Rise of Nations is an RTS (Real Time Strategy) game partly inspired by the Civilization and Age of Empires series. This was a game that took many things from the Civilization series and combined them with the RTS genre, i.e. Age of Empires, that is not turn based. In this title you can select from up to 18 alternative nations to battle it out with over various historical eras and terrains.
In Rise of Nations you build up and expand nations by expanding and constructing new cities. You start with one capital city, and from there many more additional cities can be added to your nation. When new cities are built, or are taken by an army, the nation's borders also expand and absorb more of the map's territory.
In each nation you can add up to 200 people, which is the maximum population limit. They are added to gather timber, metal, grain and later oil from the map's forests, mountains and oil reservoirs. Those resources are essential for expanding your nation and military.
The game has a variety of city structures and buildings that you can add to the cities. You can add civilian buildings such as granaries, lumber mills, temples, markets, smelters and libraries. Military buildings such as barracks for troops, stables for cavalry, harbors for ships, airfields for aircraft and siege factories for artillery can be constructed. Fortifications, towers and anti-aircraft guns can also be built to bolster your cities' defenses. But there are no city walls or barracks included, which might have been a good addition.
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Rise of Nations also includes wonders that can be built in your nation. Wonders such as Versailles, Terra Cotta Army, Statue of Liberty, Kremlin and the Eiffel Tower are among the few that you can construct in each of your cities. Each enhance the nation's economy or military. For example, the Terra Cotta Army wonder provides free infantry units every half-minute, whilst the Temple of Tikal boosts timber gather rates by 50%.
Rise of Nation's tech tree is what really sets this game apart from other alternatives such as the Age of Empires series. Unlike Age of Empires, Rise of Nations includes a variety of historical eras. The libraries include a tech tree, which when fully researched take your nation up to the Information Age.
This tech tree adds considerable diversity to military units. To begin with little more than catapults, wooden warship, bow and arrow units, etc can be constructed. However, in the more modern eras you can add stealth bombers, aircraft carriers, tanks, submarines, missile launches and nuclear weapons to your military arsenal. Tactical nukes wipe out whole cities.
But there's more than one way to emerge victorious in Rise of Nations. With standard victory conditions you don't have to wipe out the enemy nation with your military to emerge victorious. If you build lots of wonders, and reach a wonder points' total, then the victory won with a wonder victory. Or you can also emerge victorious by occupying 75% of the map's territory.
Rise of Nations has a great multiplayer game packed full of options. In the multiplayer game there are 17 maps that have a variety of alternatives terrain. You can select from 18 nations such as Britain, Germany, France, China and Egypt, each of which has a few unique units such as the German Tiger Tanks. The multiplayer mode supports up to eight players, which can be divided into separate alliances. A number of alternative multiplayer modes are included such as Assassin, Barbarian at the Gates, Deathmatch and Tech Race in which the first player to reach a selected end age emerges victorious. As the game's Game Spy multiplayer server was shut down, you can now only play against CPU.
The multiplayer mode actually surpasses the single player game. For that the game has no story-based campaigns, which are widely included in other alternatives such as Company of Heroes. As an alternative it has a Conquer World game similar to the board game Risk. That includes a world map divided into rough geographical sections which you must invade and defeat with your armies. When territory is invaded, it switches to the battle maps that include alternative scenarios. For each territory captured you gain additional bonus cards, resources and wonders. However, more could have been perhaps been added to the single player game. As it can be finished and won fairly quickly, it doesn't last that long.
The game does include a scenario editor with which to set up scenarios. However, as it is an editor you have to set the scenario up with it. A few scenarios provided by the game producers could have been a good addition to the single player game.
The game came out after the likes of Rome Total War embraced 3D, but remains a largely flat 2D game. Graphically the game was nothing groundbreaking when it first came out. It's minimum hardware specifications require just 12 8MB RAM and a 16 MB video card. However, the various military units are still well animated, and there are alternative sized models for the three zoom modes. It's engine is more of a 2D/3D hybird, with units rendered in 3D. There are also some exciting nuclear explosion effects that light up your cities after the missiles are launched.
Rise of Nations has an orchestra-themed soundtrack. It includes 26 alternative tracks in total, which are of a classical variety, performed by the Northwest Sinphonia. Not all the tracks really seem to have a military theme.
Even though its single player campaign game is a little limited, with no story-based campaign, Rise of Nation's great multiplayer mode is fun. Overall, it is a polished game title and a good alternative to the Age of Empire games. Whilst Rise of Nations no longer has a game site, as it has been spotted on Steam's database it might be set for a re-release on Steam.