Age of Empires 4 Reimagines The Age-Old Wololo Chant
You don’t need a priest to convince me
After years of waiting, Microsoft and Relic Entertainment finally took the wraps off Age of Empires 4 at its Fan Preview event last Saturday. And while it is technically the fifth game in the two-decade-old franchise, even the developers at Relic see AoE 4 as a spiritual successor to what is arguably the most successful AoE title, Age of Empires 2.
And its predecessor is by no means dead, as an expansion for that very title was announced at the same event. AoE 4 isn’t going up against a zombie, it’s facing a powerful vampire that has yet to see a new dawn. But Relic’s got a new wololo up its silk sleeve. For the uninitiated, “wololo” was the battle cry of the priest unit in the original game, which worked to convert enemy units over to the priest’s side.
While the colorful aesthetic reminded me of Age of Empires Online’s vivid color palette, the extended gameplay demo quickly stomped down those fears. Age of Empires 4 faithfully follows the template set down in stone by its spiritual predecessor while bringing new brews to the table, a balancing act that is no easy feat. Changing too much would draw the ire of the AoE fanbase and keeping things the same could be seen as playing too safe with an established RTS emblem.
The city-building aspects of the game chart the very course that Age of Empires paved back in 1999, albeit with tweaks to the visuals and mechanics. Asymmetric civilizations are the main draw here and while they aren’t as distinct as StarCraft’s, they’re a paradigm shift compared to how AoE II handled them. Even the timeless Age system gets a neat flourish with units changing languages with the passage of time in a historically accurate fashion. Stealth gets a much-deserved revamp with the addition of cover and reveal mechanics to augment the game’s troops built on the existing rock-paper-scissors counter foundation. But the thing that really got my attention was the area-of-effect wololo unit conversion chant.
Wololo for all
At the end of Relic’s impressive gameplay demo, fans got a tantalizing taste of what was to come with a quick montage of possibilities. A “blink and you’ll miss it” segment showcased an area-of-effect conversion spell that would have fit more with stoner uncle Age of Mythology’s outlandish premise.
While it is unclear whether this is a part of a campaign mission or a new game type, it’s a novel reinterpretation of the timeless wololo chant. And while the gameplay reveal didn’t show monks (but they did have healers) converting units from afar, they might end up being a civ-specific unit. While historic accuracy is one of the franchise’s core tenets, it has never shied away from shaking things up. I’m pretty sure those gun-toting Shelby Cobras weren’t canon.
All in all, the unique conversion is an intriguing addition to a game that’s trying to satiate both veterans of the franchise as well as newcomers who aren’t accustomed to RTS titles. It looks like Relic Entertainment has bigger ambitions for Age of Empires 4 than just letting players relive history. We just might be able to rewrite it on our own terms.
Age of Empires 4 is scheduled to launch this fall on PC.