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Will Age of Empires IV help restore the RTS genre?

As we recently got a little more insight into Age of Empires IV, can it bring back the RTS genre to the mainstream?

A lot of people have fond memories of the Age of Empires franchise, most notable of the critically acclaimed installment Age of Empires II. As Microsoft is bringing the franchise back with its newest title, Age of Empires IV, could this mean a return to form for the RTS genre? A genre featuring a very committed audience, that seemingly nobody wants to cater to anymore?

The Age of Empires IV gameplay trailer

We finally got a little more insight into what to expect from Age of Empires IV in the form of a brand new gameplay trailer that was released on April 10. It’s clear that the developers have paid a lot of respect to the previous installments of the game and are trying to recapture the magic that has made a lot of us older fans stick around, waiting for more. As it stands, a lot of the core mechanics seem to have remained the same.

The developers also seemingly have brought back things we loved, while implementing smaller things a lot of fans have been clamoring for. We can now finally put our units on top of our walls, specialized units will now offer more tactical options instead of being just a numbers game and naval combat is also making a return. If the game succeeds, it might just be enough to convince other studios to once more attempt RTS titles. Yet the questions remains: why isn’t anyone making these titles anymore?

Why have RTS games disappeared?

Over the years less and less original titles have seen the light of day within the RTS genre. The most popular RTS titles remain remastered and repackaged versions of older, tried and tested games, such as Warcraft and previous Age of Empires versions. When it comes to new titles being developed, the past years have seemed pretty barren. It’s easy for developers to just brush this aside as nostalgia-goggles and concluding the market for the genre just isn’t there.

That conclusion would be a little premature however. RTS games have traditionally had strong esports communities and even a very involved casual crowd around their game. The fact that StarCraft II is still going strong and the esports scene remains active despite faltering support from Blizzard, shows that all fans need is just a good game to build around. 

So what will be the legacy of Age of Empires IV?

At the very least the RTS genre will get the spotlight once more and we had to wait quite a while to see that light again. At the very least, if Age of Empires IV fails, other developers will be inspired to do better. If the game delivers what fans want, we’ve got another solid RTS game in our hands, after all this time. Every way you look at it, the RTS fans will get a much needed win.

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Image credit: Microsoft/Xbox