Rise of Nations is a complex real-time strategy game developed by Big Huge Games. Based in a historical context, it features gameplay from well before recorded history to the present spread across eight ages. The game is notable for its efforts at combining elements of traditional real-time and turn-based strategy games -- examples include the Conquer the World single player campaign, which plays like a game of Risk with a short game taking the place of rolling dice, and the concept of territories.
As with most real-time strategy games, Rise of Nations' core gameplay can be broken into several elements, relating to economic, technologic, or military strategy. Some of the game's more unique concepts apply to both aspects of play and are broken out below.
Economic development in Rise of Nations is particularly difficult to manage due to its sheer and vast scope -- by the end of each game, players manage no less than six resources: food, wood, metal, wealth, oil, and knowledge. At the beginning of the game, only the first three are available. Food, wood, metal, and oil are harvested through the traditional RTS means of building resource centers near where they physically exist on the map, and assigning citizens to work on them. In addition, resource centers built at cities may be enhanced with accompanying processing plants (eg a woodcutter's camp would be associated with a lumber mill, and farms would be related to a granary). However, Rise of Nations enforces an artificial cap on the gathering rate of all resources except knowledge known as the commerce limit. This limit may be raised individually through a variety of means such as nation bonuses, rare resources, and wonders, but in general it must be lifted through the Commerce research at the library -- more on this later. The commerce limit, as well as the maximum gather rate for knowledge, peaks at 999, and no bonus can raise it higher.
There are also many rare resources, of which there is rarely more than one of each type per map. These must be harvested through the use of a merchant, but are well worth the effort, as they generally provide not only a stream of gathering for one or more standard resources, they typically also offer benefits: Uranium, for instance, cost and build time of nuclear missles.
The game's age advancement is in fact broken down into four major categories, which may be researched at the Library; before advancing to each next age, one must research each of the four up to at least the previous age, and at least two to the next age. These four categories are Military, which raises the population limit and unlocks military units and upgrades, Commerce raises the commerce limit and unlocks resource gathering-related technologies, Civics expands the city limit and grants access to new social technologies, and Science makes all research cheaper (including the other Library research tracks), as well as unlocking some technologies. Thus, when possible it is generally a good strategy to complete Science research first.
Age advancement in and of itself grants few bonuses intrinsically. The single most significant change involves the unlocking of new resources at certain ages, but many military and the knowledge gathering technology are age-limited. At the final age, however, the four major Library techs become behemoths in both cost, research time, and reward. The Global Prosperity tech raises the commerce limit to 999, the Missle Shield tech completely prevents opponents from targetting nuclear and conventional missles anywhere within your territory, and the World Government and Artificial Intelligence techs have significant influence over the military component of the game, as detailed below. The ages available in Rise of Nations are:
- Ancient Age
- Classical Age -- unlocks Knowledge
- Medieval Age
- Gunpowder Age
- Enlightenment Age
- Industrial Age -- unlocks Oil
- Modern Age
- Information Age -- provides final four techs
There also exists the usual bevy of unit and resource related upgrades typically found in these games.
Rise of Nations' approach to military gameplay is fairly standard, deviating from the tried-and-true real-time strategy formula only rarely -- some of these deviations, however, are rather radical. The game puts a strong focus on all three mediums of warfare: land, sea, and air. The game places a strong emphasis, particularly early in the game, on the concept of territories, something normally found in turn-based strategy games. Players may research various patriotism-building technologies, which increase attrition for enemy troops in their territory; foes will slowly waste away while traipsing upon their lands. The only way for the attacker to prevent this comes from another emphasis the game has from a militaristic standpoint, which are support units. Keeping Generals and Supply Wagons close will eliminate attrition damage, a fact which makes these units prime targets during assaults. Generals also provide individual powers which may be activated to benefit the units in the immediate vicinity; these powers include increased speed, defense, or creating decoys to confuse the enemy. Spies are also available, which are able to convert ("bribe") enemy units or infiltrate buildings, at which point their owner may see everything to do with that building, including sharing its line of sight and observing the building's queue.
Capturing enemy cities is a difficult task, but one which is often necessary in order to claim victory. In addition to reducing the enemy city's health to zero (referred to as reducing the city), the attacker must bring troops in and hold the city with superior numbers for a certain period of time, at which point the city becomes captured. After this time, however, while the city technically belongs to the new occupant, it undergoes another assimilation period before it or its buildings may be directly used.
The final age technologies Missile Shield, World Government, Global Prosperity, and Artificial Intelligence have significant effects on the Militaristic gameplay. Missile Shield adds 2 to the armageddon clock and prevents ballistic or nuclear missiles from being fired on territory that you control. World Government eliminates all capture and assimilation time for cities -- the moment it is reduced and a superior number of forces is established in its immediate vicinity, the city belogs to the attacker. This is particularly lethal when a player's capital is exposed or vulnerable, as victory can be swift and unrelenting. Global Prosperity, while primarily an economic upgrade, also provides the crucial final upgrade to air units, which can help a player establish instant superiority through liberal use of bombers.
The most interesting final age technology, however, is Artificial Intelligence. While the other two significant final age technologies serve to tip the scales in favor of the aggressor, Artificial Intelligence throws a monkey wrench into everything by making unit creating completely instant. Nuclear missles can be fired like machine gun bullets and armies can rise from dust in a matter of seconds, adding a level of controlled chaos to the final stages of long-running games.
Cities are of great importance in Rise of Nations, as evidenced by the fact that players are limited in the number they are allowed to build by Civics research. Cities provide hubs for caravans to travel between and earn wealth, they push territorial boundaries outward, and they have the distinct quality of levelling over time. As more buildings are introduced to each city, it grows larger and stronger, more able to resist attack. The temple can help strengthen each city even further. In addition, building resource centers in cities is the only way to leverage resource boosting buildings.
Briefly touched upon in the Military section, territory is a concept introduced by Rise of Nations to the real-time strategy genre with a number of interesting implications. In addition to being a potential victory condition, players may only build new buildings within their own (or allies') territorial bounds, and enemy units will experience attrition in foreign lands. Also significantly, one method of harvesting wealth is through taxation, researchable through the Temple, which essentially provides a fixed wealth income depending on the taxation rate (which is determined by the level of tax research) and the proportion of territory held. Cities and Forts are able to influence territorial lines, and erecting Temples can boost not only the influence of an individual city on territory, but Temple research can boost the effect of all Cities and Forts on the critical lines.
Unlike many previous real-time strategy games, Wonders serve legitimate and practical purpose in addition to being a potential victory condition. For instance, the Colossus provides, among other things, one of the few ways to obtain a population cap of greater than 200, by supplying a static bonus of 50 to the cap. The Space Program allows its owner to survey all lands without fog of war, and the Supercollider enables a large variety of technology researches to be instant. Due to the power of these Wonders, only one of each may ever be built in a single game, creating pressure to erect favorites as quickly as possible.
Rise of Nations has many configurable game settings, and provides the following presets:
Victory may be achieved through holding 70% of the world's territory, earning and holding 8 more Wonder points than anyone else, or simply defeating all enemies by taking their capitals.
The team's recommended "Free for all" format, alliances are forbidden and each nation is assigned a specific target nation, which is the only nation they are allowed to attack.
Barbarians at the Gates!
One team is granted access to the full tech tree, and is required to defend itself from every other player in the game, who are on a team and limited in technology, and thus referred to as barbarians.
Same as Standard, but players are given vast resources at the start of the game.
Same as Standard, but research and resource harvesting is accelerated.
Info Age Deathmatch
Same as Deathmatch, but all nations start with the full tech tree. Since Missle Shield is necessarily researched already, no nuclear weapons may be built.
No one is allowed to attack until someone reaches the Gunpowder Age.
Players do not begin the game with a City or a Scout. Nation powers are not activated until they build a City.
Peaceful Tech Race
Players may not attack each other; instead, they race to a designated age.
Custom maps and settings may be built by users and loaded for play.
At any point any city is captured, that player instantly loses. In addition, any player may win instantly by reaching 8 wonder points above all opponents, or capturing 70% of the world territory.
Conquer the World
In addition to standard real-time strategy play, the Conquer the World mode is provided as a single-player experience. Its gameplay component plays much like a game of Risk, except that instead of rolling dice, each battle is actually carried out in the real-time strategy component of the game. Thus, Conquer the World is a very long and ambitious process. One significant feature it boasts which contributes to both aspects of the game mode is the concept of nation bonus cards; upon conquering any nation, you recieve that nation's bonuses (see below) as a card, along with any cards they have collected. You are then free to use the card on a battle and take advantage of the nation's powers; after the battle, the card is spent.
The Nations available in Rise of Nations are fairly diverse and many in number. Each is listed below with their nation bonuses and Unique Units
The Aztec have the Power of Sacrifice:
- Free Light Infantry whenever you build a Barracks, one at the start of the game, two with Classical Age and Military research, three with Gunpowder Age and Military research.
- 15 bonus resources per age up to 60 for each enemy killed.
- Plunder from enemy buildings is increased by 100% over normal.
- Atl-Atl (Ancient Age)
- Royal Atl-Atl (Classical Age)
- Xoppili Atl-Atl (Medieval Age)
- Heavy Archer (Medieval Age)
- Jaguar Infantry (Modern Age)
- Jaguar Assault Infantry (Information Age)
The Bantu have the Power of Migration:
- Cities cost 75% less than normal.
- City limit increased by one starting with the first Civics research.
- Double the population cap over normal, and 25% over the normal game limit at most.
- Barracks units and citizens move 25% faster.
- Unit upgrades are awarded automatically
- Umpakati (Ancient Age)
- Yangombi Umpakati (Classical Age)
- Impi Umpakati (Medieval Age)
- Hawk Fighter (Modern Age)
- Eagle Fighter (Information Age)
The British have the Power of Empire
- Commerce cap raised by 25% over normal.
- Taxation provides twice the income.
- Forts and Towers recieve 2 Range.
- Ships are built 33% faster.
- Archers receive free upgrades.
- Anti-aircraft units and buildings are 25% cheaper and 33% quicker to build.
- Longbowmen (Classical Age)
- Kings Longbowmen (Medieval Age)
- Kings Yeomanry (Gunpowder Age)
- Highlander (Enlightenement Age)
- Black Watch (Industrial Age)
- Lancaster Bomber (Modern Age)
The Chinese have the Power of Culture:
- Citizens, Caravans, Merchants, and Scholars are created instantly.
- Science research at the Library is 25% cheaper.
- The Granary Herbal Lore line of research is free.
- Cities are automatically awarded "Large City" status.
- Fire Lancers (Medieval Age)
- Heavy Fire Lancers (Gunpowder Age)
- Manchurian Musketeers (Enlightenment Age)
- Manchurian Riflemen (Industrial Age)
- Manchurian Infantry (Modern Age)
The Egyptians have the Power of The Nile:
- Food commerce cap is 10% more than normal.
- 7 farms may be built per City, rather than the usual 5.
- Granary upgrades are free, and a granary is built for you at the start of the game.
- Wonders cost 25% less than normal, two may be built per city, and are unlocked an age early.
- Light Camel (Ancient Age)
- Camel Warrior (Medieval Age)
- Elite Camel Warrior (Gunpowder Age)
- Chariot (Ancient Age)
- Heavy Chariot (Medieval Age)
- Mameluke (Gunpowder Age)
- Royal Mameluke (Enlightenment Age)
The French have the Power of Leadership:
- Free General for each Fort.
- Siege factory units 25% cheaper, 50% faster to build.
- Lumber Mill upgrades are free, and one is built for you at the start of the game.
- Woodcutting Camps support 2 more citizens than usual.
- Timer commerce cap is 10% more than normal.
- Chevalier (Classical Age)
- Heavy Chevalier (Medieval Age)
- Horse Grenadier (Gunpowder Age)
- Horse Guard Grenadier (Enlightenment Age)
The Germans have the Power of Industry:
- The Granary, Lumber Mill, and Smelter may be built as soon as the game begins, research is available an age early, and upgrades are 50% cheaper.
- Building completion bonuses are 50% higher than normal.
- Cities gather 5 extra food, timber, and metal.
- Submaries and Fireships are 25% cheaper, 33% faster to build.
- Air units are 33% faster to build.
- Two free fighters per Airport.
- Solduri (Ancient Age)
- Barbarian (Classical Age)
- Vandal (Medieval Age)
- Landsknecht (Gunpowder Age)
- Volksgrenadier (Modern Age)
- Tiger II (Modern Age)
- Leopard (Information Age)
- MG-42 Machine Gun Crew (Modern Age)
The Greeks have the Power of Philosophy:
- A University is provided for you at the beginning of the game, and they may be built an age early.
- Library and University are 50% cheaper.
- All research is twice as fast.
- Library research is 10% cheaper than normal.
- Companion Cavalry (Classical Age)
- Royal Companion Cavalry (Medieval Age)
- Stratiotai (Gunpowder Age)
- Royal Stratiotai (Enlightenment Age)
The Inca have the Power of Gold:
- Harvesting Metal also provides wealth income.
- Wealth commerce cap lifted by 33%.
- Recieve a 25% resource refund for units killed by enemies.
- Inti Clubmen (Classical Age)
- Royal Inti Clubmen (Medieval Age)
- Inca Mortar (Enlightenment Age)
- Inca Seige Mortar (Insudtrial Age)
- Heavy Archer (Medieval Age)
The Japanese have the Power of Honor:
- Farms are 50% cheaper to build, and Farms and Fishermen provide 25% faster harvest rate than usual.
- Aircraft Carriers are 33% faster to build and ships are 10% cheaper.
- Barracks Units do 5% extra damage against buildings and are built 10% faster and 7% cheaper for each Age and Military level completed.
- Ashigaru Spearmen (Ancient Age)
- Bushi (Classical Age)
- Elite Bushi (Medieval Age)
- Samurai (Gunpowder Age)
- Gun Samurai (Enlightenment Age)
The Koreans have the Power of Tradition:
- A Temple is built for you at the start of the game, and the Religion line of research is free.
- 1 extra citizen at the start of the game, 3 for the first city built, and 5 for each city built after that.
- Buildings are repaired 50% faster, and repaired under enemy attack without penalty.
- Militia line of research is free.
- Towers are 33% cheaper to build.
- Hwarang (Ancient Age)
- Elite Hwarang (Classical Age)
- Royal Hwarang (Medieval Age)
- Elite Royal Hwarang (Gunpowder Age)
- Flaming Arrow (Classical Age)
- Heavy Flaming Arrow (Medieval Age)
The Maya have the Power of Architecture:
- Buildings are 50% stronger, 33% cheaper in timber (with the exception of Wonders), 50% faster to build.
- Towers, Forts, and AA guns may fire without any units garrisoned.
- Balamob Slinger (Ancient Age)
- Royal Balamob Slinger (Classical Age)
- Eagle Balamob Slinger (Medieval Age)
- Heavy Archer (Medieval Age)
- Recoiless Gun (Modern Age)
- Dragon AT Missle (Information Age)
The Mongols have the Power of the Horde:
- Mounted units are 10% cheaper and 20% faster to build.
- Recieve an income of food based on the proportion of territory controlled.
- Units receive 50% reduced attrition.
- The Forage line of research at the Smelter is free.
- Free Ranged Cavalry for each Stable or Autoplant; first three levels of Military research.
- Nomad (Classical Age)
- Steppe Nomad (Medieval Age)
- Horde (Gunpowder Age)
- Golden Horde (Enlightenment Age)
The Nubians have the Power of Trade:
- Merchants gather 50% more resources from rare resources.
- All rare resource within your territory is instantly revealed.
- A market is provided for you at the start of the game, and resources may be traded immediately, with a /- 20 price bonus.
- Merchants, Caravans, and Markets are 50% cheaper to build and have 50% more health.
- Caravan limit raised by 1.
- Camel Archer (Classical Age)
- Heavy Camel Archer (Medieval Age)
- Camel Raider (Gunpowder Age)
- Camel Corp (Enlightenment Age)
- Kushite Archer (Classical Age)
- Royal Kushite Archer (Medieval Age)
- Apedemark Archer (Gunpowder Age)
The Romans have the Power of Caesar:
- Forts and Towers are 25% cheaper.
- Forts have 3 effect on territorial borders.
- Heavy Infantry are 10% cheaper to build.
- Cities harvest 15 wealth.
- Free Heavy Infantry for each new Barrack; the number increases as ages advance.
- Legion (Classical Age)
- Caesar's Legion (Medieval Age)
- Praetorian Guard (Gunpowder Age)
The Russians have the Power of The Motherland:
- Attrition against enemies doubled.
- Attrition research upgrades are free.
- National Borders are stronger by 1 per Civic Research.
- Oil is harvested 20% faster.
- Cavalry do 25% more damage to supply and artillery units.
- Russian spies are 50% cheaper to build, and remain invisible until they attempt to use a power.
- Rusiny Lancer (Medieval Age)
- Cossack (Gunpowder Age)
- Don Cossack (Enlightenment Age)
- Katyusha Rocket (Modern Age)
- Red Guards Infantry (Modern Age)
- Shock Infantry (Information Age)
- T-80 (Information Age)
The Spanish have the Power of Discovery:
- Map is explored at the start of the game.
- An extra scout is provided at the start of the game; two if the gametype already specifies that the map is fully explored for all players.
- Scout units have 3 line-of-sight and upgrades for free; they can also use special abilities faster.
- Free Heavy Warship for each Dock until the Industrial Age.
- Ruin bonus increased by 10.
- Scutari (Classical Age)
- Royal Scutari (Medieval Age)
- Tercio (Gunpowder Age)
- Royal Tercio (Enlightenment Age)
The Turks have the Power of Gunpowder:
- Artillery, Siege, and Naval Bombard units receive 3 range and line-of-sight.
- 2 Siege units for free for each Siege Factory.
- Cities are assimilated 4 times faster than usual.
- Citizens are 33% cheaper to build.
- Military research is 33% cheaper, Siege unit upgrades are free.
- Janissary (Gunpowder Age)
- Royal Janissary (Enlightenment Age)
- Basilica Bombard (Gunpowder Age)
- Basilica Canon (Enlightenment Age)