Age of Wonders 4

I think it would make sense for the look of AI races to vary a bit within reasonable parameters. As for picking society traits, tome and such, I hope they follow some kind of self-reinforcing theme, again with reasonable variations. As the game rolls on, they will be continuing the customisation process with new tomes and society picks - if they are to be effective, they need to pick effective combinations, while hopefully sticking to some kind of recognisable theme.

I don’t mind having 4 completely unique opponents each game, and having to learn what their properties are. I don’t like having to click on each enemy unit to see what its properties are.

Is it possible to select three regular type opponents and one AI to be different? In other words you can choose each enemy type separately when starting a game. Or is it that the AI is set to all classic precreated by Triumph or all will be random? I would think that as long as you can choose there shouldn’t be so much angst.

This is a good point. A limited number of opponents makes it easier to digest opponents that may not always be the same. A game like Stellaris has too many so trying to remember who is what is tougher.

I believe in prior AoW games you could select your opponents, including custom opponents you created and saved. I expect AoW4 will continue that.

THis is how I feel as well!

Well consider this angle: cool unique racial units.

You know what made Dark Elves cool and fun to play? Spider Queens, Shades, Incarnates.
If Dark Elves are just a skin laid over other units? That’s pretty lame.
This extrapolates to every race in Shadow Magic. Everyone had cool, unique units and stats. You could tweak those units with your own flavor via magic and the like, but Shadow Demons were nothing like Halflings at the end of the day who were nothing like Tigrans.

Now arguably AoW3 already destroyed these cool units anyway, but I’d take the position that it’s a negative. I enjoyed AoW3 a fair amount, but nothing like I enjoyed Shadow Magic. At the end of the day Race Riding Racial Mount is lame compared to Sphynxes. Fairy Dragons and Gluttons. Class-based Race Unit is also not that exciting, though at least the uniqueness of each race came through a bit. Your Orc Crusaders felt different than Goblin Crusaders for the most part.

I was just thinking about it while taking a shower and I can better articulate what I’m thinking.
I know they call races factions now, but they didn’t historically. Also it’s kind of silly since Orcs are literally a different species than Elves or Archon. So for brevity I’m using the older terminology and considering “faction” to be your leader/wizard and the unique stuff they bring to the table. So when I say a Leader has variation, I mean all the stuff they bring to the table: spells, tech tree, units, whatever.

AoW2/Shadow Magic: Race variation = extreme. Leader variation = minimal.
AoW3: Race variation = minimal. Leader variation = moderately high (each class is varied, but similar to each of the same class in many ways)
Planetfall: Race variation = extreme. Leader variation = moderate (6 options all mostly end up samey, but each is pretty unique on it’s own)
AoW4: Race variation = minimal (to potentially non-existent). Leader variation = seemingly very high?

What I enjoy is the race variation. Women riding laser dinosaurs? Shadow Demons? Give me all that stuff.
Having leaders make meaningful changes is also a huge plus, but I don’t think it can overcome the first part if that part is weak. Planetfall’s mods were hell to me. Oh you get one-shotted by some Tier 1 units because it had a end game mod that you didn’t realize. Made every fight unfun because anything could be nearly anything.
Flamethrower Dwarves vs Flamethrower Humans is… not interesting. It’s okay and kind of a neat thing, but they don’t really feel all that special. And that’s even considering that in Planetfall each race was pretty diverse and those two example units would generally be pretty unique.

At the end of the day I want Shadow Magic/Planetfalls races with AoW3/4’s leaders/factions.
Lots of cool units, lots of cool things that make my faction cool and unique compared to similar factions.
And for me a couple of traits isn’t that cool. It sure as heck isn’t as cool as a Drone Carrier or Red Dragon.

Your Comparison doesn’t quite hold up as you’re not including culture into your consideration. I’m not familiar with anything pre-Planetfall but if you want to break it down into Race & Leader like you do, then you should consider Race to be the Form + Culture.

A Culture alone determines your Starting units, provides culture research, unique World Map and Combat Gameplay and Cultural Structures. The Culture Traits then add short & long term bonusses to that and can be used to strengthen or diversify your gameplay. Form determines the look of your Units and the Form Traits any Form difference you’d want them to have. Those can have an affect on the World Map such as post combat healing, during Combat such as additional damage when standing adjacent to each other or affect your starting conditions such as your adaptation or choosing to use an exotic mount type.

Your Ruler variance is then further the Ruler type you pick, the Tomes you research/unlock and your progression through the empire tree.

If you go with Randomly Generated AI Rulers then Form Traits will still be locked but all other steps such as Culture and Tome are randomly assigned. If you stick with the premade Rulers then those are already chosen and set.

During a Game the AI’s behaviour and progression is determined by their Personality, which is based of the Combination of Affinities they have at the start of the game. A personality determines which Victory Condition to focus on, which Tomes they’ll research, how they develop their cities etc. There 19 different personalities that AI Rulers can have and several of these have overlapping Affinities. So High Elves would all have at least 2 Order as base affinity, that gives them 4 likely Personalities to have meaning the High Elves of one game can behave differently from the High Elves in another game.

I think the mutations would be cool if that was like a separate field of research/magic, and races started out similar but evolved over time due to things weighted by the leader, but something fringe could pop up rarely.

I’m hoping the races aren’t too generic.

And for me the mods solved a problem that ruined my enjoyment. I hate getting later in the game and having a bunch of trash I’ll never build again and therefore being stuck only building limited top-tier units. Hopefully the typewide enchantments in this game solve both our problems. Lower tier units can still be viable but it’s less cognitive overload when all you have to know is that all of their archers fire super ice arrows rather than having to worry that each individual unit might be different.

That’s exactly what Jordi mentioned. The tomes you research open up new buildings as well as potential global or unit-type traits/skills. So while the AI will progress down whichever path the generic race is designed there is variation (and I assume weighting by the AI based on what it thinks it needs or what synergizes with its other options) as the game progresses. So while Elf Faction A is going down say, the warfare/archer/air magic path Elf Faction B is going down the nature magic/fantastic beast/archer path. Both fit within the classic theme of fantasy elves but there is some variation. Then if you enable the AI to have a broader pick of things you can get Elf Faction C dark magic/poison/undead path. These are just example options I made up, I don’t know which specific ones are defined as classic elves but I’m sure they exist in the framework of the game, you don’t get ~100 different tomes without hitting a bunch of the major themes.

It sounds like what we think of as race is really just the culture we are facing (something @ShivaX can appreciate, being such a fan like he is of a certain sci-fi series!) with a shape (form) and some common traits to bind them. I think everyone wants the same thing, it’s just that the jargon is changing a bit.

Well, from what we have seen, this is not going to be your cup of tea :(.

I suspect @ShivaX and others just need to adjust perspective. We have seen what everyone wants like unique units from tomes/affinity so we just need to shift the language a bit and get used to new terminology. What folks want from what other games call factions or “race” is here it’s just called other things.

I’m optimistic about the faction customization. I enjoyed faction customization in AoW3 and Planetfall much more than in, say Stellaris or Elemental/Fallen Enchantress. The culture-affinity synergies look similar enough to the old formula that I’ll give them a chance.

Two things bug me about customizable factions. First, if I have to do the legwork of designing a faction I’m going to have to understand the game mechanics so I can make meaningful choices about that faction. So those mechanics better be clear and easy to understand. I’ve felt like that was doable with both AoW3 and Planetfall but not, say, Stellaris.

Second, if key gameplay characteristics are tied to unit traits, rather than the unit themselves, then the unit visual designs need to be WYSIWYG. I need to be able to glance at a stack and figure out if they’re order elves or shadow elves. Planetfall and AoW 3 do a good job of this at the army level, but Planetfall especially could have benefitted from more visual feedback on mod loadouts.

The thing I’m optimistic about is that the upfront customization seems pretty straightforward. The tome stuff is all happening as you play and as you’re building that understanding of the game itself.

Wow, the options when it comes to creating random maps sound absolutely incredible. It’s like absolutely no one ever said “Age of Wonders maps are boring” yet Triumph was like “hold my beer” anyway.