When you sit down to play a video game, you probably don’t expect to learn much except maybe how many headshots a zombie can take before they fall, or if your friends have been practicing or not their Rainbow Six Siege skills (they don’t have any).

However, strategy games like the recent Age of Empires IV allow players to experience the frenzied battles and new technology that defined the story firsthand – if from a bird’s-eye view – and the developers behind AoE are determined to fully embody these events so that players can see them for themselves.

That’s why developers World’s Edge and Relic Entertainment have teamed up with UK production company Lion Television to create in-depth mini-documentaries that cover the technology and culture of the civilizations you pilot through landmark global events, such as than the Battle of Hastings. As franchise narrative director Noble Smith puts it, these videos are a major weapon in AOE4 try to inform the players with the same intensity and the same feelings as a good episode of Top speed.

Smith points out that previous Age of Empire games used a combination of evocative art and voiceover to define the historical stakes of their campaigns. However, in the 15+ years since the last entry in the series, technology has advanced enough to allow the game to include 4K footage of the very real battlefields where these clashes took place, and cutting edge weapons. that allowed one side to carve out a victory. Although AOE4 tends to focus on the military side of things, Smith notes that a good portion of the material covers areas that you might not expect, like the process used to create medieval painting or traditional music from the Mongolian civilization.

“We wanted Pin up parts of everyday the life that gets distracted in the game.”

“I think a lot of people expect us to go deeper into some aspect of the game’s warfare, like trebuchet, crossbow, heavy cavalry,” Smith said. “But we wanted to show the parts of everyday life that are abstract in the game. For example, you send a villager to build a farm, but in real life most people’s lives were all about harvesting.”

Smith continues, “We wanted to emphasize that this isn’t a mass-produced world, it’s a world where everything is done by hand, right down to the individual arrows. There is an expert who makes the handle of the arrow, another who makes the feathers on an arrow, and another who makes the tip of the arrow, and so on. All this has to happen 10,000 times before going to war, so we wanted to show this in a real and lasting way.

The final game contains over 20 of these video clips, and they are primarily used to assemble its main single-player mode, which features four campaigns set in the Middle Ages, including the Norman Conquest of England, the Hundred Years. The war, the triumphs of the Mongol Empire and the creation of Moscow.

These campaigns serve as a launch pad for the complex but accessible action that Age of Empires is known for; for example, in the first Norman mission, you control the army of William the Conqueror as he storms Senlac hill to kill King Harold and end the era of Anglo-Saxon rule. As the game crudely informs you on the next mission, however, that pot story you heard in the Western Civ class isn’t exactly accurate, as William the Conqueror must have spent the next few years taking down the rebels in the north. in order to really cement his claim. .

These videos are produced quite skillfully, and they melt the finely tuned clockwork systems of the middle of the strategy into something much more alive and tangible. The soaring drone shots of the rolling plains on which hundreds, if not thousands of men died so long ago, are striking to behold, but the game’s most impressive effect comes when soldiers in ink superimposed through these modern landscapes in the same way they would have. on the day of the battle.

“We wanted Pin up those places are living at present. “

“We wanted to show that these places are alive right now,” Smith said. “There are cars in the background, but we wanted to make it feel like events echo through time, and you can still go to those places. We want to inspire people to do that.”

My favorite among the videos is the clip above on the crossbow, which clearly shows how much force it takes to cock and fire the “easy to use” weapon. It also shows how crossbowmen would carry large shields as a movable blanket to hide behind, which makes a lot of sense, but goes against their usual portrayals in popular media.

Relic narrative designer Lauren Wood says the mini-docs not only helped set the tone for the game, they also helped with mechanical ideas. According to Wood, the game’s designers were so impressed with the video that showed how medieval warriors made incendiary arrows that they decided to add them to the game. She says the documentary that covers Mongolian music is her favorite in the game. game, because of the way it reflects the importance of the horse to Mongolian society. (The clip features a throat singer performing a song of praise to one of Genghis Khan’s horses.)

The documentaries cover historical esotericism that even armchair experts may not be familiar with, such as how some Moscow warriors wore masks in the shape of human faces in order to inflict psychological damage on their enemies. Another recounts how Henry V (then known as Prince Hal) was struck in the face with an arrow at the Battle of Shrewsbury, and the army had to call in a blacksmith to create a new tool in order to extract. Narrative manager Philippe Boulle personally appreciated this latest addition, as it is an emergency room technician demonstrating how the tool was used on ballistic gel.

Overall, the combination of Age of Empire IV The versatile campaign mode and the incredibly detailed videos that fuel it make it the perfect place, even for non-strategic fans, to dip their toes into the intimidating RTS genre. (The long but skippable tutorial that the game opens with is just the crash course that many of us have given up on Age of empires gamers might need.) The fact that the game is now available on Xbox Game Pass makes this process much easier. You don’t need to know how a crossbow works to conquer England, but it probably helps. Ask Guillaume.