Rise of Nations
Back in the days, gamers like me played a game called Civilization which was created by one of the greatest developers ever to be known in the world, Sid Meier. When Sid Meier’s Civilization 2 was released, we all got back in the game and kept playing the game until about six months later. No wonder loads of people find Civilization 2 still to be one of the best games ever made.
Sid Meier’s name may have been on the box of Civilization, but lead designer Brian Reynolds certainly had something to do with the success of Civilization 2 and now he’s back with Rise of Nations, the game that might just be for today’s youth what Civilization 1 and 2 were for us back in the old days.
The first thing you notice when starting up a game in Rise of Nations is the huge similarity with Civilization. The same cultures/nations are at your disposal with almost the same properties as those in the original Civ games. The resemblence is frapping.
So what’s different about Rise of Nations then ? Easy : its real-time combat !
Imagine yourself conquering a whole world filled with different tribes and nations and you having as sole goal to conquer everyone and everything. Sounds extremely hard or even impossible ? That’s why the game isn’t completely real-time. Having one country to defend is already hard, but an entire continent would be almost impossible in real-time.
The solution lays in the strategy map where you get an overview of the different area’s in the world which can be occupied by your troops.
Each territory has cities and some have armies present. In a turn-based type of gamestyle you can select one of your territories which holds an army to attack a neighbouring piece of land. If you don’t attack, you earn tribute which you can f.i. use to have diplomatic agreements with other nations and have them help you in your quest to rule the world. You can also fortify the territories which are in your possession to make it more difficult for your enemies to conquer these area’s.
The single player “Conquer the World” campaign has only a limited amount of moves on the turn-based strategy map. If you want to really conquer the world, make sure not to pass on too many moves as before you know it you’ll get a message saying “This campaign will end in three turns” which in my opinion is way too fast.
Conquering territories isn’t the only thing you need to do though. If you want to be sure to have the strength to get rid of your opponent, you’ll need to do research for new technologies. It’s of no use to create an enormous army of pikemen if your enemy already has evolved to a state where he’s got a couple of heavy tanks and riflemen which will blow your army away as if it has never existed.
As you can see, research is one of the main keys to doing a succesful campaign. You’ll start off in the dark ages and can evolve to the current time with nuclear bombs, cruise missiles, etc. Yep, we live in a very civilised society J
Military research alone will not suffice though. You’ll soon notice that you don’t have enough resources to go to the next level so you must be sure to constantly research things like science and civic rights aswell. They will give you upgrade options which can lead to more military purposes or growth of your resources. One can say that Rise of Nations is without a doubt a very balanced game. All aspects of a civilization need to be explored if you want to be succesful and create a society which is capable of defending itself or conquering other territories.
If you don’t want to be aggressive, you can create defensive forces and do research to be able to create so-called “Wonders”. These wonders are things like the Eiffel tower, piramids, colossus, etc and by building enough of them you can win aswell although these “wonder” victories to me are a bit far-sought and rather irritating in multiplayer. You can have a huge lead in technology, loads of cities under your command and even have an enormous army ready for invasion; if your opponent has created enough “Wonders” all was for nothing.
That brings us to the multiplayer part which is highly addictive and will keep you occupied for quite some time. The easy-to-use in-game Gamespy interface gives you a lobby where you can chat with other players and set up a game of your willing. Select the type of game (survival of the fittest, diplomacy, teamplay, … are a couple of options) along with the maximum amount of players and the rulebase you want to use and you’re off for a couple of hours real-time strategy fun.
We didn’t talk about the graphics and sound yet so let’s take a look at that.
The animations of all the different units are very well done with enough detail to make sure you don’t mix them up and think a civilian is the same as a flamethrower. Also the various combat units are nicely crafted and look very impressive with huge battle tanks, bombers and even apache helicopters that look like they’re ready to start fighting in The Gulf.
The sound is magnificent for this type of game; background sound which doesn’t disturb at all but ads to the overall atmosphere without starting to annoy and effects that stand out just good enough from the overall soundtrack that you instantly know when you’ve finished some research or built a new city on the other side of the map. One of the nicest details is when you scroll over an ongoing battle. You’ll hear the sounds of arms getting louder when you get closer to the battle and fade away when you’ve passed it. Really neat J
I can be honest in saying the following: Rise of Nations has touched my soul.
From the moment I installed it up until now, I’ve had sentimental feelings about the old days when I was playing the original Civilization games but Rise of Nations is not “just” that. This game is all that’s good in Sid Meier’s games and more.
The combination of turn-based strategy for conquering the world and the real-time battles over territories is perfect and works like a charm. The use of research as a strategic resource element may not be original but is put in extremely well-balanced. The huge amount of different units is exemplary for all strategy games out there and their AI with the possibility to use them in a defensive, aggressive or even guard-mode is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Combine all this with the great multiplayer possibilities and you’ve got a winner.
For me it’s simple: Rise of Nations is thé best strategy game I’ve seen in years.