HomeReviews4/5 ReviewAge of Empires IV: Anniversary Edition Review

Age of Empires IV: Anniversary Edition Review


As mainly a console gamer, historically, I have only dabbled in classic PC franchises like Age of Empires. Still, I have always been curious about them. So, when Age of Empires IV: Anniversary Edition was announced for Xbox consoles, I was excited to dive in headfirst and see what all the hype was about. Fortunately, the development teams did an excellent job converting this PC classic into a fantastic Xbox game that doesn’t leave the player feeling like something was lost in translation.

Age of Empires IV: Anniversary Edition is a real-time strategy game that takes place at various points in human history between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance era. Gamers are able to build up and command ten different historical civilizations – eight that were available when the game was initially released (English, Chinese, Mongols, Delhi Sultanate, French, Abbasid Dynasty, Holy Roman Empire, and Rus) as well as the two additional civilizations that were later added to the game (Ottomans and Malians).

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A proper balancing act

Each match is a balancing act between developing your civilization and building up your military forces. Do you spend your resources more offensively or defensively? Do you focus on battle strength or technology? What resources do you farm in order to advance to the next age? Do you venture out to fight or let the enemy come to you? These are all questions you will face in just about every match you play.

The combat mainly revolves around a rock-paper-scissors type of strategic combat. While it certainly evolves as you progress, the bottom line is generally that cavalry beats archers, archers beat spearman, and spearman beat calvary. Of course, a wide variety of elements also factor in like strategic placement of troops and various tactics such as stealth and ambushing. This, along with all of the different crafting wheels and commands, could easily be construed as overwhelming, but Age of Empires IV makes itself extremely welcoming to newcomers.

The campaign missions showcase the mechanics necessary to mastering the game, so you really get a grasp of how to play as you go along. Even the opening documentary shorts and written material that introduce each mission offer a bit of historical insight that helps connect the player to the events they will be reenacting.

Still, as good a job as the campaign does at getting the player acclimated to the various mechanics that you will need to know before really diving into the deep end of Age of Empires IV, I found that the Art of War challenge mode was a more fun and effective way to learn the mechanics as opposed to going through the various historical battles.

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Should you head into Age of Empires IV on Xbox?

Each challenge mission focuses on a small number of mechanics and asks players to complete them with various time constraints or by limiting casualties. The results of each challenge either give players a bronze medal, a silver medal, a gold medal, or no medal at all if the objective isn’t complete within the parameters. As I strived to complete the objectives within the tighter restrictions, I became better at the game.

If the Art of War missions are where I honed my skills, however, online play is where I really put them to the test. As fun (and helpful) as beating up on the A.I. opponent can be in the early stages, there is nothing like testing your might against another human player. The unpredictability of the online opponent promises no two matches are quite the same and is what would keep me coming back for more in order to improve my rank and rise up the leaderboards.

Before I began my Age of Empires IV journey, I thought that the historical component of the game as well, as its campaign rooted in actual historical events, would be what excited me to tell other people about it. Perhaps it would open up history in a way I’ve never before considered. Unfortunately, that wasn’t really the case for me.

Despite the game seamlessly blending the documentary-like storytelling with each of the missions and its various tutorials, I found the real-life history to be a bit forgettable. (Luckily, all of the videos and ancillary written material are skippable for those who just want to get into the action.) Aside from different color uniforms, the troops and villagers more or less look the same from a distance so the story behind each of the battles was quickly forgotten as soon as the action kicked in. That said, the game still sunk its hooks into me… just not for the reasons I was anticipating.

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You may well become a tactical general…

While I never felt like I became the history aficionado that I wanted the game to transform me into, I did grow into a tactical general who agonized over strategy and looked to outsmart my enemies at every turn. Like chess, Age of Empires IV is far more about strategy and planning than it is about twitchy controller movements and lightning-fast reactions. That said, I was constantly engaged as the game is always asking players to plan, think, and react. Stay idle for too long and your opponent will almost surely gain the upper hand.

The move to console doesn’t hinder the ability to plan and enact strategy either. Many processes can be automated and carried out by your townspeople, entire groups of your military (or even your entire military itself) can be commanded by a single button, and navigating the various crafting wheels becomes second nature after a while. If there was ever an issue with carrying out a specific task, it was always me who failed rather than the game itself.

The mission to bring Age of Empires IV: Anniversary Edition from PC to Xbox is a successful one. Age of Empires IV may not make history buffs out of the uninitiated, but it is a compelling enough entry for those who are interested in the genre or the subject matter.


  • Extremely welcoming to new players
  • A wealth of engaging tutorials and challenges
  • Translates extremely well to the Xbox console
  • The campaign often feels more like an extended tutorial rather than a compelling single-player mode all its own
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC
  • Release date and price - 22 August 2023 | £34.99
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Bobby Anhalt
Bobby Anhalt
Bobby has been an avid fan of video games since the '90s. While Bobby has a real soft spot for Metroidvanias and JRPGs, he is a true genre-agnostic gamer who will give just about any title a chance. The only thing he spends more time doing than playing games is writing and talking about them. He has been covering the gaming industry for several major online publications since 2015.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Extremely welcoming to new players</li> <li>A wealth of engaging tutorials and challenges</li> <li>Translates extremely well to the Xbox console</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>The campaign often feels more like an extended tutorial rather than a compelling single-player mode all its own</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC <li>Release date and price - 22 August 2023 | £34.99</li> </ul>Age of Empires IV: Anniversary Edition Review
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