Age of Wonders 4 Review | Gripping, Customizable Turn-Based Fantasy Action

82
Story
8
Gameplay
9
Visuals
8
Audio
7
Value for Money
9
Price:
$ 49
Clear Time:
30 Hours
Age of Wonders 4 is a solid mix of strategy, tactics, and worldbuilding. You’ll find yourself spending hours just crafting the races you like, pitting them against other Wizard Kings and Champions, while using a wide variety of spells and units. Definitely not a strategy game you’d want to miss.

The Wizard Kings have returned, and they want to take back what they've lost in Age of Wonders 4 by Triumph Games. Read on to see if the game’s worth buying in our review!


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Age of Wonders 4 Review and Score Explanation

Age of Wonders 4 Score Explanation

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Overall Age of Wonders 4 is a solid mix of strategy, tactics, and worldbuilding. You’ll find yourself spending hours just crafting the races you like, pitting them against other Wizard Kings and Champions, while using a wide variety of spells and units. Definitely not a strategy game you’d want to miss.
Story Do not go into Age of Wonders 4 looking for a story beyond the premise; it’s up to YOU to form your own story through the races and leaders you create, as well as the relationships you cultivate with other factions around you. Like Civilization and other 4X games, Age of Wonders 4 is a story generator you’ll spend a lot of time playing around with.
Gameplay Both the strategic and tactical gameplay are deep and finely tuned. Craft your faction’s rise by choosing the right buildings, the right spell tomes, and the right Free Cities and full factions to befriend, and see the fruits of your labor by wiping the floor with your enemies in tactical combat with spells, buffs, and tactics.
Visuals Age of Wonders 4 has good visuals that suit its fantasy theme very well. The game uses an artful mix of 2D and 3D, evoking the feel of modern MOBA games, but doesn’t lean too much toward being cartoony. Plus, the art associated with Points of Interest on the maps, the design of the cities, and the look of the 2D assets are great.
Audio The audio for Age of Wonders 4 is your standard fantasy music, with lutes and guitars, and drums. But you can tell that Paradox Interactive has somewhat influenced Triumph Games by how solid these tracks still are. They’re solid enough to immerse you during a battle and get the job done.
Value for Money The base game was released for barely $50 in exchange for many hours of playtime, faction building, and character customization. Getting the Premium Version for $89.99 could also be worth it, since you’ll be getting what is effectively $60 in extra content for only $40.

Age of Wonders 4 Review: Gripping, Customizable Turn-Based Fantasy Action

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Age of Wonders 4 is a solid turn-based strategy game that’s up there with Civilization and other 4X games, with great strategic and tactical gameplay plus nice visuals. The ability to make and customize your own faction really extends the gameplay, so you’ll be spending a lot of your time experimenting to make the perfect faction to play with.

However, some of the current spell tomes are more powerful than others, there are exploits here and there, and the game also suffers from some performance issues. Still, we reckon that this game is a contender for one of the best strategy games of the year. The best part is, it only comes with a $50 price tag.

Age of Wonders 4 Full Game Review

Pros of Age of Wonders 4

Things Age of Wonders 4 Got Right
Checkmark Expansive Faction, Character, and Map Customization Options
Checkmark Deep Faction and Character Progression Systems
Checkmark Decent AI That Can Put Up A Fight
Checkmark You Can Shape Your Own Story Every Battle

Expansive Faction, Character, and Map Customization Options

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No doubt, Age of Wonders 4’s strongest suit is the plethora of customization options you have not only for maps but the very faction and characters you play with.

Ever wanted to duke it out with humans, elves, and orcs with your horde of magical barbaric rat people in a death world covered in lava? Yeah, I think rats are cool too. Ever wondered what a group of mystic Arabian orcs who have attuned themselves to the astral plane would look like? Uh-huh, Age of Wonders 4 has that too. It’s amazing how much time you can spend just mixing and matching races with cultures and societal traits, along with the other standard stuff like deciding what to call them.

Not only that, but you can customize your faction leader as well. I said in the first impressions article that there was a preset race of mole people led by one powerful witch. What I did was make a race of halflings who worshiped a wizard frog god whom I decked out with a staff and glittering Astral armor. Also had an orc ruler who wore a big wizard’s hat.

The great thing about all of this is that the customization options are not just cosmetic. Each society trait, each item you wear, and every other aspect of your faction and ruler affects them in some way. Be it in weapons proficiency (whether they’re better with physical weapons or magic), perks (whether they’ll do just as much damage even if they take casualties), or alignment (whether they’re saintly good or viciously evil).

So before you even get into a game of Age of Wonders 4, you might end up spending a good chunk of your time just experimenting with the races and rulers you want.

Deep Faction and Character Progression Systems

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Now you’ve gone and made your own faction and ruler, you’ll be pleased to know that even during a game of Age of Wonders 4, there’s still a lot of faction and ruler customization going on. That’s because of the game’s Spell Tome and Empire Progression systems.

Spell Tomes are books of spells that your faction can research to unlock all sorts of magic. Whether it’s powerful lightning magic you can use during tactical battles, spells that can turn your race into a horde of tiny people, or summoning magic that can call forth Watchers or other beings from the Astral Sea to aid you in battle, Age of Wonders has a little bit of something for everyone.

Meanwhile, the Empire Progression system is a more general tech tree that is dictated by your faction’s affinity (which is determined by the kind of society you picked for them during faction creation). So, for example, if your faction has astral affinity, then it has access to perks that increase Mana intake and even just give you a lump sum of Mana to spend (which you’ll need to cast spells and make summons). If you have the Nature affinity, you can make it so that when you get your hands on a province, you get a free animal unit.

Combining both the Spell Tomes and the Empire Progression systems, you get a faction that evolves throughout your game and becomes truly yours. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. I like it. When I got really far into my game as a race of mystic orcs, I had so much Mana that I would just summon stacks of Watchers, Astral Beasts, and other kinds of creatures, and throw them at my enemies. It’s nice.

Decent AI That Can Put Up A Fight

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Now that we’re on the subject of enemies, the ones you’ll be facing off against in Age of Wonders 4 will most likely be AI-controlled ones, either in the form of the Free Cities, or other full factions (of course unless you’re actually playing against a friend online). Though nothing can beat playing against a human opponent, the AI in Age of Wonders 4 is pretty decent.

AI-controlled factions typically stick to whatever alliances and deals you make with them, so they are rather reliable allies. If you have them as enemies, they’ll insult you, fabricate false claims about what you’re doing, and try their best to drag your reputation into the mud until they finally get a tiny sliver of a reason to declare war on you.

Once you’re fighting them, be prepared for relentless raiding parties that will try to penetrate into your provinces, ruin your crops, squat at your conduits, and overall make a mess of things. In tactical battles, they’ll move until they’re juuust out of attack range from your units (so they can make the first strike in the next turn), block your flanking maneuvers, and use spells whenever they can.

In other words, they won’t give you an easy time unless you’re playing in Normal, Easy, or Relaxed mode. But dealing with computer opponents is not terribly hard. Even newcomers to the Age of Wonders series can easily get into the game without much trouble, as long as they can figure out how the game’s systems work and use them to their advantage

You Can Shape Your Own Story Every Battle

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Don’t go into Age of Wonders 4 looking for a story beyond the premise. This is not Warcraft or Starcraft or Command and Conquer; this is more like a Civilization game where you’re in charge of making your own story.

In the first impressions article I wrote for this game, I said that this could be bad for those who want stories in their strategy games, but now I would tell those people to at least give it a chance because there’s really a lot of stuff you can still come across in a single game. Points of Interest contain lore, you’ll find yourself doing all sorts of quests for people within your own faction or even among your allies, and you can easily imagine for yourself the kind of story your faction is going through as it evolves with your discovery of more powerful tomes and perks.

It’s just like playing a classic game of Civilization. Sure, you know that Mahatma Gandhi having a nuke doesn’t make a lick of sense, but you can imagine your own story for it. Same goes for Age of Wonders 4. Sure, orcs attuned to the Astral Sea don’t make much sense, but you can imagine your own story for it too.

Cons of Age of Wonders 4

Things That Age of Wonders 4 Can Improve
Checkmark Factions Don't Feel 'Unique' Enough
Checkmark Imbalanced Tomes, Spells, and Perks
Checkmark Several Exploits Need to Be Fixed

Factions Don't Feel 'Unique' Enough

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There’s something about strategy games where you can customize your factions. Games like early Stellaris or Civilization, where everyone basically has access to all the units save for a few special ones. The factions themselves feel diluted or generic after a while because even if you know they’re a faction with their own modifiers and specific units and such, they can have access to another faction’s units if you made it so. That’s the same kind of feeling I get whenever I play too much Age of Wonders 4.

After a while, you get a sense that you’re more or less playing with palette-swapped races. Sure, you have your orcs, your humans, your elves, and so forth, but all of them are more or less model swaps. Humans can have the same body and mind traits you can give to an orc, and an orc can get the same body and mind traits you can give to an elf. Going from that, any race can adopt any sort of Culture, and any sort of Society traits. So you end up with factions that, unless you invest yourself heavily in them, are just collections of random traits.

There are a few things that Triumph Games could’ve done to alleviate this problem somewhat like restricting races to certain physical and mental traits, or restricting cultures instead, though those come with their own problems. It’s a tricky thing to solve, really.

Imbalanced Tomes, Spells, and Perks

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Do you know there’s a Spell that gives your army an instant attack boost without any actual drawback whatsoever in Age of Wonders 4? Yeah, there is! It’s called the ‘Spawnkin’ spell and it can increase your units' damage by 20 percent with the only exchange being that they’ll… look smaller. That’s it. Free damage upgrade for anyone who has the Chaos affinity.

How about those with the Astral Affinity instead? I mentioned summons earlier. So if you somehow manage to make a very large mana pool with the mana regeneration rate to back it up, you can summon stacks rather quickly without much cost.

You can find people complaining about other Spell Tome and empire progression options online, though I trust that these will be patched eventually.

Several Exploits Need to Be Fixed

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Another thing I hope gets patched eventually are the exploits that have been explored by different users online. For example, if you have the Nature affinity and advance down its tech branch, there is a perk there that grants you an animal every time your city gets a province. Now, if you have two cities close enough to each other, you can swap provinces between them. Every time you do, you get a free animal unit. Yes, free. No strings attached whatsoever. Time to destroy that Wizard King with your stacks of Unicorns.

But if you’re on the receiving end of that Unicorn onslaught, it wouldn’t really make for a fun game now, would it? I don’t want to rag on Triumph too much because this could also be patched in the future.

Other Minor Gripes

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Just two, actually. One, it’s kind of hard to click on units whether they are on the strategic or tactical map. You have to click the model itself instead of just the circle that’s around them. It kinda gets annoying sometimes if you just want to move the unit across the map yet you don’t have any teleportation tech yet.

Another thing is naval combat. Naval combat is probably the weakest aspect of Age of Wonders 4 simply because it’s just there. There’s nothing too exciting about it at all. Unless you’re playing on an island map, you’ll most likely never see a boat during your playthrough. I wish that they’ll be expanded upon in future DLC, just so they actually have some value in the game.

Age of Wonders 4 Story Plot

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Athla had been ravaged continuously by conflicts between humanity and the High Elves and other ancient races. But now both sides must unite, as a new force emerges from outside the realm of reality. Wizard Kings, free from their imprisonment and looking to restore their lost magics, have begun their invasion. Those foolish enough to face them lose their lives, and it falls to the mortal Champions of the realm to banish them from the land once and for all.

Age of Wonders 4 by Triumph Games is the latest entry in the two-decade-old series. Here, different factions fight for dominance in a 4X-style map either through diplomacy, brutal force, or arcane magic. You are the head of one of these factions, and you can choose to either be a Champion of the mortal realm or a Wizard King. To make your faction stronger, you must research Tomes of Magic that both give buffs and change the physical look of your race, as well as empire improvements that give you access to abilities like teleportation.

Aside from attacking enemy factions, there are many locations around the map where you can have an adventure in, fight enemies, and find hidden items and other treasures you can use to enhance your character. The Underground is back too, so there’s also that place to check out (just make sure to not dig too deep or else you’ll get waves of marauders).

Who Should Play Age of Wonders 4?

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Age of Wonders 4 is Recommended if You Enjoy:

• The Civilization Series
• The Total War Series
• Age of Wonders 3

Strategy game veterans will find themselves at home playing Age of Wonders 4 because it combines the good parts of some of the best strategy games in the market. There’s the strategic 4X gameplay of Civilization, the tactical army control in the Total War series, and the AoW franchise’s turn-based system. If you want a fantasy strategy game that has a good amount of depth, try it out.

Is Age of Wonders 4 Worth It?

Worth the $50. If You Love Strategy Games, Buy the Premium Edition

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The $50 already offers a good amount of gameplay before you start getting tired of the races and customization options, so it’s definitely worth it. If you like strategy games in general, we suggest you buy the Premium Edition that’s roughly $90 because if you buy the DLC slated for the Expansion Pass separately, you’ll be spending $60 in total instead of just $40.


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How Age of Wonders 4 Matches Up to Recently-Released Games

Games That Came Out Recently Pros Cons
Redfall - Cover Redfall Age of Wonders 4 is a game that comes out of the box completely playable for its platforms. ‘Nuff said. It won’t appeal to players who want fast-paced action, or have the patience to craft their own races and strategize.
Darkest Dungeon 2 - Cover Darkest Dungeon 2 Age of Wonders 4 is a more epic experience compared to Darkest Dungeon 2. Also, there might be fantasy fans who don’t like the dark aesthetic DD2 has, and would instead prefer something with more of a High Fantasy vibe that’s in AoW 4. Darkest Dungeon 2 is a more personalized gaming experience, though. Here, you'll be at the grittiest that fantasy can be, and feel a lot stress. Meanwhile, AoW 4 has you feel like a god among mortals. If you want to feel like a mortal, DD2 is for you.
Star Wars Jedi Survivor - Cover Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Age of Wonders 4 has an okay PC port compared to Jedi: Survivor. Also, it’s attractive to fantasy fans who don’t like Jedi: Survivor’s sci-fi story (or Star Wars games in general). Just like with Redfall, Age of Wonders 4 is not a game for people who want fast-paced action.

How Age of Wonders 4 Matches Up to Similar Games

Games Similar to Age of Wonders 4 Pros Cons
Elden Ring - The Lands Between Civilization VI (or V) Age of Wonders 4’s combat is a lot more involved than in any Civilization games because of the tactical map, so it becomes a treat for those who want more action in their 4X games. The Civilization games are stronger than AoW when it comes to the diversity of their units. AoW 4 is stuck in a fantasy setting, while Civilization is not.
Elden Ring - The Lands Between Total War: Warhammer III Age of Wonders 4 and Warhammer III are similar in that they both have strategic and tactical map setups, though Age of Wonders 4 has that customizability going for it. The tactical battles in Warhammer III are definitely much more entertaining to look at compared to those in Age of Wonders 4.

Age of Wonders 4 Trailer

Age of Wonders 4 Product Information

Age of Wonders 4 - Banner
Title AGE OF WONDERS 4
Release Date May 2, 2023 (US - EST)
Developer Triumph Studios
Supported Platforms PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Genre Turn-Based RPG, 4X Strategy Game
Number of Players 1-8 (expected)
ESRB Rating Teen
Official Website https://www.paradoxinteractive.com/games/age-of-wonders-4/about

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