Age of Empires 4 is a base-building, sword-clashing, village-pillaging RTS of the classic style, inside and out. Jumping into a match as the tenacious English squaring off against the chivalrous French feels like being transported back – not only to its setting of the High and Late Middle Ages, but to a different era of strategy games entirely. And there are some things about that which feel really nice, like comfort food for gamers of a certain age. But it's the few spots where Relic has taken risks here and there that this battlefield shows us its best and feels modern. Outside of that, it often just seems too careful and safe in a world where Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition already exists. If you've been sending villagers out to hunt animals, mine gold, and chop wood for decades like I have, you can slide right into the armored boots of most of Age 4's factions with no real fuss at all. Winning pitched battles reliably requires knowing the rock-paper-scissors relationship between spears, horses, and bows. A quick raid to murder some of your opponent's villagers and shut down their economy can be more strategically valuable than victory in any head-to-head engagement. Building walls and other defensive structures turns the late game into a tense chess match where map control is key, though eventually high-tech artillery like cannons will break the stalemate and lead to a decisive sweep for whoever fields them most effectively. The pacing is right where it needs to be when you're against an evenly skilled opponent.