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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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Rise of Nations features various technological ages. For example, a battle can begin in the middle ages, with weapons of stick and stone that do break bone and then conclude in the gunpowder age, with flesh and organs being kissed by hot lead. If a battle lasts long enough, armies can advance to the information age. In this age, massive redoubts constructed of cold steel replace fortresses made of stone. Players can make use of advanced death machines, like attack submarines, armored tanks and the always-brutal nuclear missile. RoN isn't the first game to offer advancing technological ages, but its implementation is by far the most excitingly diverse of any RTS title.

As I said, RoN boasts 5 single-player campaigns that depict epic historic struggles. For instance, in the New World campaign the player can recreate America's war for independence, but with new twists. When playing the British army, one must wipe out the native Indian nations while keeping the American colonists in check and under control. Players can even recreate the Cold War, either commanding the Russian or American forces. The Cold War is particularly intriguing in that when things get desperate, one can choose to unleash nuclear (not nukular) missiles on target countries. Of course, nuclear strikes never go unanswered. While the previous campaigns are somewhat scripted in terms of the nations involved and victory conditions, the Conquer the World Campaign is a no holds barred brawl for global domination. Conquer the World campaigns have endless possibilities and gameplay options. Players can choose any race, starting at the dawn of warfare and advancing to the information age and modern military technology. Players can forge diplomatic alliances with other nations and even coordinate attacks against common foes. All in all, these campaigns offer plenty for gamers to enjoy.

Multiplayer Rise of Nations is absolutely an intense experience. Up to 8 players can duke it out by way of either the think-tank known as GameRanger, or direct TCP/IP and LAN. RoN is far and away my all time favorite multiplayer RTS game. It's amazing to see a battle advance from the middle ages all the way to the information age. Each skirmish builds in ferocity until tanks and fighter jets are exploding all over the battlefield. It's interesting to vie for the technological upper hand, only attacking when one is certain they can outgun their enemy. Rise of Nations' multiplayer aspect is reason enough to plunk down $49.95.

Graphics: It's a Hybrid
Rise of Nations uses a 2D/3D hybrid engine to create its lush visuals. Units in RoN are rendered in full 3D, allowing for fluid animation as armies blow each other to Hell and back again. However, stationary objects, such as buildings, are rendered in 2D. This provides a great deal of visual detail for each building, without the performance hit that comes with high poly 3D objects. With dozens of units running around, fighting and dying, I experienced no sluggishness on my dual 2 GHz G5 and Radeon 9800 Pro running at a resolution of 1920x1200. However, other's mileage may vary.

Sound: Bang, Bang, You Shot Me Down
Aurally, Rise of Nations is near perfect. While the audio effects for melee weapons like swords and spears sound like clanking tin cans, every other effect is spot on. I have a 5.1 speaker system, so during modern gun battles, my room literally sounds like a war zone. The sounds are that good. Even the music is quite stirring, but I elected to turn it off in favor of a pure combat soundscape.

Conclusion: All I Want For Christmas is My RoN
Rise of Nations is the best and most unique RTS title I've ever played. With its diverse single-player campaigns, intense multiplayer action, unique turn-based gameplay elements, beautiful visuals and stunning overall audio, RoN is quite possibly all things to all RTS fans. Lastly, it should be noted that RoN also features a built-in script and scenario editor, further adding to its endless replay value. So, go out and buy this game right now.

Turn-based elements in an RTS game
Diverse campaigns
Amazing overall audio
Modest system requirements

Lame melee audio effects
No cross-platform networking

Now, I leave with some classic Simpsons holiday trivia. What was the slogan of the game Bart wanted for Christmas? How did Bart obtain said game? What game did Marge end up buying him? The first person to answer all three questions wins their very own copy of Rise of Nations: Gold Edition. (Note: We have a winner! The correct answers were: Buy me Bonestorm or go to Hell! Bart shoplifted his copy, ever so briefly, after which Marge bought him Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge. Merry Christmas!)

Rise of Nations Gold
Publisher: MacSoft
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