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Rise Of Nations - A Player's Review

By duxup in Op-Ed
Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 08:39:02 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

Rise Of Nations is a real time strategy game that takes the best aspects of real time strategy, polishes them up, combines them with some of the best aspects of turn based strategy, adds some new stuff, and makes it into one heck of a great RTS.

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Rise Of Nations is a real time strategy game developed by Big Huge Games. One of the frequently noted aspects regarding Rise Of Nations before its release was the involvement of Big Huge Games President Brian Reynolds. Brian has previously been involved in popular turn based strategy games such as Civilization II and Alpha Ceuntari. Rise Of Nations is Big Huge Game's first creation.

However, as any gamer knows the involvement of a successful and possibly talented game personality doesn't always guarantee quality. So lets start talking about the actual game.

RTS Basics
While Rise Of Nations (RON) is a unique real time strategy game (RTS), it is an RTS at heart and thus it conforms with all the usual real time strategy concepts. After starting a game you gather resources, produce units, build buildings, and more cities all in an attempt to meet certain victory conditions (diplomatic, military, etc). Rather than hash through the basics of a RTS game I'll deal with what Rise Of Nations a great RTS game.

Options Options Options
For whatever reason as RTS games have evolved there have been fewer and fewer options available to players in regards to changing game play. The focus seems to have moved from many options and single player replay value, to online play with relatively few options that might influence game play or strategy.

Fortunately, RON has a plethora of options available to change game play for both single and multiplayer. Anyone familiar with turn based strategy games will likely find the opening menu for RON's quick game (RON's skirmish mode) quite satisfying.

RTS only fans might find themselves a bit overwhelmed by the number of options, but not to worry, you'll still get a great game if want to leave the options as is, or only make minor or experimental changes.

An example of the available changes is the ability to limit or slow (or both) technological advancement. I'll get into this feature a little more is later when I talk about technology and the pace of the game.

Another great option is the ability to select particular types of random maps. If you're not interested in any sea battles you can chose to generate a land map or visa versa.

I could go through all the options but instead I'll touch on them as I comment on other aspects of game play, and just say that the various options are plentiful and balanced.

National Borders
National borders aren't anything new to strategy games, but RON does make them more significant than most RTS games. National borders are established by the location of your cities, forts and your level of technological advancement.

In addition to raising your score and improving your view of the map, your borders also can serve as a means of defense. After the initial levels of technology your territory can deal "attrition damage" to the enemy. Essentially enemy units in your territory will slowly lose health.

The enemy can overcome this if they build supply wagons to accompany their expeditionary troops, however supply wagons are slow and thus slow down the enemy's advance, and add the job of protecting the supplies to the attacker.

In the end attrition is not a defense unto its self, you still must ultimately defend with your units. However, at the same time neither you nor your opponents can just sweep into town and take a city with no harm done.

The technology tree layout is simple, and well balanced. Unlike some games you won't be invincible if you're just one or even two military technologies ahead of your opponent, but you will still have an advantage.

The technology tree for RON is not complex. In fact it's less like a tree and more like just five bars associated with five types of technology. Since RON is an RTS and you don't have all day to decide what tech to upgrade, making the simple layout is convenient.

Also note that when you place your mouse over the type of technology you might wish to advance you'll get a great description of exactly what you're going to get out of it and what it will cost you. Just a quick glance and you will know where you stand.

Fast Pace & Technology
On standard settings RTS fans will probably find that they progress through technologies quite quickly compared to other games. Since the standard pace is pretty fast, you won't spend forever in any one period of advancement. However, you probably still will get a fight or two in most ages with the difficulty at a reasonable level.

If you wish to fine tune the tech advancement speed you can do so through the options menu. There you can select both the starting and ending technologies for that game, and/or adjust how quickly technology advancement occurs.

I am very pleased to see these options. Anyone who's played a lot of real-time strategy or turn based strategy games knows the boredom that can come from starting a game and playing with that same spearman for what seems like forever when you really just want to get some Rommel action on and tear it up with your tanks. Alternatively, you can become frustrated since it seems only late technologies allow for large-scale conflict due to limited resources. With the tech adjustment options in RON this is not an issue.

IMHO these options, while small, add a great deal of replay value to Rise Of Nations.

User Interface
For some gamers the user interface is not a big deal, for others it can make or break the game. Personally, I'm a member of the later group.

If anything has frustrated me in RTS games over the last year or two it has been the incredible growing and elaborate taskbar at the bottom of the screen. While I appreciate someone might want to add some atmosphere to a medieval themed RTS with a neat gargoyle attached to my taskbar, it is quite annoying when it takes up valuable real estate and covers up the fact that my knights are being butchered by a dragon.

Of course there is a balance between a large taskbar giving you lots of controls, and the amount of space dedicated to game play. RON's taskbar is probably no bigger or smaller than most RTS games, but it is decidedly less distracting than most. It provides a large amount of easy to see and click buttons as well. It also can disappear if you wish leaving the mini-map up and giving you more screen to watch the action with.

The best UI feature in my opinion is the mouse over popup help. Both in the pregame menus, and the in game menus you only need to hover your mouse over a button, option, unit, resource, or just about anything and after a moment a surprisingly detailed description will popup to explain that item to you.

Note that for whatever reason the popups never seem to happen when I don't want them to. So when I say they work for everything, don't think they're going get in your way.

Single Player Campaign
The single player campaign mode in RON is called Conquer the World. It has been described as a glorified version of Risk. In fact this is somewhat accurate but I think alone is not a fair description by its self.

Basically here's how it works. You are presented with a map that looks like a Risk game. You have a world map, armies, and regions with fixed borders. This aspect does play like Risk. You start from your own land and can take empty lands or attack you opponents.

Once you make a move with your armies into empty land or land of your opponents you then are taken into what the manual calls the "Rise Of Nations Scenario". Basically it is a rise of nations RTS game, just like playing a skirmish game (RON calls skirmish games Quick Battles).

You then are presented with a goal. It could be to build a city and conquer your opponents, or defend a city for X amount of time, or take an expeditionary force of fixed size (ie no city to build more units with) and defeat your opponent. Accomplish that goal and you win the territory.

So in the end the single player campaign is just an excuse to play skirmish after skirmish that are tied together with a common goal, but still a good excuse.

The units in Rise of nations are the types of units you might find in any real time strategy. You have workers, military, and special units. When working with units you'll spend most of your time working with the military units, so that's pretty much my focus here.

The military units are also what you would expect to find in a traditional real time strategy game. You have infantry, cavalry (become tanks later on), siege weapons, and of course with later technology aircraft and missiles. The unit progression is balanced in RON in the sense no one upgrade suddenly gives your opponent a great advantage over you or the other way around.

Special units are units like spies, scouts, and leaders. Spies allow you to gather information on other nations. Scouts can scout around revealing areas of the map and are quite useful when operating with military units to spot spies.

The last special unit is the leader. When attaching a leader to military units that leader enhances their performance, and can use special abilities to enhance the units. An example is the entrench command. If you're about to be hit by a large army you can have the leader order your units to entrench. This provides them with a sizeable defensive bonus. There are other leader abilities as well.

Unique units are also included in Rise Of Nations. Each nation has several unique units. They basically take the place of standard units and have extra capabilities like improved defense, attacking power, etc. I'm not sure if each nation has a unique unit for each era but there are lots of them. Note that all units including unique units have their strength and weakness so if you know your enemy and properly counterattack you won't have to worry about them too much.

It depends on your point of view if the relative weakness of RON's unique units compared to other games is a good thing or not. I enjoy this aspect since the unique units can still be an effective tool, but aren't the beginning and end of combat.

Formations are pretty simple. Your units can line up in different formations such as line, envelop, and so on. The only downside in formations is that when lining up your troops they move to bring the most units as possible on the front line. This is not a bad thing alone, but this can be annoying since some lines can get quite long when deploying a large number of troops who line up in just a two man deep line.

I would like to have seen an option to be able to alter how thick or thin your lines are at times, and maybe have had an additional defensive formation like the British box formation for defense against cavalry. I should note that the long thin lines are often the most useful in the end, but other options would have been nice.

Unit upgrades are easy. When you advance to a technology where you can upgrade your units you select the building associated with your units (be it Barracks, Seige Factory, etc) and chose the upgrade. After the upgrade is completed (it doesn't take long) all associated units are upgraded.

There are two main types of resources in RON, one is standard resources and one is rare resources.

Standard resources are resources that everyone gathers by building the appropriate buildings to do so. They are the same standard resources you would expect in any RTS, Food, Wood, Wealth, etc.

Resource management is simplified in RON since the amount of workers assigned to a resource gathering building is a fixed number depending how much of that resource is near the building (i.e. A woodcutter camp can use more workers the more trees that are around it).

You do not need to gather rare resources, unlike standard resources. Rare resources serve as enhancements to your civilization. Those enhancements depend on the resource and can mean cheaper unit upgrades, more income from a standard resource or other such enhancements.

Note that if you are short on a particular standard resource you can expand by building more cities near more resources, but that is not the only option. You can also build resource-gathering enhancement buildings that will allow you to gather more resources from your current sources, or trade on the market. I'll comment on the market in the economy section shortly.

The ability to enhance your resource gathering abilities without necessarily expanding your empire makes the size of your empire and your starting location much less of an issue than it is in other games.

If you're short on a resource or have excess of any of the standard resources you do not have to go hungry, or waste. There is a fluctuating market where you can buy or sell your standard resources. Basically you have a screen with rows and a column for each available resources, one with buy, one with sell, and prices.

As far as I know the fluctuation of the market is random, but quite active (it changes every second), so you don't have to wait long to get a reasonable price in my experience.

Like the ability to build resource enhancing buildings, the market also allows those nations who might not have a great deal of one particular resource to still compete with larger nations.

The diplomacy options themselves are standard. You can declare war, peace, make alliances and exchange standard resources.

If there's a glaring shortcoming in RON it is the diplomacy options. The diplomacy screen is pretty straightforward for issuing proposals and understanding what your relation to other nations is. However, it provides almost no assistance for understanding the relationships between nations other than you own (i.e. alliances between other nations).

The way the diplomacy menu is laid out you'd think diplomacy was added late in the game as an afterthought. It is too bad because diplomacy could add a lot of depth to this game, but unfortunately the difficult menu takes nearly all of it back.

Sound & Music
The sound in RON won't blow you away, but it is adequate.

The music is a little more like music that you heard in a game like Civilization III, except a notably more dramatic. The music is thematic and changes from theme to theme. This collection of themes becomes more modern depending on the era you're in.

While I like the music as always I think it would be better if it had some sort of embedded MP3 player added as well.

If there's common complaint about Rise Of Nations that I've read most it is that the graphics are not all that special. Considering that Big Huge Games President is experienced with turn based strategy games, I wasn't surprised by the graphics leaning more toward the utilitarian rather than fireworks and giltz.

I tested RON on an 800Mhz system with 512 megs of ram and a GeForce 3 video card running at 1024x768 with 16 bit color. The only time I ran into slowdowns was during later stages of the game with large battles involving airplanes.

For the most part the graphics are simple but effective. They are not as cool as some other RTSs, but still a great deal more active than those in turn based strategy games like Civ III. They are still good enough to make battles plenty enjoyable to watch and in my opinion that is what counts.

The limited graphics also seem to make the camera zoom feature much more smooth than graphic intensive games.

I have to admit, I don't play much multiplayer (human). I'm going to leave the multiplayer review at this, the fast paced nature of RON, well balanced resources, and numerous options would seem to have the potential make multiplayer games a great deal more efficient and interesting than past games. However, since I have not played RON multiplayer I cannot say if this is the case or not.

I'm also hesitant to comment on multiplayer since it seems just about every strategy game that comes out that has online multiplayer support has some serious issues with it in the first few weeks, requiring a patch or two.

If anyone has tried Rise Of Nations multiplayer feel free to comment.

For those new to RTSs or those who just want a refresher, RON has a good tutorial that teaches the basics of RTS games and also shows off some of the unique features provided by RON. It's a good thing.

I've played a lot of RTS and turn based strategy games in my time and have become quite disillusioned by the hordes of uninspired RTS games released recently. I had hoped that someone would finally put out a quality product with some improvements, and Rise Of Nations is that game I was hoping for. Rise of Nations clearly benefits from experienced, knowledgeable, and most importantly, passionate development staff.

In the end Rise Of Nations takes the best aspects of real time strategy, polishes them up, combines them with some of the best aspects of turn based strategy, adds some new stuff, and makes it into one heck of a great RTS.


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Rise Of Nations - A Player's Review | 101 comments (58 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
RON (3.00 / 3) (#6)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 04:08:17 PM EST

After reading your diary yesterday, I downloaded the trial and played around with it.

It's actually very good. It's almost exactly like Age of Kings, (curiously close) with some interesting improvements to the flow of the game.

I like the fact that it's actually difficult to win the game by just clicking faster than the other guy. I also liked the fact that the game encourages a more balanced approach to developing your civ by putting a larger amount of pre-requisits on technology advancement. (For example, you have to have a certain amount of universities to advance your military, and you need to advance you military to increase your population limit)

Basically, my view of this game is that it is what AOE III would be, a more refined and intelligent version of a solid game.

I'll probably pick it up soon... but I'm not bored of the demo just yet. :-)

As a side note, I thought the graphics were fine... too many 14yr olds on the message boards it seems.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

Balance (none / 0) (#12)
by duxup on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 05:19:07 PM EST

Actually the review in my diary was edited some.  It was a long review, so much so I'm embarrassed to say how long originally :-)  

I used the word balance a lot and actually considered explaining that the balance of the game was what I liked most.  Indeed to win you need to take a balanced approach yourself.  The game won't let you just jump out way ahead, without any weaknesses.

In the aforementioned embarrassing long review I mentioned how it does resemble AOE.  In fact RON  really is what AOE seemed to try to be (but fell far short).  AOE always felt to me like a good idea, that got muddied down so much you really had problems figuring out exactly what they intended.  

Had it not been for the adverts I wouldn't actually know now that RON probably was something like what they were shooting for.  Sadly AOE just turned into a build many units and attack game.  In so many ways it seemed to become the antithesis of what they intended.

Indeed the graphics are fine.  IMHO just about where I want them.  This is not C&C: Generals, and thank goodness because while I enjoyed that game, RON & C&C graphics combo would be a mess.

[ Parent ]

balance in RTS (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by jjayson on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 05:33:19 PM EST

Balance in a RTS means that there are many different ways to develop. You can just out quickly, sit back amassing low tech troups, tech up, or whatever.

Balance doesn't mean requiring everybody to play the same strategy.

This was a huge thing in Starcraft, what all other RTSes should be measured against. The different strategies from start of the game to end of the game were virtually unlimited (not talking about the lame unlimited resoures maps that became overwealmingly popular a year or two after Brood Wars came out).
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]

Restate (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by duxup on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 05:43:23 PM EST

"Balance doesn't mean requiring everybody to play the same strategy."

I kinda did say that didn't I?  
Well I should restate and say that I like a balanced approach, but you don't have to do it that way.

In RON can chose a particular tech or unit and move ahead of your opponents on that tech or unit development, but you're not necessarily going to run over your opponent since they can counter with units or tech that give them an advantage elsewhere.

No one unit or tech gives anyone a great advantage enough for one tech or unit upgrade is a better route (at least that I've discovered yet).

In my opinion balance is when players can take different routes to victory, but no particular rout gives an advantage.  In RON this extends to units, resources, nations, and starting locations.

[ Parent ]

I want to kill... (none / 0) (#64)
by skyknight on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 08:51:26 AM EST

whoever created the Big Game Hunters map that resulted in the crap flooding and ultimate death of Battle Net Starcrafting. :(

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Very true. BGH was the death of Bnet (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by jjayson on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 04:16:20 PM EST

It is amazing how long it took -- almost five years -- before online Starcraft collapsed into uselessness. Online games usually implode much faster than that. It was just a problem of the user base growing too much. There were other RTSes out that didn't have hard resource constraints, where once you are out, you are out (they usually had ways to convert between resources and one resource that was unlimited). When those other games died out, people came to Starcraft and instead of getting good at resource management, they just made maps that "fixed" that problem with the game. Then they began to get evern more creative. Instead of actually having to take over far away outposts, they started to stack four bases right next to each other so they could immedagely control all of them.

So sad. Starcraft was one of the two games that I ever really played enough to get good at. I was consistently a top 50 ladder player and made it very far in the tournaments. It was sad to see it as one group of people was busy creating new strategies to counter others another group was busy creating maps to fix their problems.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]

It was probably for the best... (4.66 / 3) (#78)
by skyknight on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 04:30:08 PM EST

It was hard enough in school doing a double major in Computer Science and Counter Strike. Dropping the third major in Starcraft gave me a little more breathing room.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
This Post is 100% Flame (none / 0) (#81)
by duxup on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 06:01:12 PM EST

Starcraft sux0r!
Total Annihilation r0x0r!

[ Parent ]
You got me... (none / 0) (#83)
by jjayson on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 06:44:45 PM EST

I didn't want to mention TA by name, but yes, TA sucked ass.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
Make Your Time (none / 0) (#86)
by duxup on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 07:35:51 PM EST

You'll be dead by tommarow!

[ Parent ]
oh hoh hoho ..ooh hoho (1.04 / 46) (#10)
by turmeric on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 05:14:46 PM EST

While I appreciate someone might want to add some atmosphere to a medieval themed RTS with a neat gargoyle attached to my taskbar, it is quite annoying when it takes up valuable real estate and covers up the fact that my knights are being butchered by a dragon.


oh what are those guys -thinking-!! over at big guy games!! ohaohaohaohaohaohaooah

you really burned them good! ahsodfhoahoahoahoahoaohhaohaoaohhaoahahahaha

wooo thats a good one. gargoyles. knights. dragons. hahahahahahahahahahhahhaa

hahaha those dumbasses at those game companies. what is their big deal with gargoyles! hahahahahahahahahahahaahhaahahha


those crazy fuckers. ha hahahahahahahahaha

knights. dragons. hahahahahahahahahhaahahha




this has got to be -the funniest story ever written-. i am shitting my pants right now laughing about it! gargoyles! dragons! hahahahahahaha those crazy crazy programmers at the game companies! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhaahahaha

Now that I think about it... (none / 0) (#87)
by tkatchev on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 04:01:03 AM EST

...you're absolutely right.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Good Review but... (4.50 / 10) (#24)
by monkeymind on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 05:59:35 PM EST

It sounds like more of the same for me. Don't get me wrong I have played a lot of RTS but there hasn't been a compelling, new development in the genre in years.

Start game.

Build as fast as your fingers can hit hot keys and move the mouse.

Swap production over to a war footing. When this is done is the main decider of who wins I feel.

Build large force.

Go and wipe out everyone else.


The games change little from product to product.

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.

I'd say that... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 06:24:07 PM EST

after dabbling in it last night, if you find RTS lacking in the strategy, while emphasizing the "real time", you may find RON a little more to your liking...

I tried to rush the computer, and it was pretty difficult, (I got hammered) I'd assume a real player would react a bit better too.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Define rushing (none / 0) (#36)
by jjayson on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 07:36:42 PM EST

the term use to mean a quick all-out attack that sacrificed good play in the middle of the game for a shot at an early victory. Then people started to use this term to mean any tactic that relied on just amassing a large number of units to attack with.

The mantry of Spacecraft used to be attack early, attack often. It was a viable strategy to attack after only a few minutes into the game. Removing this strategy (weakening it until it is no longer effective) doesn't add to the gameplay. It reduces the number of viable strategies.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]

Rushing.... (none / 0) (#39)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 08:10:27 PM EST

to me, attacking quickly isn't an issue.

"Rushing" as I define it, consists of somebody say sending 50 units of the same type, after only developing the technology in order to produce those units (usually benefiting from the unbalanced strength of those units at that particular time - say Assyian archers in AOE).

As a strategy, it is viable, but sometimes because the developers didn't anticipate properly, it was a little too vialble.

It's supposed to be difficult to wipe out a civilization, which I think RON effectivly emulates by making it more difficult to "rush", and easier to win in other ways.

It provides a balance that is lacking in most other games, and where I think several different players can employ differing strategies in the same game, and enjoy several different outcomes each time they employ them.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Really not a "rushing" problem. (none / 0) (#51)
by jjayson on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 10:52:08 PM EST

The problem is that there is often a single overwealming strategy in RTS games that everybody then employs. You can tell these strategies because they often don't require recon and they have no potential downside.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
It has a box, it is an RTS (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by duxup on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 11:33:13 PM EST

Well the box looks like a lot of other games . . . other than that you won't know until you try it.

As for the specifics you list I'm not sure your problem is with RTS games as much as it is with the genre.  Any RTS game will have SOME of those elements.  It wouldn't be an RTS if it didn't have something in common with what you listed.  

I can bitch about my horse hot sitting on my lap on the couch (or when it does it is a tad heavy), getting my newspaper, or fetching a stick, but my problem isn't with the horse, I bought the wrong pet.

[ Parent ]

Although this is unpaid advertising (2.57 / 7) (#37)
by lowlife on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 07:49:04 PM EST

I like this sort of game, and especially like Alpha Centauri and civilization games, so I'm going to vote it +1 FP.

Your mind begins to clear.

Always found this funny... (3.25 / 4) (#41)
by pla on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 08:53:07 PM EST

How we use the term "Real-time strategy" for games during which you advance your team over literally centuries in game-time.

Yes, I understand the idea, that game play progresses regardless of the players doing something, as opposed to turn-based strategy games, but still... Just sounds funny.

duxup plays a REAL time strategy game (4.90 / 11) (#43)
by duxup on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 09:04:02 PM EST



[ Parent ]

****Y ***** (none / 0) (#55)
by jjayson on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 11:38:32 PM EST

Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
that is a funny post (none / 0) (#57)
by bayou on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 12:42:11 AM EST

ho ho ho

[ Parent ]
Hah! (none / 0) (#90)
by pwayner on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 04:19:53 PM EST

Yes, I can imagine what a truly real-time game would be. The middle-ages would be terrible. But Internet time would be impossible. I'm still trying to digest all of the advancements in biotech. It's hard to even keep up with open source software, let alone run a civilization during Internet time. Thank god they've cleaned up the tech tree so we don't have to worry about those details.

[ Parent ]
-1 (1.00 / 23) (#49)
by scrod on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 09:54:53 PM EST

It's a shitty Windows game.

As opposed to... (5.00 / 1) (#93)
by DingBat1 on Fri Jun 06, 2003 at 12:40:42 PM EST

a shitty, NON-EXISTENT Linux or Mac game?

[ Parent ]
Hey now (1.00 / 1) (#98)
by X3nocide on Sat Jun 07, 2003 at 10:20:06 PM EST

All the best games come out for Linux and Mac. Just two or three years later and as a shitty GNU version that's almost as good, but it comes with source that 99 of the population would never want to read.

[ Parent ]
And game art (none / 0) (#99)
by brkn on Sun Jun 08, 2003 at 11:13:05 AM EST

that 99 per cent of the population would never want to see.

Assumption is the mother of all fuckups
[ Parent ]
I'm not going to write an entire counter-review (3.83 / 6) (#53)
by moho on Tue Jun 03, 2003 at 11:19:16 PM EST

But for those who are wondering, not everyone likes this game. The massive tech tree is just too... massive, and the end-game techs are just stupid. The "AI" upgrade makes all units build instantly, making multiple unit construction plants for *anything* but aircraft pretty much instantly redundant. The "global prosperity" one upgrades your air units to crazy power levels; the bomber it provides cannot be hit by anything but fighter aircraft, and if your enemy doesn't have this upgrade, the only fighters they have are WWII era. And, the first few "ages" tend to go by so fast they're inconsequential in most games.

Also, the pace of the combat is really slow, and with life-bars that seem to show or be hidden totally randomly (both on your units and the enemy), it's often difficult to tell how well your army is going, especially later in the game with heavily armoured units. The auto-formations are good when you have a small force, but when you get an army big enough such that the "front line" is wider than your screen, things just become stupid (units moving the wrong way around mountains since they're on the tip of the line). There are a few different formation styles, but again they're all based on a line, either straight, diagonal, or a shallow V-shape. This seems to occur mainly when you have a non-diverse set of units and the game isn't able to break them down into "ranks" very well.

Anyway, most competitive RTS players I've spoken to didn't like RON very much either. If you're hoping for a War3/Starcraft/Dark Reign style strategic RTS, you're going to be disappointed. This game looks like Age of Empires, and although it's got a few new tricks, it pretty much plays like Age fo Empires too. If you're looking for a new single-player RTS along these lines, RON might be worth a try, but otherwise... I'm betting this game isn't going to develop much of a multiplayer following.

I'd really love to buy this game (2.50 / 3) (#56)
by bayou on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 12:40:07 AM EST

but my system is antiquated: PII-333, 192MB of RAM, shitty videocard... The box says the minimum requirement is 500mhz. It seems I haven't been keeping up with the times. I almost feel like buying a new computer just to play this game. And yes, I went to the computer store for the sole reason of holding the box in my hands.

I have homework, and so I will read your article when later on as a kind of personal reward for performing my scholarly duties.

You'll just have to stick to... (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by skyknight on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 08:47:42 AM EST


It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Humbug! (4.31 / 16) (#58)
by Kasreyn on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 01:47:08 AM EST

RTS is best for combat-only games. Starcraft comes handily to mind. For a game such as this, I would MUCH rather it be TBS (Turn-Based Strategy), like the legendary Civilization or the equally-wonderful-yet-not-so-legendary Master of Orion II. Yes, they're harder to multiplay. Boo hoo, cry me a river.

Real time is for shootemup, it is the arena in which the twitchiest motherfucker wins. For think games, I like to have that good old button marked "end turn". In this arena, the twitchy motherfuckers die gruesomely. I happen to be on the non-twitchy side of the fence. As to games that try to mix shootemup and think, I'd go with a mixed approach like Fallout did (admittedly not even a strategy game, but it did have a neat way to have both turn-based and real-time play).

As to the single player mode you described, it sounds like a lameass afterthought stuck in by game developers who are mostly writing games for multiplayer weenies. "Conquer the World"? Nooo, I was just planning to serve tea and crumpets to everyone and sing "You Are My Sunshine". What a fucking joke. Multiplayer weenies get everything written for them, even the damn game engine, and single player is reduced to an afterthought.

So, fuck you, Big Huge Games, I'm a single player weenie. I know some people who won't buy a game without a multiplayer mode, and they never even touch the single player mode. I think they're on crack. I won't buy a game unless it has a kickass SINGLE player mode (preferably including a dramatic storyline to avoid losing my interest in the first 30 seconds). The multiplayer mode can go take a running jump for all I care. If the game doesn't have any aspect that can make me miss work, food, sleep, and hygeine for 4 days solid in my room alone with the door shut (this actually happened to me; it was also known as "Half-Life"), then it isn't worthy to be in my collection. I can afford to be that picky, I already have plenty of games. So fuck multiplayer. This is why (IMO) Starcraft rules and Age of Empires sucks. Both games have a fun MP mode if you're into that sort of thing. SC has a kickass SP mode with a brilliant storyline and intriguing characters, missions that challenge (well, at least they challenge newbies =P). AoE single player has... umm... a map... oh, and a history essay! Yeah, sure. Right. Starcraft please. (But then, Blizzard has always made games with badass single player modes and lame to average multiplayer options. I include every Blizzard game in this rule. I think it's their policy)

P.S. Just to forestall comments on the "single player weenie" thing: yes, this is partially because I have very few friends. Before you apes point and laugh, take a look in the mirror. Thank you and good night. ^_^


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Exactly right. (3.00 / 1) (#59)
by Dr Seltsam on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 03:29:19 AM EST

I played RoN for two or three days, and came to the exact same conclusions. For a "strategy" game, RoN has massive shortcomings in the strategy department. By the way, if you really are in single player TBS games, I greatly recommend Europa Universalis II (set in the 1400-1900 timeframe) and Hearts of Iron (same engine as EU II, but set in WW II). These got me hooked for weeks, greatly endangering my work...
The fact that I'm paranoid does not mean that they are not after me.
[ Parent ]
I disagree (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by Carcosa on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 06:51:48 PM EST

If you're talking about the "risk mode" that they tacked on, yes that is somewhat lack-lustre. But the game itself is extremely strategic. The pushing around of national borders adds an immense number of possibilities. These games are about finding things that work with a certain civilization, then abusing them horribly. One thing I like to do is to play as Russia, for the increased attrition. Then research all attrition bonuses, and build the Kremlin and Collosseum wonders. People online will just wander blithely into your territory and then wonder blithely why their troops are all falling dead. If they bring supply wagons, just waste them with cavalry archers.

[ Parent ]
the twitchiest motherfucker wins (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by monkeymind on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 05:41:20 AM EST

Best description of it I have herd.

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
[ Parent ]

Awe too bad (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by duxup on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 09:32:38 AM EST

It is kinda sad that people put out games you might not like, and don't play.

[ Parent ]
Twitchiety (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by Devil Jeff on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 10:35:34 AM EST

Saying that the twitchiest motherfucker always wins shootemups is like saying the fastest clicker always wins strategy games. It's only true for the bad shootemups (or strategy games).

The best games (like Half-Life or Unreal Tournament CTF) combine both thought and twitch.

You're right about single-player components, though. They're a forgotten art. I miss games that I could play without worrying about Joe Random Griefer cruising in and ruining it for his own kicks.

"When the sun goes out, all deeds, significant or not, will be forgotten together." -- Jack Vance
[ Parent ]
A good mix of TBS and RTS (none / 0) (#76)
by alexei on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 04:16:57 PM EST

is Medieval: Total War. I loved that game.

It's Turn-Based for all the decisions by the state (taxes, buildings, moving/creating units),  but Real-Time for the battles where you act as general.

I say "loved" as I'm upset with it. I controlled all the seas and most of the coastlines with England. Most were neutral/allied with me and I wasn't excommunicated by the Papacy; however, on one turn, around 3 nations attacked me with at least two armies each. That's just cheating! :(

[ Parent ]

Starcraft Is Way Simplistic (3.00 / 3) (#89)
by EXTomar on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 12:02:20 PM EST

The formula for "the win" in Starcraft is realitively simple: the side with more resources wins. Its that easy. It is that simple. Beyond that its a rock-sisors-paper setup. Heck even if you are the sisor to the other guy's rock you can still come out with the win if you overwhelm them with units.

On the other hand games like RON and to a much lesser extent WC3 require you choose units wisely. You could have virtually infinite resources but by the wrong units or deploy them poorly and they are gone. "Twitchiness" doesn't score as many points as well timed and execute manuvers. Why should Hand-To-Eye coordination be an overriding factor in a strategy game anyway?

All in all RON is a much better game to play. I tire of "meatgrinder" games that are simply too simplistic like Starcraft. It makes you think and actively react the situation as opposed to do a scripted play routine found in Starcraft.

[ Parent ]
I beg to differ; SC has more skill to it (none / 0) (#91)
by Kasreyn on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 05:30:46 PM EST

You can have more resources than your opponent, but if you make a strategic blunder, like not building sufficient detection, cloaked units like DT's or Lurkers can commit a slaughter amongst your troops that's all out of proportion to the relative costs.

In RTS games, there are two opposite strategies for building your forces, a mix of which is necessary for success. There is powering, which consists of expanding your economy and resource production, and researching new units and upgrades. And there is massing, which means spending your time and energy building new combat units to take the fight to the enemy. Power too much early in the game, and you will die to an early rush. Mass too much early, and you risk the opposite: if your rush fails to clinch the game, your opponent's powered economy will grind you into powder. Successful SC (or any RTS) players learn how to balance powering with massing, and adjust the mix of these behaviors depending on what situations they're facing.

Unit types in SC have pretty varied strengths and weaknesses, and the costs are IMO very well balanced. I remember one of my favorite victories as Protoss versus Terran, when I risked all, skimped on my defense, and teched up to Carriers as fast as possible. The result was my 6 carriers attacking the enemy main base at about 6 minutes into the game, which was guarded by... swarms of Firebats and Tanks (which he had been preparing to use against my token Zealot resistance). =P It was a risk, of course. If he'd attacked all-out at an early opportunity, I'd have lost. But I knew my opponent was a perhaps over-cautious player, and I won on a gamble. This wouldn't be possible in a game devoid of strategic possibilities.

I have even more stories of times when my strategic blunders cost me games. I'm certainly not a top-rank SC player; I can handle 3 comps on a good day, which is pathetic. But to me, SC has the best overall balance of any RTS I've seen, including WC3, all the Command & Conquers, and the Age of Empires games. I haven't played much WC3, I'll admit, because my system can't manage a playable framerate with it. But I have seen a lot of it played, and there seem to be more "uber" strategies in it than in SC.

The best strategy games are the ones where every move has a foil built into the game, so that the only truly important things are the player's mechanical skill at using the game interface, and his ability to outmaneouver and outwit his enemy. That's why I love playing SC (though I'll say once again that I prefer the single player mode to multiplayer any day).


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Fatal error (none / 0) (#92)
by Fenix Drakken on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 07:21:47 PM EST

"(But then, Blizzard has always made games with badass single player modes and lame to average multiplayer options. I include every Blizzard game in this rule. I think it's their policy)" Two words: Diablo II.

[ Parent ]
I detect no error (none / 0) (#94)
by Kasreyn on Fri Jun 06, 2003 at 12:55:21 PM EST

D2's multiplayer is no better than D1's. Blizzard never made any attempt to cut down on grief players, despite all the lessons they should have learned from griefing in D1. The only way I'd play D2 multi is in private games with a certain group of friends of mine. Just like D1, its multiplayer option with total strangers (the Bnet realms) has been ruined because Blizzard couldn't be bothered to take one of several easy courses of action to cut down on grief players. (such as a mutual hostile requirement, or no-hostile games, or giving game creators the power to kick/ban grief players, or preventing certain looting / duping scams, or making it harder to steal drops with Telekinesis, the list goes on and on and on; the only thing in common is, they are all easy solutions, and Blizzard ignored them all.)

As I said, I include *EVERY* Blizzard game in that rule. They have not yet made a game with a really viable multiplayer option. I should know; I own a copy of almost every one.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
That's not Blizzard's fault (none / 0) (#95)
by Devil Jeff on Fri Jun 06, 2003 at 02:14:31 PM EST

It's not Blizzard's fault that the community is full of griefers. Blizzard's games (especially D2) have always been fun. I agree with you about Bnet being too unregulated, so I only play with friends.

That said, it's possible that Blizzard doesn't care about griefers for another reason: Griefers buy the games too. During the brief period in which I tried to play StarCraft on bnet, it seemed like everyone I met was a punk. Perhaps that's Blizzard's target audience?

"When the sun goes out, all deeds, significant or not, will be forgotten together." -- Jack Vance
[ Parent ]
Heh, you're preaching to the choir. ;-) (none / 0) (#96)
by Kasreyn on Fri Jun 06, 2003 at 02:59:06 PM EST

I've been outright claiming, since 1999, that Blizzard actively panders to grief players when they design their games. If you look at their history of changes made in their patches, you'll notice a LOT more complex things they did, programming-wise, than any of the anti-grief methods I mentioned (which have all been emailed to Blizzard by people over the years, *begging* them to protect their honest players from griefers). Blizzard refuses, because their main target market is apparently 15 year old boys with chips on their shoulders. Oh sure, they occasionally axe some duper accounts and ban some hacked items. I think that falls under the category of "if we let the griefers scare off all the NON-griefers, the feeding frenzy will end!" They just want to keep enough suckers on battle.net so the griefers will stick around.

Players have, in fan-programmed modifications ("mods") to Diablo 1, fixed the Mana Shield and Dupe Bugs (which have been in since v1.0), *both* of which Blizzard claimed it - not would not - COULD not fix. Nine D1 patches later, Blizzard still claims they're unfixable, while mod players are playing the game with those bugs each fixed, by amateur programmers working a few hours a week at tinkering with D1's code. Blizzard simply lies. Their programmers are more than capable of writing games that make life hard for grief players. Someone somewhere in Blizzard has simply handed down an order that this is not to be done. That's all there is to it.

It's kind of a shame that their customer relations, management, and marketing people are all such assholes, because their games design guys at Blizzard North are some of the most talented computer game makers in the business. Their hands are tied by the bottom-feeding scum-sucking algae-eaters in upper management, though. =P

(btw, 50 points to anyone who knows what FPS game that line's from! =P)


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
2nd (none / 0) (#97)
by duxup on Fri Jun 06, 2003 at 04:57:05 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Incorrect about formations (4.00 / 2) (#67)
by Carcosa on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 10:12:52 AM EST

You CAN adjust the depth of formations. Just frob your mouse wheel. That will adjust it from column to line; in this way you can create blocks of archers. Very handy and cool-- best use of formations yet.

If that works, cool (none / 0) (#68)
by duxup on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 10:29:43 AM EST

Wow, I hope so.  I'll test that myself tonight.  I couldn't find that documented anywhere.

[ Parent ]
Sho nuff (none / 0) (#84)
by Carcosa on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 06:45:31 PM EST

You need to do it while the red formation circles are visible. Yes it does work.

[ Parent ]
Circles (none / 0) (#88)
by duxup on Thu Jun 05, 2003 at 09:22:02 AM EST

Actually my circles are blue, but that's beside the point, yep you can alter the depth of your formations that way, thanks!

[ Parent ]
Other interesting points that were left out (4.00 / 2) (#71)
by ytlee on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 12:59:39 PM EST

A pretty good effort for a review, but some key points that make RoN as unique as it is strangely missing.

National Borders are mentioned, but an explanation of the role of cities in RoN are left out. A typical game of RoN starts you out with one capital city, but eventually you will be forced to build other cities in order to keep your economy growing, as a city can only support a limited number of resource gathering buildings.

So while having one city will limit you to five farms, having two cities will let you build ten farms. Similar limitations apply to other buildings as well.

You are forced to place a new city within your National Border, but also a certain distance away from your existing cities. So instead of a single concentrated clump of buildings that you find in other RTSs, nation building in RoN will leave you with clusters of cities, each supporting their own resource buildings.

Resources are unlimited. Unlike standard RTS games, it is impossible to wait out and slowly wear down an enemy by killing his units again and again.

This leads to the fact that combat in RoN was designed to revolve around capturing and defending cities. Since units can be replaced infinitely due to infinite resources, there's very little point in destroying an opponent's army and then retreating behind your own borders.

The surest way to swing victory to your side is to take over a city, as then its surrounding area will be enveloped into your National Border, effectively cripple your opponent's economy while adding to yours.

To capture a city, you'll need to reduce its resistance level to zero by hammering it with your units and siege weapons. Then you need to move infantry units to capture it, and wait 2 minutes before it is officially assimilated into your nation. If your troops are driven back during that time, you've lost it.

Are more important in some ways than might be expected, yet less important in ways that are. Flanking and rear attacks receive bonuses, so the direction of your formation is more important than its shape.

Just selecting a whole blob of units and hitting the Attack-Move key will leave you open when an opponent uses one organized army to tie you up head on while using another to hit your flank at the same time.

Most of the above hopefully illustrates some of the things that make RoN's gameplay different when compared to that of an ordinary RTS game.

This was tacked together on the fly, any mistakes an inaccuracies are my own. The finer points of my conclusions might be disproved as RoN's playerbase matures and find new ways of doing things with the game that the developers might or might not have intended.


Straaaaaannnnnnggggeeee (none / 0) (#72)
by duxup on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 01:16:03 PM EST

There is nothing strange about what I left out at all. I wrote a lot longer review but to keep it reasonable in length cut a great deal.

The building techniques in RON do make it more fun to attack since if your nation is large it is difficult (if not impossible) to create an impenetrable fortress.  Heck it is difficult (if not impossible) to create an impenetrable fortress no matter how large the nation.  Not to say it is difficult to defend.

I would note that retreating is important if necessary in RON, just not if your units are in good health well covered via supply units.  Retreating is important for the same reason that that you note you wouldn't want to retreat.  You don't want to attack and waste your entire army on a lost cause and be defenseless.

Personally I usually use two primary armies.  Early one attacks and the other defends or raids.  Later both might attack (maybe one attacks as a diversion) and defend.

[ Parent ]

What was left out, and what was left in (none / 0) (#74)
by ytlee on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 02:23:14 PM EST

I wasn't aware that there was an original longer review that you had. No wonder what got posted seemed a bit disjointed at times, as if it was missing some parts.

But still, what was left was pretty much a standard by the book walkthrough of a game containing information that you might find in a manual. Not enough of what makes RoN different than other RTS games, therefore worthy of attention.

And yet, things like the user interface (which while good, isn't really that remarkable since those tooltips and such have been done before by games like Age of Mythology) and the standard blurb about graphics, sound, and music made the final cut?

Strange indeed.

[ Parent ]

ICBMs (none / 0) (#73)
by EiZei on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 01:30:57 PM EST

The best thing about this game is that you can make everybody lose using too much ICBMs. Gotta love em when you are about to lose. ^^

What about the Ai? (5.00 / 1) (#77)
by michaelp on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 04:29:34 PM EST

Are the computer players good and/or variable, or do they just play the same old stupid/easy to beat once you see the patterns-way?

BTW, have you ever checked out C-evo? Freeware, open source (but in Delphi:-( version of Civ2, where you can program your own AIs (you dont need delphi for AIs, just the core).

Some of them actually don't s*xors, plus you get some real uniqueness among computer players with different user made AI mods.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

AI - His Love Is Real (none / 0) (#79)
by duxup on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 05:15:57 PM EST

So far I've found the AI is pretty good.

It's difficult to give a good evaluation of AI in an RTS early on since there are a lot of variables that can effect behavior and the observer is playing too, so observing isn't so easy (I suppose I could try it with no human players).  IMHO it is easier to evaluate AI in turn based strategy than RTS.

I'll say this.  The AI will flank, make diversionary attacks, retreat when necessary, and make raids (rather than all out conquest like attacks).

In lower difficulty settings the AI builds far too many buildings IMHO (although the AI does do a good job of using forts and towers even early on), but I tend not to worry too much about that since the lower difficulty settings are quite easy.

I think the AI is pretty good so far, but I could find holes.

[ Parent ]

C-evo (none / 0) (#80)
by duxup on Wed Jun 04, 2003 at 05:18:07 PM EST

I think I tried C-evo but JUST before Civ 3 came out and I got distracted by that.  I never played with the AI.

[ Parent ]
100th Post (none / 0) (#100)
by duxup on Mon Jun 09, 2003 at 12:05:05 AM EST

I just felt the need to get rid of the sinister 99 staring at me.

Real-time, sure, but strategy? (2.50 / 2) (#101)
by Gravaton on Fri Jun 13, 2003 at 01:55:37 PM EST

That's the question, now isn't it. Maybe I'm in the minority but I would like to see an RTS where the RT isn't anywhere near as important as the S. If I'm not thinking about what I'm playing, I might as well be watching TV...or dead. This review has interested me in this game enough to check it out, maybe it has those elements.

But the larger question is, why does noone even think about putting strategy in their RTSs anymore? Starcraft, while admittedly having a very immersive story mode, was a sad joke of a game. Idiotically simple mechanics, imbalance, complete lack of imaginative things to do....you people BOUGHT this (heh not to mention preferred it over TA which was out first and infinitely better)? WC3 was just a graphical overhaul of WC2 with almost zero added content or mechanic...yet you bought it too. The C+C/WC2 era of games should be over, they were good and they were different but we now have the capibility to do so much more with the genre.

Instead we sit around quickly rushing each other with swarms of whatever we can build quickest, no attack pattern or plan, just a mob. I remember that era of warfare, I believe it was ended by the institution of strategy and trained troops (the phalanx comes to mind). When will the mob-warfare inherant to RTS games FINALLY FINALLY give way to something more strategic? (See Takeda for an excellent example of what real-time combat can do).

Here's hoping this game somehow turns the tides.

Rise Of Nations - A Player's Review | 101 comments (58 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
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