One of the great RTS games of 2003, RISE OF NATIONS, has had its update/expansion pack just released in RISE OF NATIONS: THRONES AND PATRIOTS. Microsoft and BIG HUGE GAMES have really done an excellent job and this is a MUST HAVE game for 2004. Congrats all around for providing significant additions to the original concepts and for keeping the great AI and intuitive controls and commands. If you liked RISE OF NATIONS [RON], you are going to love THRONES AND PATRIOTS.
We hope everyone enjoyed our “preview” of the Beta version of THRONES AND PATRIOTS in our March edition. The final version is obviously, from our glowing comments above, a solid stable platform.
There is just a LOT to like with THRONES AND PATRIOTS [TAP] – you can play online, you can play solo missions, or your can play campaign missions with a very well researched historical background. Frankly, I prefer the later and find I get a good appreciation for the historical battles and challenges facing commanders in years past. If that is your favorite as well, TAP really delivers.
There are five campaigns: Alexander the Great; The New World; Napoleon; The Cold War; and Conquer the World. Playing as Alexander or Napoleon revealed a great deal of historical research had gone into the games, as you become Alexander/Napoleon and follow their careers and battle opportunities. In The Cold War, you can pick either the American or Soviet (or random) side and battle for control. We thought the Cold War campaign was a lot of fun, and noted that they fixed our LOL observation that the beta version had the “DEF CON” scale reversed [Recall that DEF CON 1 is total war and DEF CON 5 is total peace]… but I get ahead of myself.
Please note that TAP is an expansion pack – you have to have the original RISE OF NATIONS to play it… so it is fairly obvious that essentially all of the computer interface and AI are going to be the same. Units are controlled and strategy development is essentially the same. This is, of course, good – because you don’t want to mess with success or have to relearn different systems.
The game progression is similar to RON: (1) chose your campaign; (2) go to world view to determine your next move/battle (you get a military advisor to provide assistance/intel on your possible choices); (3) tee up your campaign (play bonus cards, etc.); (4) move to the detailed scenario and take charge of your troops/towns and build up your technology, economy, and forces.
One suggestion we published about the beta still is vital today – save the game at the beginning and end of a particular sequence – you obviously want to replay at the beginning of the turn if something distracts you during game play or causes a serious communication error between you and your troops, and you also want to save at the end of the turn – as it provides you opportunities to “check out” various “what if I attack somewhere else” options when you move to the world view (you can’t save at the world view stage). Basic strategy for playing RON and RON:TAP is at the site website.
Campaigns and Units
In our March preview article, I did the Alexander the Great and the Cold War campaigns. So, we will focus on the Napoleon Campaign this time. This is also because I just completed the mission – and I must admit that like Napoleon, the Moscow campaign was a real bear (a Russian bear). However, after a few false starts, I did win the entire campaign (please see the screen shot of my VICTORY).
At this point, it is also important to note that unlike most games which give you 3 levels of difficulty – TAP gives you 6 levels of difficulty! Trust me, the “toughest” level is absolutely brutal and not for the faint of heart or the easily upset among us.
The Cold War, which starts with the Chinese/Soviet/North Korean invasion of South Korea (see picture) is still my favorite and has my favorite battle screen – during this campaign, you can “PUSH THE RED BUTTON” and start a nuclear holocaust… I love this game!
With the TAP, there are a lot of additional Nations and Units – many of which I haven’t yet “played to” – recall our enthusiasm that you get a lot of value and playing time for your money with this game (something we appreciate). The new Nations are Iroquois; Lakota (excellent choice for on-line gaming because they have no national boundaries); American (call in the Marines!); Dutch; Persian (love their War Elephants); and Indian.
The new Nations have some interesting, and important, attributes. Some of the more interesting are:
• Persians: Can found a second Capital by building a second Senate. Second Capital receives Capital border bonus, and both must be captured to eliminate you!• Lakota: Instead of building Farms and Granaries, receive Food for each Citizen, Scout, and Calvary unit (expect when garrisoned); and have no National Territory – they can construct buildings in any territory not held by another nation.
• Iroquois: Akweks scouts are hidden even while moving; military units in friendly territory are hidden when not attacking; and all units heal when not moving or attacking in friendly territory (I really benefited from self-healing, as it almost doubles your ability to defend against repeated attacks!).• Indians: Buildings do not escalate in cost; war elephant upgrades are free, and war elephant units are 15% cheaper; caravan income is increased.
• Dutch: Begin with a free Commerce research, and receive a discount on all subsequent Commerce research; start with a market and 2 free merchants.
New units, there are more than 20, are plentiful – although I have so far only been actively involved with 12 so far – with my favorite still the Persian/Indian War Elephants (better than tanks for their era). The new units are appropriate to the period/Nation:
• American special units are: Continental Marines, Marine Riflemen, Marine Infantry, and Assault Marines.• Dutch special units are: Armed Caravan, Armed Merchant, Armed Supply Wagon, Brig, Fluyt, and the Clipper.• Indian special units are: War Elephant, Mahout, Gun Mahout, and Culverin Mahout.• Persian special units are: Immortals, Anusiya, War Elephant, Athanatoi, Mahout, Gun Mahout, Arquebus Immortal, and Culverin Mahout.• Iroquois special units are: PTakohs, Spearmen, Mohawk Spearmen, Akweks, Heavy Mohawk Spearmen, Elite Mohawk Spearmen, Okwari.• Lakota special units are: Sunka Wakan, Eagle Feather Horse, Musket Horse, and Repeating Rifle Horse.As in RON, you must build your cities (Library, farms, mining, military buildings, universities, etc.) and “technology trees” (Military, Economic, Science, Civic, and Technology Age). As in RON, “speed is life” in researching technology and getting your cities up, running, and generating commerce. Frankly, I would advise beginners to adjust the GAME PLAY speed to its slowest, gradually increasing the speed… because it is nearly impossible to match the distributed processing that the Computer’s AI can achieve.
Playing the Game
We started with the new Napoleon Great campaign. The historical theme was excellent, and provides the gamer with a truly unique perspective on the period and limitations of warfare (and city building) in 1795 time period. The military advisor is very helpful, actually it’s almost a must to follow its advice.
The Napoleon campaign is simple, conquer Europe (including North Africa, Turkey, Scanadanavia, and Russia). However, the campaign is limited to 20 turns, and there are more than 20 countries – so at some point in the game you must decide when to fight and when to negotiate. You negotiate using “Tribute” generated by the countries you control – and you can exchange tribute for other countries territories, or to persuade them to become a Vassal State (under your control).
A few quick hints here: don’t negotiate too early; pick your battles for countries with a lot of resources (increases your tribute when you capture them); pick your battles to focus on enemy capitals (when you win the capital you get ALL that countries remaining territories and colonies!); and accumulate wealth so you can “buy off” a few key countries thereby allowing you to finish in less than 20 moves. A quick example is whether to buy off Spain – don’t; quickly take the capital and you get the other parts of Spain PLUS you get all the Spanish territories (immediately some ambassador from that upstart country America wants to purchase New Orleans/Louisiana… quick generation of 150 Tribute!
I really enjoy the extras that the design team built into the game… specifically, when you play The Cold War missions – you have an option of playing a side-bar game first involving spies and mercenaries… this occurred the turn immediately after I saved the South Korean’s from invasion. In this first side-bar opportunity, I was ask if I wanted to try to win extra tribute (and also to eliminate some Russian nuclear missiles). I agreed, clicked the spy icon (it is next to the LAUNCH BUTTON in the screen shot above), and went to a scenario where I sent several spies into the Russian Crimea. The spy’s would sneak (if not the Russian tanks and scout cars would shoot them dead) into an area, radio back it’s location, and a cruise missile would obliterate it! But I quickly learned to have the spy run like hell afterward, since the Russians would naturally want to know what happened and send forces into the area. I also blew up several oil fields, and an oil refinery!
Microsoft’s Thrones and Patriots Website
We also want to provide the link to the RISE OF NATIONS: THRONES AND PATRIOTS website. There is some good information and screen shots.
From the moment I got THRONES AND PATRIOTS, I have been playing it at 5 hours at a clip – so let me reiterate that this is a fine game. MICROSOFT and BIG HUGE GAMES did a great job in producing an expansion pack that is significantly better than the original. As stated in the Introduction, This is a MUST HAVE game! ENJOY!