Age of Empires 4 is upon us, and it is truly fantastic. It’s a great RTS game. It keeps so many great elements of the series, and introduces a bunch of cool new stuff.
To help you get acquainted with the new stuff, here are a few tips to make the transition easier. Not all of it is clear at first, so hopefully the below helps.
House Walls Aren’t A Thing Now
Yes, it’s true. A travesty! But you can still build your base in a defensive way.
AoE4 requires you to at least have some spearmen to plug up these holes. 3-4 spearmen in a gap between houses can frustrate a group of knights. If you’ve got archers behind them, even better. If those archers are crossbowmen, even better.
The Counter Structure is Different Now
The old rock/paper/scissors isn’t exactly the same in AoE4. Broadly, cavalry still gets a bonus against archers, spears get a bonus against cavalry, and archers will destroy spears.
But armour plays a much bigger role now. Men-at-arms are beefy bois. You’ll see men-at-arms charging a large pack of archers and winning. Infantry isn’t supposed to do that.
That’s because they’re actually using their shields now, and if you upgrade their armour further, normal archers might need in excess of 30 shots to kill one. That’s where crossbows come in, which are made for armoured units like men-at-arms and knights.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the cost of the unit is still a big factor. It might seem like those knights are destroying your pack of spears – and they probably are – but those knights are expensive. In terms of cost-efficiency the trade is still in your favour.
There are also some things the spears can do to counter knights further…
The Cavalry Charge
Cavalry units get an attack buff shortly after charging. You can tell they’re charging because they’ll have their lances out and there’ll be dust trails behind them. Their attack value is raised massively for a few seconds after the charge.
This is useful when considering who to charge out of a pack of units. Given the high attack value, it can be good to charge the units with the highest armour, so you’re negating the armour as much as possible.
We saw in the trailers pre-launch that spears can stop this charge in its tracks. To do this, just face the knights and put your spears on Stand Ground stance. They’ll instantly lower a spear wall and any charging knights will get stunned for a few seconds.
Just be aware that a clever player may fake a charge to get your spears to stand still so they get hit by archers.
Early Walls, Booming and Siege
Melee and ranged units can’t just attack stone walls now. They need some sort of siege weaponry. Both stone walls and siege weapons are available in the Feudal Age now, but this still presents another roadblock to an opponent. They have to build a siege workshop, and research a tech so troops can build rams, and then build those rams.
So if you’ve planned to have some stone in the Feudal Age, you can significantly slow down a rusher with stone walls. If there are no chokepoints, just cover the distance. It’s still worth it.
This may be enough to fluster an opponent who’s just following a build order they found on YouTube, such as a Feudal Rush or Fast Castle. They’ll send their knights over and find walls they can’t yet bring down. Be wary of the Holy Roman Empire’s men-at-arms rush though, as it incorporates rams into the build order.
Stone walls can allow some civs to boom a tad more, even in a 1v1 or 2v2. The Chinese can boom like mad in the Song Dynasty with multiple town centers, and the Abbasid and Delhi civs also have strong booms.
Shooting Over Walls Is Hard
Changes were made right before release that made it hard for units to shoot over walls. You’ll notice your siege units travelling to odd positions when you tell them to attack a building. This is either because they don’t have line of sight, or because you were asking them to shoot through a wall.
Archers shooting over walls, or shooting units on top of walls, suffer a damage penalty. It’s still worth sniping villagers on a gold mine that are right next to your opponent’s wall, but if it’s an archer vs archer fight, you’ll want to stay away from archers on walls.
Hunt and Fish
If you’re new to the series, you might not know that the fastest sources of food are hunting and fishing. Your first task should be to find the early deer, research Survival Techniques to increase their gathering rate on hunted animals, and if you care enough to micro, use your scout to judge the deer closer to your mill for quicker walk times. Don’t worry about killing the deer and gathering later, the meat doesn’t rot in AoE4.
For the Rus, your hunting micro is more intensive. Rus players need to create multiple scouts in the early game, tagging as many deer as possible (including stealing your opponent’s deer), and carrying the carcasses back to base for easy gathering.
As for fish, look at it this way. Not only is it fast food gathering, but if you create a dock in the early game, you’re effectively pumping gatherers out of two buildings instead of one, while still in the Dark Age. That’s a massive economic advantage that shouldn’t be ignored, even if you just have a smallish pond nearby.
Nail Your First Build Order
I don’t want to spoil your fun, so by all means try out all the civs, and learn the game for a while. Once you’ve had a bit of fun and decided on a civ you like, and want to start making an initial run up the elo ladder, it’s time to learn one or two build orders.
Learn one that’s good for 1v1, and you can’t go wrong. There are some good fast castle strats out there, but then again, you don’t even need to be in the Castle Age to rush with knights anymore.
Your best bet for an all-in-one is a build order that gives you a strong Feudal Age time and can transition into whatever you need – a turtle, a boom, or an attack. This build order should plan for making some early units to defend and raid with. The flexibility is key. If you notice your opponent is going men-at-arms, you could quickly go to Castle Age for crossbows.
Depending on how you feel about water maps, you might want to learn a build order for those too.
What other tips would you give to a new player in AoE4?