Blast From The Past
Rise of Nations was a Big Huge real-time classic
A long time before THQ acquisitions and the co-development of fantasy RPGs with a former US baseball star, Big Huge Games made their bread by marching to war with Rise of Nations. It set out to forge destinies for PC strategists back in May 2003.
Rise of Nations brought to the table what was traditionally found in turn-based franchises like Sid Meier’s Civilization, and applying them to a real-time strategy setting. It succeeded, thankfully, and was a major part of my own multiplayer shenanigans with friends as we took on rival AI empires, and inevitably backstabbed ourselves to glory.
Instead of sending our settlers and founding new settlements on a turn-based campaign map, you would instead just send off a brave soul to go found a small little village or town on the real-time map and start building it up to increase its contribution to your cause. It also let you snatch territory away from others and clearly marked out your sovereign domain. This helped apply attrition to any unwelcomed visitors unless they came ready with supply wagons or trucks, which usually meant someone’s in for a spanking.
”…for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. Save often.” – Sun Tzu’s Art of War: Gamer Edition
Rise of Nations was really able to take the usual turn-based civilization-building fanfare and not sacrifice too much of it in the translation to RTS. It led to some mighty battles as you churned out the troops and ultimately unleashed your full might on your neighbours, only not with stacks but whole troop lines. This could also go hilariously wrong and wipe out everything you had. It was awesome and my friends and I would often set the game rules to stop us reaching the Modern or Information age because we found them a little too overpowered. Nukes – ‘nuff said.
Ultimately half the game was a battle of resource management and they even had their own rare resources to exploit on the map that could dramatically alter the balance, and you could hop over into enemy lands and pinch theirs with Merchants if they weren’t looking. At its heart Rise of Nations was a 4X game, so it wasn’t always just about the frontline battles though being an RTS that’s where it would mostly end up. Why build up a war machine if you’re not going to use it? Wasteful! Nations didn’t rise up by asking nicely about it.
It’s a nation eat nation world out there, or was – now I’m full… and alone
It wasn’t all multiplayer or skirmishes either as Rise of Nations had campaigns to complete which explored various time periods and areas of the world. You could also go for broke and try to take everything in global conquest, but wouldn’t settling the Cold War be a little more fun? The single-player campaigns actually worked similar to Risk on the world map, but battles would happen in real-time. Sort of how the Total War series functions with its hybrid of the two, except Rise of Nations didn’t let you build or define settlements until you were in the RTS portion of it.
There are 18 nations to pick from and each has their own special ability and selection of units to give them an edge. You get the full gambit of warfare too by fighting on land, sea and in the air – technology permitting of course. There’s also the race to building the Wonders and, no, the Terra Cotta Army never really did manage to turn the tides of battle much despite spawning free units every 30 seconds. Still, better I had it than those ‘friends’ of mine – they couldn’t be trusted.
Where to get Rise of Nations today
Easy! Thanks to the love of the game at launch and its subsequent expansions from Big Huge Games, the series remained popular enough not to be forgotten. In fact a special Rise of Nations: Extended Edition was released in June 2014 on Steam – featuring full Steam integration, improved visuals, multiplayer and both expansions. It released later in September 2017 for the Windows 10 Store. Today the Rise of Nation IP is owned by Microsoft. Could it rise again?