attrition damage from being on enemy land. This helped to slow the pace down,
somewhat, and forces the player to build up sizable military forces before invading.
While the game moves fairly quickly, the preparation takes longer than most other
I enjoyed Rise of Nations.
Not enough to continuously go back to it, like I do with Medieval: Total War,
primarily due to the constant deadlocks, but it is a competent title with some
interesting elements. Now, Thrones & Patriots takes the formula, and
while not fixing all the previous flaws, brings some much-needed diversity, as
well as introducing some truly enjoyable campaigns.
of four healthy scenarios, players will take command for Alexander the Great,
Napoleon, the New World, and the Cold War. Accompanying the new campaigns are
six new nations: the Iroquois, Lakota, Americans, Dutch, Persians, and Indians.
Their nation-specific traits are also pretty interesting - for example: the Lakota
use citizens to automatically gather food instead of having to create farms, and
the Dutch have armed merchants and heavy economic bonuses. There are also 20 new
units, like Persian War Elephants, and these represent the only real enhancement
to graphics and sound - fortunately, Rise of Nations wasn't hard on the eyes to
begin with, and both areas have held up well. One of the more interesting additions
is the ability to choose what government the people will live under. From despotism
to republic, as the player advances through the ages, they will gain the ability
to adopt later forms of government, like socialism and capitalism. Each government
also has their own bonuses, like cheaper military research or philosophers - trying
to tally all the bonuses in RoN would cause someone's head to explode -
and Patriot units; these new government-specific units are generals that do anything
from heal units to increasing the attack range of accompanying units. I found
the new generals to be much more useful in long battles, but many of the fights
are fairly quick, so their benefits tended to be minimal.
new campaigns are really impressive; each is so different that it really makes
the expansion worthwhile. There are also many unorthodox choices. As Napoleon,
there are no real turns; the player takes orders from someone else until they
gain enough power to make themselves Emperor. During the Cold War, the U.S. or
Soviet Union has to spend tribute points buying nuclear missiles and upping their
territorial strength, because if either priority is surpassed by the other nation,
the less of the two will lose favor in world opinion and risk being abandoned
by their allies.
Of course, each campaign
has a bit more to them than just waltzing over territories. During the game, opportunities
present themselves to the player, further enhancing the experience - like Cuba
asking for tribute to overthrow the 'capitalist pigs' and sending back tribute
once established, pre-empting the U.S. involvement in Vietnam by sending troops
first, and even using time to spy on an enemy nation before attacking - all examples
from playing as the Soviet Union in the Cold War campaign. Many mission briefings
also come with additional info that contains the historic background for the actions
- they aren't necessary, but a nice touch nonetheless. Although it is a little
odd to play as Napoleon and win a battle, then be told before the next fight that
you actually lost and ended up at your current position because you were fleeing.
This variety extends far beyond
overall objectives and opportunities, though. Many of the missions in the expansion
will be non-traditional. These missions aren't the typical style of gathering,
researching, and attacking, but might consist of doing anything from killing a
specified amount of enemy troops to capturing oil fields and using the resources
they gather to train troops at a fort. Some of this causes some problems. I had
a territory with a 7 strength, but when I was invaded, I was only given a small
force to fight the enemy with - not to mention all the bonus cards I wasted thinking
an 8 territory would take forever to conquer. Fans of the formula might find these
a little too often for their taste, and I certainly found them to unbalance the
I did notice that the computer
is much more active this time around. Instead of focusing on reacting, computer
opponents would actively seek out alliances and peace during conflict, as well
as on the world map. It was fun to conquer the capital of a nation (causing that
nation's other territories to be conquered as well) and have a dozen or so peace
proposals awaiting my approval, all lavishing me with land and tribute; but I
found allying myself with an enemy in combat and making peace with the rest to
conquer an annoying foe on the other side of the map even more fulfilling. Be
warned: the tricky bastard will also turn whenever they find a better opportunity.
Even with the improved computer, I still found myself in some deadlocks that resulted
from both sides gaining way too many resources way too quickly; at times, it was
like the computer had an unlimited amount of resources to draw from. Maybe their
citizens where better harvesters than mine, but there was one problem I had that
wasn't so forgiving: the computer is horrible about transporting troops over water.
I won several rounds by simply placing light ships or submarines on choke points
and sinking hundreds of troops, being sent to either rescue a besieged city or
simply trying to maneuver to a better vantage point; a few here and there I understand,
but I was sinking 20+ ships at a time. Rarely did the computer try to stop me
doing so, and when it did, it would quickly shy away after having their navy battered
a few times. Although, to the computer's credit, the way troops automatically
turn into ships the second they touch water is too sensitive many times, for both
sides, causing troops to enter transports, thus becoming much more vulnerable,
when they weren't really in the water. Not a perfect expansion - but definitely
a good one.
I enjoyed Rise of Nations: Thrones & Patriots much more than I did
the original. The new campaigns are, for the most part, great, and the new nations
will spice up multiplayer and the standard Conquer the World campaign. With graphics
and sound that are both crisp and detailed, it still proves a treat to behold.
The excessive variety in missions might be off-putting to those wanting the traditional
experience, and they do offset the game's balance some, but, ultimately, their
presence kept the game from becoming as monotonous as the original - at least,
it felt that way to me after a half-hour or so. For $30, it's well worth the asking