Rise of Nations

Review

posted 5/20/2003 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
I’m quite a fan of the turn-based strategy games, such as the venerable Civilization series. Unfortunately, guiding a fledgling civilization from the Stone Age to the Future takes quite a large chunk of time, and there are a few occasions I wish I could just speed things up a bit. Well, the designers of Rise of Nations had the same idea, and brought us a great little real-time-strategy game with a bit of turn-based strategy feel. Think Age of Empires meets the Civ series, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

Actually, the Age of Empires analogy is appropriate, as Rise of Nations feels quite a bit like AoE with several additional eras of history. All the mechanics of traditional RTS games are here…resource gathering, construction of buildings and infrastructure, researching various technologies, and fielding military units. Resources consist of the usual food, metal, and wood, which are gathered by setting up farms, mines, and logging camps. Wealth is accumulated through taxation and the establishment of trade routes between friendly cities. A final resource, knowledge, is gathered by building and staffing universities. These resources are used in training troops, constructing buildings, and researching the technologies needed to improve the civilization and eventually advance through the various historical eras.

Game play will also be quite familiar to anyone who has dabbled with the AoE series. The controls are almost identical, and with a quick perusal of the various technology trees veteran RTS players will be able to jump right in. Unit strengths and weaknesses follow the “rock-paper-scissors” approach—a particular unit will be strong vs. some unit types and weak vs. others. Balancing these strengths and weaknesses when building the army is quite important. Since RoN covers such a wide range of history, things would get pretty confusing with all the unit types available, if it weren’t for the instant upgrades. Once a particular historical era is achieved and the appropriate unit technology is researched, all units of that type are automatically upgraded empire-wide. So, once the tank technology is researched, all of the heavy cavalry horses instantly become armored vehicles. It may not be terribly realistic, but it avoids the headache of dealing with quickly-outdated units. Land, sea, and air units are all available at the appropriate eras in history, which makes for a nice assortment overall. Special units, such as Generals and Spies, are also included to add a bit more depth to the mix. Spies can, well, spy on the enemy, gaining intelligence and even bribing enemy units to switch sides. Generals provide extra bonuses in combat to the troops, and they confer special abilities on their armies, such as the ability to entrench (giving a large defensive bonus) and forced-march (allowing units to move much more quickly for a short period of time).
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