loading
loading

Dark or Light
logo
Logo

Age of Wonders 4 Review

Kevin Chick Posted:
Category:
Reviews Strategy Session 0

It has been nine years since the release of Age of Wonders III, and during my time previewing Age of Wonders IV from Publisher Paradox Interactive and developer Triumph Studios, a lot of fond memories flooded back from previous Age of Wonder entries as I clicked away the turns in this fantasy 4x strategy game.

For those interested in a more detailed description of the gameplay and my initial impressions, check out the preview article. For this review, the press was given access to a separate beta build of the game. While I still enjoyed my time with the game and believe this could be an amazing experience for a long time to come, there are still a few concerning issues. But many of these could be easily fixed on day one.   

In Age of Wonders IV, players create their race’s leader as a Wizard-King or a mortal Champion. There are several standard races to choose from, or players can customize the main character and race to their liking for each scenario. The initial customization options are enough to make a main character/race that fits almost any playstyle centered around the different types of magic affinities. The number of options also doesn’t feel overwhelming, and players can quickly generate something appealing.

Age of Wonders 4

Once in a scenario, the atmosphere in Age of Wonders IV is excellent. Vibrant stylized graphics, sound effects, music, and voice-over all come together, making for an enjoyable and relaxing experience. Unlike some similar titles, the map didn’t feel cluttered, and I could easily pick out the various resources on different tiles. The mouseover tooltips were always helpful and provided hyperlinks to more information if I wanted specific details about abilities, mechanics, or effects.

Age of Wonders IV also has an excellent UI that clearly displays the resources most important for running the empire/kingdom. Once I had a basic understanding of the mechanics, such as using food, production, draft, gold, mana, research, and imperium, tracking everything on the main screen was easy. For further details, I could mouse over a given resource for a full breakdown.

Age of Wonders 4

One minor problem I did notice with the UI, if a tooltip had a lot of text, it could make it an issue to click around it and activate a button nearby or behind the overlay. I mainly ran into this issue when selecting a new spell to research. Occasionally a spell’s description was quite large and would block other UI elements when I moused over it.

The tutorial for the game is excellent, and Triumph Studios has done a great job of imparting all the information a new player needs to know. But some players may find themselves wanting to run it multiple times. The tutorial throws a lot of information at you in a short amount of time. It may have been an idea to break up the tutorial a bit more, but thankfully the excellent tooltips go a long way in helping support new players in later scenarios.

Age of Wonders 4

Expansion and exploration in the early game is a fun experience. Random events based around the locations explored and your leader’s/race’s magic affinities add extra flavor. Love playing the evil overlord, well expect to deal with choices related to your tyranny somewhere along the way. During each scenario, I also never felt forced into completing it in a specific way. Unless it is a story scenario with specific victory conditions, I always felt like Age of Wonders IV leaned into being a sandbox where I could win using military, expansion, or magic victory conditions.

During my preview, I mentioned my concerns regarding manual combat battles. Now that I have had more time to play and get used to the various mechanics, I find manual combat more enjoyable than before, but the UI can be touchy. Targeting enemies is sometimes an issue, and activating spells/abilities can be problematic. With a bit of work, the UI with finally cooperate. But, typically, I still resort to auto-combat.   

The spell system in Age of Wonders IV is excellent. From necromancy to nature spells that alter the world around you, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Some players could be initially disappointed with their selection of certain spell affinities if they don't match up with a preferred playstyle. But by the late game, the various spells can really change how a leader/race plays. For example, if I specialize in Chaos magic, I can eventually cast a major race transformation to give everyone wings and demonic abilities. On the flip side, if my focus is Nature magic, then in the late game, I can magically terraform desert provinces into grasslands, better supporting my cities with more food sources. This opens up more decent locations for cities on the map.   

Age of Wonders 4

One of the systems I am really enjoying is the Pantheon System. After each scenario, your main character can join your Pantheon, and you also gain points to spend that unlock additional customization options for future scenarios. In the current build, each Pantheon member has a button next to the name that allows you to select them as possible heroes for recruitment in future scenarios. I love this kind of rewards system that carries over between games and provides more replay value. 

While playing the press build, I did run into a few issues. The first was random graphics driver crashes. My main machine uses an Nvidia 3080 RTX, and the game would randomly crash to desktop. While on my second machine with an Nvidia 1080 GTX and the same hardware, I had no issues. The developers are aware of the graphic driver issues and are working on a fix.

Age of Wonders 4

There were also the occasional glitches and graphic errors. When traveling by ship, it didn’t always appear, so my army was riding across the ocean on a ground mount. During some diplomacy interactions, the body of the other race was invisible with a disembodied head. But nothing that was game-breaking or that couldn’t be patched/polished by release.

Age of Wonders 4

I also still have concerns about the AI. So far, I have played scenarios on Easy and Normal. During the early game, the AI seems to harass your armies and destroys provincial improvements if they are at war with you. But after completing multiple scenarios, they have not initiated a single siege on one of my cities, even if I left it undefended.

During the late game, I also noticed that the enemy AI tends to cluster armies around their capital cities after their initial armies were defeated and the leader had returned from the astral. I will be curious to see if the AI exhibits the same behavior on Hard.  

With the additional playtime, Age of Wonders IV still impressed me even though I am concerned about the AI. The other issues I have brought up are all easily fixed over time, if not on day one. Between the customization options, atmosphere, and Pantheon system, Paradox Interactive and developer Triumph Studios have a great start to the next entry in the Age of Wonders series. I can’t wait to see how they expand the spells and Pantheon systems further, for fans of fantasy 4x strategy games, Age of Wonders IV is worth checking out if you want to evoke that old feeling of needing to take just one more turn.

A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of review

8.0Great
Pros
  • Atmosphere: Sound/Voice-Over
  • Customization Options: Leader/Race/Spells/Affinities
  • Pantheon System
Cons
  • Enemy AI
  • Manual Combat UI
  • Minor Polish Glitches


Xevrin

Kevin Chick

Kevin "Xevrin" is an avid gamer having started playing video games on an Apple III with the Wizardry Series and Questron before the age of 10. In junior high, he branched out into tabletop gaming with the release of D&D 2nd Edition. During his first year of university, Everquest was released combining both of his favorite activities.