Age of Empires 4 is a massive strategy game that was not going to be finished when it released. These things take years to perfect–a fact that I acknowledged in my review. If we are happy to give Age of Empires 2, about 57 years, to reach its “Definitive” form, then surely the most recent iteration is worth at least a year?
Developer Relic has not slowed down in building upon the game’s solid foundation and released the Winter 2021 Update yesterday, the first step of its six-month roadmap.

There are some major changes, plus a lot of bug fixes. Most people will notice the most significant gameplay change is the weakening French Hulk, a Feudal Age ship that was nearly impossible to defeat and so powerful that it was basically a mandatory civ for all water-based maps.

Spearmen have been strengthened to better counter cavalry, while the Chinese Repeater crossbow is now cheaper. This will allow you to make the most out of the newly scalable castle walls by placing your crossbowmen up there, and then plipping your enemies from the top.

The most notable change is the updated minimap. It was as messy as an Ubisoft open world game but has been reduced to just 1/8 of its original size. The icons are resized according to their importance, making it easier to read.

These and all the other changes in the Winter 2021 Update are great stuff. However, I think a basic diplomacy system that allows for timed alliances as well as single out enemies and players should be a return to power.

Although it’s not currently on the roadmap, Relic hopes to release tools in Spring 2022 that will allow players create their own content. It could, as it often does, be up to the players to bring back the best features from AoE.

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