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Publisher: MacSoft    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: Any Version

Rise of Nations Gold
December 24, 2004 | Michael Phillips

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I love knights and catapults, but I also love machine guns and tactical nuclear strikes. I enjoy the gamut of historical warfare. Nothing is as thrilling as leading a vast army into a frenzied battle and there are a multitude of Mac games to help me do so… sort of. There are games with knights on horse and archers who rain feathered death upon their foes. There are games with tanks and F-16 fighter jets. Yet, until recently, we had no games that offered RTS enthusiasts the best of both worlds. Thanks to the folks at MacSoft and Westlake Interactive things have changed. That’s right, Rise of Nations: Gold Edition (RoN) has hit Mac OS X.

Gameplay: Whoa, That Thing is Huge
Originally developed by Big Huge Games and ported to Mac OS X by Westlake Interactive, Rise of Nations: Gold Edition is one of the most unique RTS titles to hit the scene in quite some time. Featuring 24 historic nations, a vast 5 single-player non-linear campaigns, an original 2D/3D hybrid graphics engine and intense multiplayer action, this is one RTS that pretty much does it all. It’s titled “Gold Edition” because MacSoft rolled the original Rise of Nations and its critically acclaimed Thrones and Patriots expansion pack into a single package on one disc. Thus, we Mac users get two titles for the price of one.

Rise of Nations introduces a completely new element to the RTS genre, sovereign borders. At the start of each battle, players begin with a capital city surrounded by a national border. As more cities are constructed, one’s borders are expanded. This is important for several reasons. First, one can only construct buildings within their own borders. Thus, it’s important to expand in order to make use of valuable resources, such as pockets of oil, which are scattered around the map. Also, if a player’s borders spread across a certain percentage of the map, they are named the victor.

Cities are vastly important to achieving victory. Wealth is one of RoN’s resources and can only be accumulated by trade between cities. A marketplace is built, from which trade caravans travel between cities gathering Wealth. More cities mean more caravans, more caravans mean Wealth and more Wealth is always a Good Thing™. Cities also play host to universities, which produce one of RoN’s other resources, Knowledge. Knowledge is one of a nation’s most valuable resources during later ages. Universities contain civilian units known as, Scholars who work tirelessly to produce Knowledge. However, only one university is allowed per city, hence the need for more cities.

Rise of Nations takes dozens of traditional RTS elements and refines them to a new level. For instance, resources such as Stone and Lumber don’t run out over time, allowing for more of a focus on tactics than resource gathering. One area of every RTS that truly vexes me is micromanaging workers. In RoN, workers automatically perform their duties if left idle for a set amount of time. If a lumber mill lacks a full roster of workers, idle workers will automatically wander on over to said mill and pick up the slack. Or if a building is in the process of being constructed, idle workers will move to assist in the task. Of course, those who like the tedium of micromanaging their social inferiors can easily disable the auto-work option. In one last unique twist, it is possible to pause the action at any time to issue attack orders or instruct the peasantry. This is my personal favorite feature, because it allows for deeper levels of strategic planning.

At its core, Rise of Nations is a real-time strategy game, but with a unique twist. Big Huge Games is a fairly new developer that was founded by the fellows who helped create Civilization II and Alpha Centauri, two of the most acclaimed turn-based strategy games of all time. With that background in mind, Rise of Nations was born; a delicate mélange of real-time and turn-based strategic gameplay. For example, the single-player campaign mode is very reminiscent of the classic board game, Castle Risk.

The player is presented with a view of a map, some countries occupied by other nations, while others are left unoccupied. Countries are occupied by a game piece that represents a player’s army. Moving an army into an adjacent country initiates an attack. At this point, RoN switches gears toward the RTS side of the coin. Each attack is unlike typical RTS fare. For instance, if one invades a country that is unoccupied by a rival nation, they still must contend with said country’s native ruler. Sometimes an attack scenario might involve defending one’s base against a barbarian onslaught for 30 minutes, or raiding a small enemy encampment to achieve victory. After defeating an enemy, the player takes control of the country and is given a variety of bonuses. One such bonus comes in the form of a card. Each attack (or non-attack) represents a game turn. Game cards are played prior to an attack and confer benefits such as extra starting resources, or troop reinforcements.


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