Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends review


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Buy your copy from Amazon.com Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends (2006) starstarstarstarstar Publisher: Microsoft
Category: Strategy
Available for: PC
Buy from Amazon.com

Ah, the good old PC platform: home of first person shooter and strategy games. Lots and lots of first person shooter and strategy games. It makes sense, really. Developers can always push the limits of affordable, high-end PCs with their upgradeable graphics cards and thus dish out graphical engine hogs like “Doom 3” that are going to look a million times better than most anything on a current video game console; that is, if your system’s up to snuff. As far as strategy games go, every player into those kinds of games know how much easier everything is to control with a mouse and keyboard, giving them extreme flexibility and customization far above and beyond any single game controller.

And so here we are with Microsoft bringing along Big Huge Games’ second entry into the “Rise of Nations” series. The debut game was apparently a solid hit, but not having played it, simply because I’m not a big fan of RTS games in general, it’s safe to say that “Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends” wowed me surprisingly. This is simply one great game in the whole RTS universe. One that is instantly playable, highly enjoyable, and completely addictive, keeping even a novice such as myself sufficiently glued to his seat to rock out a few battles and see what’s coming next in the storyline.

It’s a good storyline, too. In “Rise of Nations” you control main character Giacomo Vinci, a man bent on revenge for the death of his brother. Obviously the Vincis are an Italian based family, and yes, players have a few devices based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s designs at their disposal. But this isn’t just a tale of revenge. Giacomo and his friends and armies will traverse three completely different ages, each with its own set of enemies, devices and weapons, and strategies. To be certain, there’s a lot to dive into here, all of it instantly gratifying.

Players can choose to play the campaign storyline mode, a free-for-all mode, or get online and show the world what they’ve got. The campaign mode is a complete blast, as it offers plenty of different objectives and secondary objectives to play through while working their way through each of the different eras here. Battle is smooth and easy to control, and the fighting systems are deep and expandable. This is due thanks to the just-as-addictive development side of the game. Giacomo’s armies derive their resources from mining, so players can set up mines, add extra miners, and soon start building all sorts of other things from weaponry to clockwork and flying machines and much, much more. Pretty soon, players will be finding themselves building cities, creating caravans, and more importantly, creating research labs that develop bigger and better weapons, as well as extra items to be utilized by soldiers, and lots more that cannot be entirely covered in a review here.

What’s really the best thing about all of this is how smoothly it all works. You’ll be fighting and developing your armies and cities at the same time, and it all goes off without a hitch. It’s not so fast-paced that you’ll lose track of what you’re doing. The in-game help system is a great aid and is terrific for those players who want to jump right in and not worry about reading the manual. The system easily trains players as the game progresses, and eventually even asks if it should be kept on or turned off. Even if it is kept on for quite a while, players will learn the basics in a few objectives and the help system will render itself silent on its own unless absolutely needed.

“Rise of Legends” isn’t a graphics hog and runs smoothly without any system hiccups. It does look great, however. But since this is mainly a game that players are watching from the air, all those extra graphical bells and whistles aren’t really necessary here. The music soundtrack is also top notch and goes into full swing when battles break out. The voice acting is above average, and while it can get a little cheesy at times, it’s nonetheless entertaining. Basically, this is just one damn well-rounded game for beginners and RTS enthusiasts alike.

“Rise of Legends” is a deep game, one that allows players to control all aspects of the strategies. Along with controlling Giacomo, there are a host of other allies to play with as well, each with their own set of special functions and traits that can not only help in battle, but city development as well. Big Huge Games has definitely created a surefire hit here, making the “Rise of Nations” series certainly one to keep an eye on in the future. Some seasoned RTS vets may have a few minor quibbles here, but it couldn’t be too many. Any game that turns a non-RTS fan into an addicted lunatic should be worth something, right? Exactly.

~Jason Thompson