The game is amazingly intuitive in its controls. I started with a small learn-as-you-go type of game and played for a couple of hours without ever wondering how or what to do next. All the moves and the methods of building or gathering resources works just the way you expect them to. A few hours of gameplay later RoN started to feel more like a mouse-aerobics class than a strategy game, so the speed adjustment under the Options screen came in handy. The options screen offers several possibilities to tweak the game to be more to you liking. One of the more useful options is to set default tasks for your workers should you neglect to give them one. Game options include single player campaign and multiplayer action in all the variants we demand from a modern RTS game.
The scenarios, or battles, are similar to what we have seen in previous games. Resources include wood, food, gold, science, iron and oil. Some of these resources are not available until certain advancements in the game have been made. The buildings you’re setting up are centered around a “town” which is much like a headquarter in any other game. One of the more interesting features is that your tech level and number of “towns” limits the speed of your resource gathering. RoN will let you build and use troops, ranging from primitive slingers and spearmen to tanks and bomber aircrafts.
The campaign came as a bit of a surprise. RoN features a strategic map and turn based play with lots of nations fighting for domination. It may look a bit like Shogun Total War, but it’s really more like RISK (the board game). You got a world map, with lots of nations and armies. If you conquer an area, you will gain both the land itself and the benefits of any rare resources from it. You also get a monetary tribute, which you can use either to bolster your defense or to buy special cards. These cards, which also can be won, can be used to influence a battle or to give you wonders of the world to build in your nation.
Each nation can attack once per turn, but you can move any number of troops within the areas you control. Any armies in areas adjacent to the ones where battles are fought will give reinforcements during the battles. Every three turns you are advanced 1 era forward in time, from ancient and all the way past modern day. Any attack or defense you are involved in will result in different scenarios in the main game engine. In each scenario you can advance one age category from ancient to medieval, gunpowder to modern etc.
The scenarios, whether you play them as single battles or as part of a campaign, are played just the way you would expect, as all the elements of an RTS are present. A few interesting twists on what to do have been implemented though. First of all, when gathering resources, make sure that you have your building cover as much as possible of the forest, mountains etc. This because you can only have one building attached to any one resource. Then, depending on how large this resource is, you can increase the number of workers to gather more of it. There is also a limit on how much of each individual resource you can gather. This is dependent on your technology level, numbers of cities, nations and wonders. The amount of cities and people is also limited in the same way. Most buildings allow for upgrades and development opportunities, so check them out every so often to see if you can gain access to something new to improve your city.
Your defense is built from a number of different locations. Docks build ships, barracks build ground troops, stables builds cavalry and later tanks. In addition you can build aircrafts, artillery, anti aircraft guns and rockets. Your troops are nice enough to automatically join in a formation. If you drag and mark a large number of troops, they will move to where you click and form a sensible formation. It requires more skills, however, to use the formations and soldiers efficiently. In you lower right corner you have icons of all troops activated. Here you can choose single troops or groups and easily access them in order to administer an efficient attack.
As mentioned, the graphics are great. The sounds, however, do not live up to the expectations. Some sounds seem to be missing, and the ones present are not to impressing. I had to turn the music off. It’s the kind that might drive you insane if given enough time.
This is a very good RTS with a few new twists and great looks. It doesn’t give the genre anything completely new, but it gives us exactly what we expect and want, in a very professional manner. Even if there are some minor details left before the game are ready to release, I can without doubt say that this game combines the best of the RTS’s out there. So, if you like RTS games don’t let Rise of Nations slip by. Go out, buy it (when available) and set aside a week to play. Thumbs up for Big Huge Games.
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- More info on Rise of Nations