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Big Huge Games



T (Teen)



Q2 2003



- Lots of Units

- Streamlined gameplay

- Excellent interface for advanced and new gamers

- Time changes availability of units and buildings

- Dynamic strategy as age changes

- Excellent skirmish options



- Limited variety in gameplay objectives

- No campaigns for single player mode



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Rise of Nations

Score: 9.0 / 10


I never used to finish the RTS games that I played, but recently itís either my maturity level or the fact that the games are getting better that I feel compelled to finish what I start.  If you ask anyone who knows me, theyíll probably tell you that itís the latter as evidenced by my continuing love for the different sounds of farts and my enduring joy of picking my nose in public.  Disgusting personal habits aside, I can now chalk up Rise of Nations (RON) to my list of completed real time strategy games.


rise of nations pc review           rise of nations pc review


Itís amazing to me that even after so much time has gone by in the evolution of the RTS genre, a game like Rise of Nations that doesnít offer much in the way of innovation can further streamline the basic RTS gameplay.  Youíd think that after all this time it would be essential for any game to offer some form of innovation in order to be interesting to gamers, but RON defies reason and offers perhaps one of the best RTS experiences to date based mostly on pure solid gameplay.


Essentially, the game is your standard fare of building up your armies, defeating your enemies, collecting resources and researching new technologies to improve your units and rate of resource collection.  There is no storyline to speak of, and 




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the usual skirmish options are available for both single player and multiplayer.


There are two things that make RON really interesting though.  First, the game combines a little bit of turn-based strategy in between real-time battles.  Second, like another recent excellent RTS game Empire Earth, RON lets you advance through the history of humanity.  The choice of civilization is very thorough and the 


design team should be congratulated for designing such a balanced game with 18 different possible sides to play.  From the Mayans, to the Mongols, all the old civilizations are there, with the possible exception of the one civilization that I would have liked to play, the Vikings.


From the classical age to the information age, RON lets you advance through seven periods of time.  In each, there are different graphics for buildings, and units.  Military and resource units also change in ability as well as appearance.  Throughout the ages, new units become available that are not merely improvements on old units.  The strategy as units advance is dynamic and the new units keep things fresh.  Starting in the enlightenment age, machine gun, flamethrower units and submarines make things extremely interesting.


In the primary portion of the single player game, the objective is to conquer the world either through uniting the world through diplomacy or outright conquest.  Being a power hungry scorpio, I chose the latter and began on a campaign of spreading my name over the world map by using the Mongols.  Each nation has special bonuses and allows all styles of players to be successful if they strategize efficiently.


The game is set up so that armies can be moved, attacks can be initiated, treaties can be proposed and broken, and territories can be strengthened all on the turn based world map.  When an attack is initiated, that battle is played out in real time on a map based on the two territories that are involved.  For instance, in a battle that involves Japan and Australia, there will be two areas of land with a large divide of water in between.  In early ages, dominance of the seas in such a battle will be important but as the ages advance and flight becomes possible, air supremacy becomes more important.


All in all, the real-time portion is next to flawless with many strategies that can be successful, very little micromanagement, good AI pathfinding, and an excellent user interface for both beginners and more advanced players.  The variety of units throughout the ages keeps the battles interesting at all times.


For the two things that make RON interesting there are two things that make it uninteresting.  The first is relatively minor, and concerns the fact that it is not possible to build wonders of the world during the conquest battles when conquering the world.  The only way to create wonders in the single player campaign is to buy special bonus cards that allow the creation of a wonder in the turn-based portion of the game.  More than just a pretty ornament, wonders provide bonuses to your nation.


rise of nations pc review          rise of nations pc review


In order to build a wonder in real time, the gamer has to play the Skirmish mode either in Single or Multiplayer mode.  In Skirmish, there are more options than you could ever want.  Itís possible to change starting ages, restriction of advancement, starting resources and bonuses, as well as the most important, condition for victory.


The second, more significant disappoint that RON inflicts upon the gamer is the mind numbing singularity of the conquest battles.  As much as I love toasting the opposition into roasted marshmallow oblivion, doing so 22 times in a row gets a little old.  It would have been nice if there were differing conditions for victory in the conquest battles when conquering the world.  It also would have been nice if there were single player campaigns, but the game is already so rich that I suppose it really would be too much to ask for.


All in all, Rise of Nations can be added to the slough of excellent RTS games in recent memory.  Thoroughly engaging and completely fun, any RTS gamer will be able to appreciate what the developers have achieved here.


- Mark Leung

(July 6, 2003)


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