standout features of Age of Wonders 4 is its new and dynamic event system. This system, inspired by other popular Paradox games like Crusader Kings 3 and Stellaris, adds unexpected levels of storytelling that keep the game fresh and exciting with each playthrough. With the event system, players can role-play their faction and make choices that have real consequences in the game world, ranging from small decisions that affect faction relationships to larger events that can alter the course of the entire game. The new Narrative Events feature provides a framework for telling stories that emerge from the world and the player’s actions, adding even more ways to enjoy Age of Wonders 4. This extra layer of depth and immersion in the game ensures that players always have something new to look forward to every session.

Age of Wonders 4 offers a vast and immersive empire-building experience, with a wealth of options for players to create their dream fantasy empire. From the faction creator screen itself, players have access to a range of customization options, from choosing their faction’s body, culture, and traits to creating their own leader avatar.

The game’s customization options are extensive, allowing players to create their factions using bodily forms, societal traits, and arcane powers. From cannibal halflings to mystic moon elves, players can recreate their favorite fantasy tropes.

In addition to customization, the game offers a rich set of tools for players to manage their cities, develop their infrastructure, and produce resources. Players can construct a variety of buildings, recruit different units, and research technologies to gain an edge over their enemies. The game also offers an enhanced empire management system that allows cities to produce units and structures simultaneously, reducing the sense of tediousness that can come with 4X games.

The overworld map in Age of Wonders 4 is an expansive and detailed world filled with diverse terrain types, ranging from snow-covered tundras to lush forests and barren deserts. The map is divided into regions, each with its unique set of resources, ruins, and magical sites to explore.

Players can move their armies across the map, capturing cities and settlements, and engaging in battles with other factions or hostile creatures. Exploring the map is a key component of the game, as it allows players to uncover new resources, gain valuable allies, and acquire powerful items.

Empire-building in Age of Wonders 4 is not just about military might. Players can choose to focus on economic growth, cultural development, or even mastering the arcane arts. By selecting a particular strategy, players can tailor their gameplay experience to their liking and forge their own path to victory.

The Rally of Lieges system is a unique feature that allows players to befriend Free Cities around the map and turn them into vassals. During a Rally of Lieges, players can purchase units offered by them, diversifying their forces. The Diplomacy system is a significant improvement over most 4X games. Rulers are assigned specific personalities that dictate how they interact with players and how they play. When trading with them, players can see which options they won’t consider and what they might want in return.

Age of Wonders 4 offers players an arsenal of spells to damage or hinder their opponents, including direct damage spells and debuffs that can reduce their abilities. Knowing when and how to use these spells can give players a significant advantage on the battlefield.

Tomes, which are collections of spells, is also a crucial component of Age of Wonders 4. They allow players to develop their empire’s affinity between five different categories, namely Astral, Nature, Chaos, Shadow, and Materium, each with its unique empire development tree with perks to unlock. With an extensive range of different Tomes available in the game, players can explore new powers and experiment with new tactics, creating a dynamic and ever-changing gameplay experience.

The game’s multilayered strategy and tactical turn-based battles bring armies to life, showcasing their power in an environment shaped by player decisions. Battles range from skirmishes with roaming monsters to vast sieges with mighty armies

Age of Wonders 4 boasts stunning visuals that bring its fantastical world to life. From the intricate details of units to the sweeping landscapes, every element of the game’s art direction is carefully crafted to immerse players in a world of magic and wonder. The game’s use of color and lighting is especially noteworthy, with each terrain type having its unique palette and tone, contributing to the game’s overall atmosphere.

The audio design in Age of Wonders 4 is also exceptional. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Michiel van den Bos, features epic orchestral pieces that add to the game’s grandeur and scale. The music changes dynamically during gameplay, responding to the actions of the player, and creating an immersive experience that enhances the game’s emotional impact.

The game also features high-quality sound effects that match the visual elements of the game, making battles feel intense and satisfying. The game also has voice-over work for various characters, which helps to flesh out the world and add to the game’s immersive experience.

4X games have traditionally not been at home on consoles due to their complex nature, but recently this has seen a welcome change. Age of Wonders 4 also makes a day 1 apperance on consoles and remains accessible thanks to its intuitive control scheme. The game’s controls are easy to use and allow players to navigate menus, select units, and issue commands with ease. The game’s map can be easily explored using the controller, which also allows for zooming in and out to get a better view of the battlefield. The triggers on the controller can be used to cycle through units and actions, while the face buttons are used to issue commands.

Age of Wonders 4 features a well-designed tutorial that teaches players how to play the game, including how to use the controls. This tutorial is easy to follow and is perfect for newcomers to the genre. The encyclopedia that comes with the game is equally impressive and basically anwered 90% of the questions I had during my playthrough of the game.

Final Thoughts

Score
9 / 10
9/10

Summary

Age of Wonders 4 is a fantastic addition to the series and an excellent game for fans of the 4X and turn-based strategy genres. The game's deep and intricate mechanics, combined with its rich lore and stunning visuals, create a world that players can immerse themselves in and enjoy. The emphasis on customization and empire-building, as well as the unique story rich events, allow players to tailor their gameplay experience to their liking and forge their own path to victory. Age of Wonders 4 is a must-play for anyone looking to live out their high fantasy dreams and conquer their enemies with a powerful army of their own design.