Best Civilizations in AOE IV | Ranked Worst to Best

After 16 long years of waiting, the Age of Empires franchise has finally continued with the release of AoE 4 and you’re likely sat there asking: who are the Age of Empires 4 best civilizations?

Obviously, some skills will need to be mastered no matter who you’re playing as, but there are definitely stronger and weaker civilizations right now, and you can give yourself a huge advantage by picking the former. To help you out, we’ve put together a complete ranking of every civilization in the game. Enjoy! 

Which is the Best Civilization in Age of Empires 4?

Okay, let’s take the training wheels off. You’ve learned the game using one of the three civilizations above, and now you’re thinking of playing the ladder. Here are the best civilizations in Age of Empires 4, ranked from worst to best. 

8. Chinese

Difficulty: 3/3

Unique Units: 

  • Zhuge Nu: Repeater crossbowman effective vs. light units. 
  • Fire Lancer: Light cavalry unit effective vs. buildings.
  • Grenadier: Throws grenades capable of doing area of effect damage. 
  • Nest of Bees: Fire a barrage of rockets doing area of effect damage. 

Despite being way down here on the list, the Chinese actually have a half-decent late-game composition in Age of Empires 4. They have powerful siege weapons, gunpowder units, special units and great Imperial Age upgrades. The problem is getting there. 

The Chinese civilization cannot compete with other civilizations in the earlier phases of the game, and their defences aren’t strong enough to withstand much aggression. So, against even average players, your opponent will rush you before they let you get anywhere close to the Imperial Age. And as the Chinese civilization, you need to be playing very well indeed to survive such a push. Seriously, just play someone else. 

7. Delhi Sultanate 

Difficulty: 3/3

Unique Units: 

  • Scholar: When garrisoned inside a Mosque, Scholars speed up technology research time. 
  • War Elephant: High health and damage siege unit. 

The best explanation of the Delhi Sultanate I’ve heard since launch is that they’re basically Protoss from Starcraft, if all you were able to do was turtle up and build Carriers. But then imagine that their Carriers weren’t unstoppable in the end-game, and were instead mediocre at best. If you hadn’t already guessed, elephants are the Carriers in this metaphor. And they really are that underwhelming. 

Some players will gravitate to the Delhi Sultanate because if nothing else, war elephants are very cool, and maybe they’ll get a buff soon (this is actually quite likely given they’re as important to Delhi as Longbowmen are to the English). But until that buff comes, we wouldn’t recommend them. 

6. Holy Roman Empire

Difficulty: 2/3

Unique Units: 

  • Prelate: Provides Holy Inspiration to villagers, making them work 40% faster for 30 seconds.
  • Landsknecht: Light Infantry with a large two handed sword, capable of doing significant area damage. 

The Holy Roman Empire are definitely more capable than the two civilizations above, and their early Man-at-Arms access is a treat, but there’s very little that’s unique or powerful about their military. Almost everything they’re supposedly good at can be done better by one of the civs lower down on this list. They do have a good economy in fairness, but it isn’t good enough to justify how “meh” they are in combat, and how few special units they have. We’re especially disappointed by the Holy Roman Empire in the late game; their tech, and upgrades just don’t stack up to most of the other civilizations in Age of Empires 4. 

In defense of the Holy Roman Empire, they're a great pick for beginners because they lend themselves quite well to turtling (an RTS term for holding back and defending your start position). New players will naturally want to play defensively when they’re first getting into the game, and with the Holy Roman Empire, you aren’t punished for doing this. Add to this that they’re a jack-of-all-trades faction, so you can experiment with different army compositions when you’re playing them.

5. Abbasid Dynasty

Difficulty: 2/3

Unique Units: 

  • Camel Archers: Anti-cavalry units that reduce damage from nearby enemy cavalry units. 

The Abbasid Dynasty would be much higher on the list if sea maps weren’t so unpopular. They have half-price docks and that’s absolutely huge, but in our experience a great many players simply have no interest in playing sea maps and will quit out. Don’t despair though, because the Abassid can also do great work on land, and Camel Archers are some of the best unique units in the game. But remember to use Camel Archers like you would heroes; they provide buffs to nearby units, and should be peppered throughout an army - not spammed. 

Abbasid might actually get a little higher in the list as the meta develops post-launch, especially because they’re effective against cavalry-based armies (more on that later). However, at this point, we can’t justify putting them above any of the civilizations lower down in the rankings.

4. Rus 

Difficulty: 2/3

Unique Unist: 

  • Streltsy: Gunpowder unit which gets stronger when stationary, has a high melee attack, and can be trained for reduced cost.
  • Warrior Monk: Inspires nearby units when in combat, providing bonus armor and damage. 
  • Lodya ships: Can be converted into any type of ship. 

Rus are wonderfully fun to play, and will probably be popular for quite a while. They’ve got fantastic scouts, and these should keep you ahead of your opponent in terms of intel as the match progresses. You’ve also got unique defences as Rus, and these can keep you safe until you start pumping out the amazing mid-game units this civ have to offer. For our money, Streltsy are actually the best gunpowder units in the game. And Rus have decent siege weapons to boot!

So why not higher, you might be thinking? Because, as recent tournaments have shown us, Rus can be hard-countered by out-ranging their gunpowder units with archers and forcing them to move. This is so effective because Rus have a slow army, and so the faster, more micro-intensive civs like the Mongols will be able to wreck them if they can be forced out of position. Obviously, this requires a very good player to be controlling the Mongols, but you should expect more and more of your opponents to be able to competently do this.

Difficulty: 1/3

Unique Units:

  •  Longbowman. Longer range archer that can deploy defensive palings, making them effective against cavalry. 

I wish I could place the English higher: they’re iconic, and their Longbowman are contenders for the best units in the game. As it stands, their Feudal Age push is still incredibly strong, and it's hard to imagine the English falling any lower on the list. Even if you go into the late game, their reliable economy should put you in a good position to keep fighting. 

All of that said, the English civilization are just slightly weaker than the top two civilizations in the game right now. And more importantly, the ways in which they’re weaker - not as mobile as the Mongols, and weaker in late-game sieging than the French - aren’t things that a balance patch would fix. The English are so tied to their Longbowmen that unless they were fundamentally reworked, they would never overcome those inherent disadvantages. 

But if you’re a new player, the English civilization are the faction we recommend you play first. Their economy game is very easy to stay on top off, which gives you the breathing space to practice other elements of the game. And their longbowman are an easy unit for you to focus your army composition around. 

2. Mongol 

Difficulty: 3/3

Unique Units: 

  • Khan: Fires powerful signal arrows that enhance nearby troops. 
  • Mangudai: Mounted archer able to fire while moving. 

The Mongols are certainly the hardest civilization to play in Age of Empires 4. We really can’t recommend them to anyone that doesn’t have significant experience with RTS games. They don’t have easy mechanics, they require very good micro, you can’t build walls, and you need to play them aggressively. But put them in the hands of a top player, and they can do some nutty stuff. 

They have the kind of versatility on the battlefield that other civs simply never will, and their speed is an effective counter to most of the meta compositions being played right now. Plus, landing a good hit-and-run cavalry charge on an enemies siege unit, is one of the most satisfying feelings in the game. 

1. French

Difficulty: 1/3

Unique Units: 

  • Royal Knight: Gains bonus damage for 3 seconds after completing a charge. 
  • Arbalétrier: Deploy a defensive pavise that provides 5 ranged armor for 30 seconds. 
  • Galleass: Large war galley that has a long range forward mounted bombard. 

As an Englishman, it pains me to say this, but the French are undoubtedly the best civilization in the game. They have amazing passive buffs that put you ahead in terms of workers and basically guarantee you’re outpacing your opponents' economy. They have the single best ship in the game, and so there’s zero problem with a sea map coming up. And Royal Knights are up there with Longbowmen as contenders for the single best units in the game. 

Honestly, it's hard to see the French falling from the top spot unless a reliable Mongol or Abbassid strat can be figured out. And what makes them even more appealing right now is that the French are strong at all levels of play, from beginners to pros. Which makes them immensely popular. If you’re new to AoE, then you can just build Royal Knights, as they have favorable matchups against almost every other unit in the game. But for long term improvement, our best advice is to start learning specifically how to play against the French because they’ll come up so much on the ladder. 

Simply put: the French are the best civilization in Age of Empires 4. C’est la vie.