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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Real-Time Strategy

 

Publisher

Midway

 

Developer

Stainless Steel Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

June 2006

 

 

- Naval battles and Hero mode add some new wrinkles to the real-time strategy formula

- Standard RTS conventions are present and accounted for

- Some massive battles

 

 

- Hero mode isn't all it could have been

- AI, friendly and hostile, likes to get killed

- Room for optimization in the frame-rate and loading

- Though it takes some artistic liberties, it just feels like we seen this all before

- Feels a bit unfinished

 

 

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Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

Besides trying not to start this review with a Viagra joke, the hardest cliché to avoid writing is, "Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War can't decide what it wants to be."  Though it's an honest assessment, I'm loathe to write such a hack and lazy review.

 

rise & fall civilizations at war          rise & fall civilizations at war

 

Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War mixes elements from practically every real-time strategy on the market.  There is resource gathering to manage, Hero units, troop behaviors to assign, the usual units to produce, towns to build and manage, and so on.  But the game also attempts to mix in action elements, like Sega's Spartan: Total Warrior.  The elements don't quite mesh though -- it might be more descriptive to say it's like oil and water even if it does offer a strategic element.

 

During regular strategic play (i.e. the isometric overhead view) you order your units around the map in the usual way, but when you take direct control of your Hero (Alexander soon-to-be the Great in one Campaign) the game shifts to a third-person perspective and suddenly imbues your Hero with monolithic power -- enemy platoons are easily shattered and hundreds of opposing troops can be laid out without much effort.  If you've seen the opening flashback in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with Sauron swinging his battle club and taking out great swathes of humans and elves, that's a pretty good comparison.  Direct control over the Hero is dictated by the amount of stamina in reserve.  Once that's used up you revert back to the strategic view or you can switch back and forth between the two perspectives. (Oddly enough, when in the overhead perspective, your Hero is only moderately better than your regular troops at inflicting damage.)  It's a feature that can quickly change the tide of any battle, but even then you'll face some pretty tough and occasionally annoying scenarios during the Campaigns thanks to some nearly brain-dead AI, both friendly and hostile.

 

The Campaigns mix reality and mythology to some extent.  I could stomach the combination as "artistic license" but when it's put to use in such a haphazard way and other franchises have combined fact and fiction to much better effect, I would have preferred a "straight" retelling and dumping the mythology.

 

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Typically, Rise & Fall doesn't attempt to bring anything innovative to the table, with the exception of the above mentioned Hero control and naval battles, which are some of the most fun in the genre even if it's actual implementation is somewhat aggravating thanks to the control.  The ships themselves are massive units, capable of performing a beach landing and producing units, ramming (and sinking) other vessels, or grappling an enemy ship 

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to drag an it closer so it can be boarded and captured.  Besides the finicky amount of accuracy needed to ram ships and properly execute beach landings, my only complaint about the naval portions of the game is that there are not enough of them.  It is a lot of fun to board a ship and take it over, and I can't think of an RTS I've ever played that includes such a feature.

 

rise & fall civilizations at war           rise & fall civilizations at war

 

Overall, Rise & Fall feels like an unfinished product.  Besides AI that often lines up to be killed, the engine powering the game stutters often.  After doing a bit of research, this can probably be traced back to the financial woes of publisher Midway.

 

Close to going "gold" developer Stainless Steel Studios ceased operation due to insufficient funds, Midway shuffled the project internally.  The lack of polish is the result.  While my PC is no longer the beast it once was, it can hold it's own with most of the current titles, however, Rise & Fall looks only so-so and a high level of optimization obviously was not completed before it shipped. (During the Hero combat, it looks and plays even worse -- though the "play" part of that may be to do with the lackluster control during these phases.)  I also couldn't get a stable multiplayer game going.

 

If the Action / Real-Time Strategy hybrid seems like an interesting one you might like to try Sacrifice (which is about six years old), because while Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War tries hard to bring something new to the crowded RTS genre with it's Hero mode and naval battles, there are just too many downsides to the game to make it worth playing.

 

- D.D. Nunavut

(July 12, 2006)

 

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