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Rise of Nations Review
game: Rise of Nations
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
developer: Big Huge Games
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Dec 22nd, 2002
last revision: 03:44 PM Sun Oct 23rd, 2005

by Todd Allen

The release date for Rise of Nations is looming ever closer and judging from the updated preview version we received, Big Huge Games is right on track. This game promises to be a marriage between fast paced real-time and the deeper elements of a turn-based strategy title. Think of it in terms of a hybrid between Age of Empires and Civilization. Excited yet? You should be.

The game now sports 10 of the 18 nations that will be included before final release. The interface has also been given a great deal of attention, running much smoother and user-friendly than the previous version. Overall the visuals have also been tweaked a bit for a more pleasing graphical presentation. I had the pleasure of playing around with a fully functioning navy. The opponent AI is still rough in the naval field, but I was impressed with the range of options and visual detail. Parking a couple of aircraft carriers off my opponents\' coast to conduct air raids followed by a full ground assault was nothing short of a beautiful experience. Big Huge Games makes sure, though, that while that sounds like a daunting task it\'s anything but.

The biggest addition is the \"Conquer the World\" mode. This mode invites you to quite literally conquer the world, piece by piece through battle and diplomacy. After choosing a nation you are placed on a large map that is divided up between you and your opponents. This scenario bears more than a passing resemblance to a game of Risk. Each nation is given a turn to do any number of things from declaring war to strengthening defenses. After your turn is over you\'ll acquire gold in the form of tribute from the territories you control. Examining the map shows that each territory contains different items. In addition to gold, a territory may have rare resources, a bonus card, or a supply center. Bonus cards offer a wide range of benefits. Take for example the trade embargo card. Playing that card before a battle would prevent your opponent from using any of the rare resources he had acquired during the battle. Supply centers are very useful too because they add to the amount of armies you command. This mode will surely provide quite a challenge as rulers whittle down their opponents, setting up a final confrontation for world domination.

Depth is certainly a key characteristic to describe Rise of Nations. The ability to recreate some of the most famous battles in history is quite satisfying. Still, though, with the great amount of material the game offers it never becomes overwhelming. Players will notice a much more forgiving learning curve than say, one of the Civilization games. If this build is any indication, strategy fans desiring different angle will be very happy with Big Huge Games\' offering.

Todd Allen (03/23/03)

***Original Preview Posted 12.22.02***

Rise of Nations, often referred to as a hybrid between Civilization III and Age of Empires, is shaping up to knock the socks off strategy fans everywhere come next spring. After some serious playtime with the preview copy, I can\'t stress enough the need for everyone to get their affairs in order before next spring because once you get this game, and get it you probably should, your life will officially be put on hold. There is some serious depth to be explored in this game and believe me you\'ll feel compelled to squeeze every drop out of Rise of Nations.

The great thing about Rise of Nations is the fact that you can enjoy the depth a Civilization-type game, where you are required to progress civically, scientifically, and economically among other things. You also must expand your nation\'s borders by building new cities and researching new military and religious methods. Much like Civilization you can seek out rare resources to better your nation\'s situation. Your nation\'s trek from times of mud and mortar to steel and concrete won\'t occur in a turn-based setting, though. This title will maintain the lively pace of real-time. By taking the best of both worlds Big Huge Games has quite literally given this game its own distinct feel and identity.

The preview build allows the use of six nations, the Chinese, French, Russian, Egyptian, Aztec, and Japanese. The final version will sport a whopping, 18 nations in all for gamers to play with. Each nation has their own special units like the Japanese samurai and Russian anti-troop missile launcher. It will be interesting to see how the other unique units will be developed for the remaining 12 nations.

Visually, Rise of Nations is already looking quite attractive. The hundreds of units players will come across are all nicely detailed and quite unique. Even two identical units from different regions of the world won\'t look exactly alike. Rather they will represent their respective regional influences like skin color and dress style. The buildings and cities are represented very nicely as well. The special effects capture both the impressive death scenes of each unit and the collapse of devastated buildings. Though the development is far from complete, the animation isn\'t too shabby either. The game still suffers from choppiness and slowdown, but these issues will surely be ironed out for the release.

If you haven\'t already guessed it this game is going to be huge. Definitely be prepared for some of the most impressive battles you\'ve ever seen in a strategy game. The land units are quite smart when it comes to battle formation. Units stay together, preventing the slower members from being left behind. When battle is joined your army will draw up its ranks and proceed with surprising organization. Short range fighters will form strong front lines in front of their ranged fellows who in turn will be in front of your cannons and what have you. This may sound simple, but wait till you highlight about 60 units and watch them operate systematically. It feels as if you have stumbled upon a real battle.

Of course if battle isn\'t your thing you can attempt to gain control by building a certain number of wonders such as the Coliseum or Eiffel Tower. Each one you erect will yield wonder points. Collect the specified number of points will lead to your bloodless victory. Other choices include success through expert diplomacy or economic measures.

The crew over at Big Huge Games listed some more additions for us to look forward to. Besides the other 12 nations to be added, players will be able to participate in several recreations of the famous battles of our world history. Also we can look forward to a robust single player \"Conquer the World\" campaign, which will have you struggling for control all around the map from the deserts of Africa to the mountains of Eastern Europe.

Brian Reynolds, the designer behind Rise of Nations, has definitely got the right experience in the strategy genre to deliver a quality product. He\'s had a hand in both Civilization II and Alpha Centauri, two popular games in the Sid Meier universe. While Rise of Nations\' ties to the Civilization series are undeniable, it is proving to be a much more accessible experience. From what we\'ve seen of the preview, this title is on track to be one of the biggest hits of 2003. Stay posted to Gamesfirst.com for any updates on this great strategy game.

Todd Allen (12/22/2002)