Yesterday's Age of Empires' gamescom livestream from Microsoft over-delivered, promising a fun fan-event and then surprising everyone with the announcement of Age of Empires 4. It has been almost 12 years since Age of Empires 3 launched, the last in the franchise created by Ensemble Studios before it closed in 2009. The forthcoming sequel will define a new era for the franchise, one inherited by Company of Heroes and Dawn of War developer Relic Entertainment.
Little was revealed about Age of Empires 4 beyond its developer and its reveal trailer, which lacked gameplay. The trailer features a narrator giving a semi-profound speech about time and civilization's path through history. Several cultures and societies were briefly shown, from the Japanese shogunate to the Roman empire, implying a wide range of time-frames and civilizations to be included in the game. The trailer's description describes Age of Empires 4 as a "battle through history," a theme well known to Age of Empires fans.
Whether or not Relic Entertainment adds its own spin to the Age of Empires franchise may be the most pressing question. The Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War series is a non-traditional RTS, and Company of Heroes is unique in its own right as well, especially the sequel. Plus, considering Age of Empires' formula dwindled in popularity with the release of Age of Empires 3, some new ideas could be welcome. Age of Empires 4 has a unique opportunity to surprise players.
Here's a quote from a letter Relic Entertainment wrote to the Age of Empires community:
"[W]e couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the [Age of Empires] legacy. We can’t wait to tap into our strengths as a studio to fuse historical context with deep strategic gameplay, and to bring this franchise back to the forefront of gaming and into the hands of its beloved community."
Relic adds that it will share additional information on Age of Empires 4 in the "months to come."
In addition to announcing Age of Empires 4, Microsoft made several additional Age of Empires-related reveals during the gamescom fan event. First came the release date announcement of Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, which comes to PC on October 19, 2017. Compounding on the excitement for the updated version of the classic Age of Empires, Microsoft also announced that Definitive Editions were in the works for both Age of Empire 2 and Age of Empires 3 as well.
Age of Empires 4 has no announced release window and is currently only announced for PC.