Age of Empires 4: Season One — Ranked Ladder, Content Editor, mods, and what else to expect

Age Of Empires 4
Age Of Empires 4 (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Age of Empires 4's Public Update Preview (PUP) was revealed along with the game's 2022 roadmap at the start of March. It's a way for those who own the game to get in on the development of the game's existing and upcoming content, allowing the Age team to make the necessary tweaks and changes to get the game playing as good as possible before official updates. The current PUP has been running since March 10 and is expected to last until March 25.

According to Age of Empires 4's 2022 roadmap, Season One should be expected soon after the completion of the PUP. Season One will add a beta version of the anticipated Content Editor, along with mod support, Ranked Ladder play, and a bunch of quality-of-life improvements. There's a lot of information to unpack here, so let's see what you can expect when Age of Empires 4 Season One officially launches.

Age of Empires 4 Content Editor and mods

Age of Empires 4's Content Editor is a powerful tool that allows any player to create modded content. The official Age website has an excellent support page for the Content Editor for those who are jumping in and need a bit of extra guidance, but we can take a look here at what to expect. Age of Empires 4 mods will be classified as either crafted maps, generated maps, game modes, or tuning packs. This will be a beta version of the tool, but it's already quite powerful.

Crafted maps

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Crafted maps are exactly what they sound like: fully customized maps on which players can wage war. These will work for offline skirmishes and multiplayer matches with your friends. You effectively start with a blank slate and control everything that goes into the map, from terrain to resources to wildlife. If you'd like to take things to the next level, you can even add units and scripted events that are triggered during play. This is a great place to start your Age 4 modding career, and there's a trove of crafted map walkthroughs on the official Age website.

Generated maps

Those who have mastered crafted maps might want to take things to the next level with generated maps. Again, these can be used for online multiplayer of offline skirmishes. Unlike the crafted maps tool, which essentially gives you a blank canvas and a bunch of tools to paint with, this tool allows you to tweak a map's data that is created by the game's standard map generator. This really takes map modding to the next level, and you might want to master crafted maps before moving here. The Age of Empires 4 website has a great support page for generated maps to get you started.

Tuning packs

You have a brand-new map that you can't wait to show off, but you can't quite get the available in-game units to match up with your vision. That's where the tuning pack comes in. This tool allows you to make tweaks to everything from unit behavior to health, speed, resource cost, and attack. There's an interface to work with when creating tuning packs, making them not quite as advanced as generated maps. If you're looking to create a custom army, be sure to have a look at Age 4's tuning pack support page for a lot of extra information.

Game modes

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Game modes are the final piece of the Age of Empires 4 modding pie. This is where things get really granular, giving you the ability to change the game's actual behavior. If you have an idea of how to turn Age 4's game engine and all it encompasses into something completely different, this is where to turn. This is understandably some high-level stuff, but you can check out Game mode tool walkthroughs at the official Age of Empires 4 site.

Age of Empires 4 Ranked Ladder

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

Age of Empires has always had a fierce competitive scene, and that's now continuing with the launch of Ranked Ladder play in Age of Empires 4. Choosing to participate in the Ranked Ladder will see you go up against opponents within the same area of skill, letting you climb the ranks and face off against increasingly tougher enemies. These are classic "1v1" battles where you must rely only on your own skills to be victorious.

You'll be asked to play five placement matches at the start of each new Ranked Ladder, giving the game's ranking system a chance to assign you a skill level. Your assigned rank will match you up properly with enemies that aren't too easy or too difficult. As you win ranked games, your rank will increase. If you lose, your rank will decrease. You will be able to view at any time your current rank, as well as how many points you need to move up to the next level.

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

There are six rank divisions available in the Ranked Ladder: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Conqueror. Each rank division has three separate tiers; for example, Silver 1, Silver II, and Silver III. This should allow for a generous spread of skill levels to keep games feeling balanced.

Climbing the Ranked Ladder won't just be a matter of pride. There will also be a number of seasonal rewards available, including new Town Center monuments, coats of arms, and portraits for your profile. It's expected that the first ladder season will run for three months, giving you plenty of time to reach for greatness. There's still no firm date on Season One and Ranked Ladder's start.

Age of Empires 4 quality-of-life improvements

Source: Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Source: Xbox Game Studios)

The Age 4 team has also been working at making the game easier and more enjoyable to play. Fully customizable hotkeys have been hotly requested since launch, and they are on the way. Just not quite as soon as you'd expect. Fully remappable keys are expected with Season Two, but Season One has some stopgap improvements. Here are the changes as listed at the official Age of Empires 4 site:

  • Additional categories within the hotkey menu have been added that will enable players to quickly navigate between various functions and update input speeds.
  • We've added the ability to rebind hotkeys to Mouse 3, 4, and 5.
  • Quickly toggle on or off Control Group exclusivity, or use any number of new hotkeys to add or remove a unit from a Control Group.
  • Players will be able to bind other commands to the "ALT" and "Shift" keys.
  • New Global Hotkeys enable players to quickly find idle villagers, cycle through structures, and much more.

Global build queue is expected, as is the ability to "Patrol move" units. At the end of matches you'll now be able to view the entire map, and there will be the ability to randomize civilizations before a match. MegaRandom maps are expected for those who like to jump into a game without knowing at all what to expect, there's a new Art of War to test your skills, and there's some balancing of campaign missions to better tune difficulty.

As mentioned, there's still no concrete date set for the release of Age of Empires 4 Season One. Those who own the game on Steam can enroll in the PUP until its completion on March 25; it's accessed via the Steam Betas menu in your game library. Have a look at our picks for best gaming laptop if you're thinking of upgrading before the launch of Season One.

Cale Hunt
Senior Editor, Laptop Reviews

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.