Age of Empires IV’s sophisticated documentary cutscenes are a marvel

A screenshot of an Age of Empires IV cutscene

Screenshot: Age of Empires IV

I played the new one Age of Empires IV this week, and for all the good work that has gone into bringing a classic game into a modern era, the better the thing about it is the bits that happen while you’re not even playing.

The game was developed by Relic, and if there’s one thing Relic knows about their Home world days is that when it comes to vintage RTS games, the gameplay is only half the fun.. From Westwood Order and conquer at Blizzard Warcraft to The company’s own catalog, repetitive and hyper-focused mechanics of the genre meant that even early in its history, the developers quickly realized that players deserved a break between missions, a little narrative treat.

And so it is here, in this game which was released in 2021 but which has the spirit of one released in 1998. In these fictional games, the relief would take the form of FMV or animated cutscenes, but in Age of Empires IV we are entitled to something a little more lavish.

In a wonderful throwback, the game’s single-player campaigns are preceded and then punctuated by video cutscenes throughout. If you haven’t played the game, you probably now feel a sense of creeping dread, as memories of underfunded documentaries you had to watch in school return, the kind where the shields are made of cardboard and the Major battles are filmed with five fighters.

Rather than trying to tell the story of the campaign, these cutscenes are more of a documentary. And the good guys at that! They’re short, to the point, beautiful to look at, and most importantly, give us great insight into the technology and tactics you use in the game.

As an example, here is a collection of cutscenes from the game’s Normandy campaign, which is about 40 minutes long and when you watch it like that you can really mistake it for a really cool little documentary about chain mail and tactics. of siege.

Also, while playing on PC, I got the option to watch them in 4K, and they looked glorious. Anyway, that’s it, just wanted to thank Relic, it was a treat, and to all the other developers working on games with a historical focus, more of that please!


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