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Rise of Nations

/ May 20th, 2003 No Comments

Microsoft’s BIG GAME STUDIO has really hit a home run with the release this week of Rise of Nations. For those gamers who enjoy RTS games, this is one sweet package – combining the most enjoyable aspects of the old classic games: RISK, CIVILIZATION, and AGE OF EMPIRES.

How good is this game? It is MUST HAVE if you enjoy the RTS genre.


The game is constructed to be played solo, or on-line with multiple players. The solo computer AI is highly advanced, and adjustable to allow for various levels up to “brutal computer opponent”. In solo play it really felt like I was playing against a real opponent and several times my overall tactics and strategy had to be adjusted as the higher computer levels resulted in the computer employing different tactics against me for the same mission.

The interface is highly intuitive, and after spending all of 5 minutes reading over the tutorial, I was already starting my personal “Conquer the World” scenario.

The game begins with a world map (and mini-map) with your opponents arrayed against you, vacant territory visible, and your territory & army. The game starts with each opponent have a home base and one army.

The game also has “Bonus Cards” which a player can collect and is queried before each scenario starts whether you want to use any Bonus Cards. The cards are for extra resources, technology, etc. You can “buy” additional Bonus Cards each round, paying in “tribute” acquired each round depending on the amount of territory you control (bonuses for controlling a continent).

Is this risk?

I used to have a love/hate relationship with the board game RISK. It was fun to run with a strategy of capturing North America, then South America, and then expanding into Asia or Africa from this solidified base. Shocked me to see the same basic elements in the World Map – so I naturally selected to be the Aztecs (Mexico) and went off to conquer North America. Fortunately, the brutal. agonizing flow of RISK is missing, and you quickly jump to the territory to see the battle play out!

Once you select what territory you want to capture, or the opponent you want to fight (if the territory is already occupied, you move to the briefing screen. Sequences seem to have two types: you must capture your opponent’s capital (or a certain number of cities) or defend yours, within 15 minutes; or you have a 90-minute clock.

You can play your Bonus Cards or not (I kept mine for later rounds) and then you start to either invade and crush your enemy as quickly as possible, or you must build up a civilization and create an army to defeat your opponent.


I really love the old game of CIVILIZATION, and was pleased to see that many of it’s early concepts were taken to their full potential.

In my first encounter, where I went into a new territory and had to establish a base & build an army, I was really at home creating a town, library (where technology is created through many varied technology-trees), university (used to generate knowledge), mines (used to generate metals), lumber camp (used to generate wood). As you build-up your technology, and enter different “ages”, you can build more and more complicated technology (smelters, auto plants, lumber yard, granary, etc.).

But you also must start to develop you army – building infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Later stages include airports and missile silos.


AGE OF EMPIRES is great for building up forces, and watching them in 3-D from adjustable perspectives as you go around plundering and looting and destroying your opponent.

As you build and develop, the graphics engine is superb in making detailed topography, trees, hills, rivers, seas, buildings and characters. The resolution is good, although it has the “feel” of AGE OF EMPIRES.

I get into pretty good battle sequences, reminiscent of GENERALS, and have re-run the same battle using different strategies to see what happens. Your success if certainly dependent on you ability to manage your resources, develop towns, advance quickly to a high technology, and then create and manage an army in battle. Fortunately, you can use the cntl-keys to create “First Infantry” or “Second Artillery” (nice programming touch guys!).


I moved across North America, wiping out the indigenous population and battling the English in Canada. I then swept south into South America where I used some Bonus Cards to capture the Mayans capital. I then made a peace treaty with the English (who were about to be wiped out by the Germans), and went into Asia.

The following screen shots are from my campaign as I built up my town, created my army and then battled the opponent!


I have played the game extensively over the Memorial Day weekend (its initial release) and have almost completed the Conquer the World scenario. The game is very addictive, just as you finish one battle, you see form the World Map update that an opponent has defeated another opponent and moved his army away from one territory you have had your eyes on – so naturally you must quickly jump in to exploit this vulnerability.

The game’s different objectives and time clocks are a really plus. While a 90-minute engagement might occur, mine were typically done within 25 minutes.

The interface and graphics are great, and this game has a lot of playability.


Rise of Nations is a substantial achievement in RTS games! It adds extra dimension to playability, and offers excellent value. If you like RTS – this is a MUST HAVE.


Greg Gibson

Greg Gibson

Lead Reviewer / Editorial Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Greg Gibson’s resume spans over 40 years in the world of nuclear engineering and technology, having received a Masters Degree in e-commerce in 1998. Our resident MMORPG expert, Greg’s ability to understand the dynamics of MMOs is unparalleled.
Greg Gibson

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