AoE4’s Launch Trailer Pays Homage To AoE2’s Iconic Intro

AoE4’s Launch Trailer Pays Homage To AoE2’s Iconic Intro

There are two opening cinematics I most associate with being a young PC gamer. As a kid, Mechwarrior 2‘s opening absolutely blew me away, right from the moment that giant metal foot stomped in front of the camera.

Ah, the power of a wildly impressive intro to make a kid obsessed with a game that’s too complicated for him to ever be good at. I would never be able to beat my older peers in multiplayer, but the campaign was fun.

Then there’s Age of Empires 2‘s opening cinematic. Imagine you had been an Age of Empires fan, used to commanding Assyrian chariots and Greek hoplites, and seeing this:

Nothing could’ve jazzed me up more. The escalation to trebuchets, the nod to Chess, it all made it clear that this was a thinking person’s game that’ll last a long time. We could get excited about a whole new slew of civilisations, and my main was unquestionably going to be Vikings.

It was also more than Chess, because within that cinematic is the idea of countering your opponents’ units. These days it’s a genre convention. Back then, it was still the second generation of that idea.

Now, we have a trailer for Age of Empires 4 which pays homage in the best way. It sings back to the Chess game between the two nobles, but gives us an updated version that shows the asymmetric nature of AoE4‘s factions.

The trailer has the same philosophy as the game. Take the best bits of AoE2, upgrade them with small changes to great effect, throw in some design and quality-of-life improvements we’ve learned in the genre since, and boom. What a great formula.

There are probably some old-school cinematics I’m forgetting about which are synonymous with that era of gaming. What had the same effect on you? Anything from Blizzard? Valve? Leisure Suit Larry?


  • Blizzard was renowned for its cinematics during that era for sure.
    Back when game trailers had to come on discs because youtube didn’t exist, around the late 90s, Warcraft 2, Diablo, then Starcraft all had their intro cinematics turning up on ‘demo’ CDs (and I think even as CD menu options on their own games?)
    We shared the Starcraft cinematic around school not knowing what the game would really look like (one WC2 re-skinned screenshot was the only image we’d seen). Diablo’s eyeball-eating raven stuck with me after I watched that intro a million times, waiting for the game’s commercial release.

    The graphics in AOE2’s cinematic reminds me of HOMM3’s cinematics (which didn’t come out til a couple years later). Catherine returning to Erathia, picturing the battle that had taken place…

    For my money, though, around that time the best intro cinematic was for Thief: The Dark Project.
    That thing still gives me chills, between the incredibly ominous thrumming ambience accompanying even more ominous excerpts from faction texts, and some of the best music in a game cinematic ever (BAR NONE), it didn’t matter that the jankily ‘Bink Video’-animated hand-drawn art wasn’t as high tech as other games’ 3D cinematics… it oozed atmosphere and stands as one of the greats not only of the era, but ever.

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