We were recently invited to take a look at the latest upcoming title from Triumph Studios in their Age of Wonder series, Age of Wonders 4.
Primarily a PC franchise, you may be wondering exactly what Age of Wonders is all about. Well, we’ve got you covered, so let’s jump straight in.
Age of Wonders 4 isn’t the first Age of Wonders title on Xbox. That would be Age of Wonders: Planetfall released back in 2019. But this was more of a sci-fi experience. Age of Wonders 4 takes the series back to its more fantasy roots. But that word fantasy can be applied more than once: Yes it is the setting for Age of Wonders 4, but it also allows players to live out their fantasy fantasies by being open-ended to an impressive granular level.
What we were shown during the presentation was just a taste of the potential of Age of Wonders 4. At its heart, Age of Wonders 4 is a 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate) turn-based strategy game, a subgenre which rarely makes it onto console. That is reason enough to get excited.
During the presentation we were shown the main hub called the Mage Haven. Following the events of Age of Wonders 3, a portal was opened allowing users to travel between worlds. It is here you can set up your expeditions however you would like. Unlike previous Age of Wonders game, you choose from a selection of races with which to do your conquering. Age of Wonders 4 goes one step further, allowing you to create your own races entirely.
You are tasked with finding the once banished Wizard Kings from even further back in Age of Wonders lore. The main world of Athla is here once again, and if you want a more focussed experience in Age of Wonders, there are Story Realms where you can play through a narrative. But considering you can create your own races, you can also create your own realms from scratch to play as you see fit. That does include playing as a Wizard King looking to exact revenge for your banishment.
Choosing to create your own realm opens up quite literally thousands of options. For a new player, this could be a daunting prospect, but there are pre-created realms for you to also sink your teeth into.
When creating your own realm, there are the standard options you would expect, such as size, difficulty and landscape. But you can also dictate the climate, flora and fauna, general population characteristics (good or evil) and much, much more. We were only giving a brief glimpse during the presentation, but those fortunate enough to be able to play on PC afterwards have commented on the sheer number of customisation options.
Then you get into faction creation. Again, there are predetermined ones to use or edit, but you can start from scratch on your own choices too. You need to start with a physical form however, and these do feel like the generic races you would expect to see, plus a few more unusual ones thrown in. You then pick a mind and body trait for your faction, which is where things begin to diverge greatly. The example we were shown showed a race of toadkin. But these were then made into a slightly more evil race by given the body trait to being able to ride giant spiders as mounts and a sneaky mind trait that increased flanking damage.
You then you choose your faction’s culture and society traits which can also change their good/evil Affinity. After this, it’s a case of working through your first Tome of Magic from a choice of 54. These can be seen as your starting school of magic, which will also feed into your Affinity rating. And if all that wasn’t enough, you can then customise your ruler’s appearance along with your overall army. The message was to just play around with this creator for yourself, as the developers are expecting to see things that would not have been imagined. But that is the beauty of such a robust creation tool.
And then you are out into the big wide world you have just created.
Depending on whether you chose to be a Champion or a Wizard King, you will find yourself defending or conquering that world. Your first job should be to remove the immediate threats around your town, to be able to then increase the size of your town. Combat is turn-based and takes place on maps with hexagon tiles and you controlling different units, similar to the likes of King’s Bounty II. Each unit has their own fighting style such as archers, mages, or just melee. We were only given a brief glimpse of combat during the presentation, but from what we saw it looks to be a fairly generic turn-based system. The jury is still out on the combat.
Also found in the world are free cities that can become allies or enemies depending on your actions. Ultimately, like everything else in Age of Wonders 4, the choice is yours.
But whilst Age of Wonders 4 has this open-ended approach to gameplay, there is an overarching goal. Each successful mission earns XP to feed into the Pantheon. This acts as a repository for unlocking new items such as new customisation options for your leaders, new realm templates and even defeated Wizard Kings can join you for a future adventure.
Unfortunately, we were not able to take Age of Wonders 4 for a spin on PC, so our time with it was limited to the presentation. What we did see looked very impressive in terms of being able to create your ideal world and army and the longevity that provides, whilst the combat needs a bit more exploration.
The other good news though is that we don’t have long to wait as Age of Wonders 4 releases on May 2nd 2023, dropping onto Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC. The Xbox Store page isn’t up yet, but you can wishlist on Steam right now. And we’ll be sure to let you know when the page is up for Xbox. We’ll have a full Xbox review for you around that time too.