Age of Wonders 4 Preview: Not-So-Final Fantasy

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Fans of fantasy and strategy have something to look forward to this May: A new Age of Wonders.

Arriving some nine years after Age of Wonders 3, this new entry in the series sports the expected visual upgrade. In fact, it looks rather lovely indeed, with detailed character models and a world that feels more alive. But snazzy visuals aren’t the sole reason for being excited about Age of Wonders 4.

Customisation and replayability: those are the key pillars of Age of Wonders 4. Whereas previous entries have had numerous factions and heroes for you to take control of, here there are more than ever. But what if none of them take your fancy, or you’re feeling creative? Well, you can create your own.

Choose to develop your own faction and you’ll find you have a vast array of options to tweak them to your will. First you’ll choose a race. Do you want your faction to be human, feline, or something even more outlandish? The choice is yours, and you can even decide whether to stick with their default body and mind traits or choose your own. We made our army of cat people Resilient, giving them higher status resistance, while also Adaptable, granting them a healthy boost to experience earned.

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And that’s just the start of creating your new faction. After that, you’ve got to choose your faction’s culture from the six available – i.e. whether they’re barbarian, or industrious. Then there are societal traits to consider, such as whether they’re adept settlers, able to quickly establish cities, or whether they’re scions of evil, seeking to usher in a dark age. Every choice you make will shape your faction, and perhaps determine how it will seek victory. Growth, might or magic? That’s your choice. And so it only seems fitting that you also get to choose your first magic tome too.

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The final thing to consider before you jump into a game with your new faction is their appearance. You’ll need to create your VIP – your ruler – which first means choosing their origin. Are they a champion or a wizard king? More fun is tweaking things like their hairstyle, weapon, physique, and even pose. You really are given a fun degree of creative freedom. Your options when it comes to your faction overall are a little more limited, but you can still have a laugh tweaking things like the length of their limbs.

With your custom-created faction, or one of the many presets, you’ll be able to jump into a wide range of scenarios. Newcomers might want to dip their toes into the one that’s essentially a tutorial to find their feet, but veteran Age of Wonders fans can throw themselves straight into something more meaty. And furthering the ethos of customisation and replayability being king in Age of Wonders 4, custom worlds and scenarios can also be created.

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It’s safe to say, then, that Age of Wonders 4 isn’t your by-the-numbers sequel. Much work has been done here to expand players’ horizons and provide them with a fantastical playground. But it doesn’t stop there, as there are gameplay improvements too. Players have more options than ever when it comes to seeking victory, as there’s more focus on expansion and less on rushing your enemies to eradicate them.

That doesn’t mean that combat hasn’t been given some attention, though. A new reinforcement system means you’ll be able to bring more units into a fight, for example. Up to 18 of them, in fact. And with combat being a complex beast where you’ll need to carefully consider the types of units you have available, making the most of their strengths and weaknesses, there’s lots of room for strategy. Take charged units that do more damage the further they more before they attack – you’ll perhaps want those spearheading any attack.

Tying everything together is a new Pantheon feature, where all of your exploits across factions and worlds collide. As you play Age of Wonders 4, it’s here you’ll unlock new abilities and whole lot more, creating yet more opportunities for fresh and enjoyable play. Needless to say, this is going to be a game you can really sink your time into once you’ve got used to its mechanics.

With it arriving in May, there’s not even too long to wait before strategy fans can throw themselves into Age of Wonders 4 with gusto. And there’s good news for console fans: it’ll launch on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S alongside PC. For this preview, we actually played the PC version with an Xbox controller, and found the scheme to be intuitive. So, whether you’re a console or PC gamer, you’d be wise to keep Age of Wonders 4 on your radar if you want to immerse yourself in fantasy.

Age of Wonders 4 launches 2nd May on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.