We were tasked with creating in-game cinematics for Age of Empires IV: The Sultans Ascend, an expansion pack to the series’ fourth game. Embarking on a journey embracing historical authenticity and unearthing cultural insight, the resulting work retains a firmly contemporary aesthetic and engaging energy.


Relic Entertainment
Xbox Game Studios

Service lines



Microsoft Windows
Xbox One, Series X & S

Release Date

October 2021 (Game)
November 2023 (Expansion)


The Art Team wove the art, textiles and architecture of the Mamluk era (1200’s-1500’s) into the creation of nine in-game cinematics. The result is a series of narrative campaign introductions, rich with locations, characters, and historical context.


Building strong collaborative foundations with Relic, we began with a style exploration, creating a unique art style specifically for this campaign. With a deliberately sympathetic animation style the artwork was brought to life and, we invited the player to step into an illustrated journal, further embedding them in the unfolding story.


Initial deep-dive research underpinned this project, informing all later stages. From the research into locations, character and clothing, a detailed style guide emerged, which in turn was the birthing ground for the proof of concept. From this, a further eight cinematics emerged.


We welcomed the challenge of fusing traditional art styles with contemporary animation methods to help create a series of unique cinematics for a huge franchise. We were delighted to see some of the cinematics feature in the games promotional materials.

Relic Credits for XP3 Cinematics:

Lauren Wood – Narrative Director
Barry McDougall – Art Director
Nick Bedell – Audio Director
Kristina Wiik – Missions Lead
Philippe Boulle – Design Director
Seb Grinke – Senior Producer
Shara Kashani – Artist
Caitlin Yu – Producer

"Working and partnering with Atomhawk on the Sultans Ascend expansion for Age of Empires 4 was an incredibly positive experience. They worked with us to understand our needs and collaborated well with our internal team. They were always enthusiastic in our meetings and brought a high level of quality and craftsmanship to the project. We appreciate all that Atomhawk did in delivering something beautiful that we all had fun making."

Relic Entertainment Team