Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Rise of Nations for PC

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

For years, I’ve played Age of Empires. I won’t go into the details of Age of Empires here since this is a review of Rise of Nations except to say that the two games are very similar. If you have Age of Empires, you’re probably asking why you should buy this game. Is it really worth spending all of that money just to get a better game? Yes.

I want to warn you that this review is going to seem like it rambles. That’s because there’s so much information that I want to convey that it’s extremely difficult to organize. I’ve left out a few things and there are a lot of things that I’m still discovering about the game. The game itself is very easy to learn, especially if you’ve played other similar games.

Before I get into the technical details of why Rise of Nations is better that the others, it would help to explain what the game is. There are a variety of different games, but the basic idea is to take over a given map. (It’s sort of like the board game Risk.) There are tutorials, which have a slightly different spin and are designed to familiarize you with game play, but even then, you’re still working towards world domination. You get to choose from 18 different races. Each has it’s own advantage. Maybe you gather resources more quickly or you have a higher population limit. The attraction depends on how you like to play.

There are a variety of ways you can play, but I find that most people tend to stick to one type. I usually play what’s called a Quick Battle. It’s very similar to the multiplayer mode, which I play when I can. (That’s one of the advantages of having a home network.) There are various ways to win. You can have a strict conquest, which is where you try to eliminate enemies through war. You can also do it where you build wonders. I think you can even do it on a strict point basis. It’s up to you. (I’d recommend starting with a conquest until you get used to the game.) You can also choose the terrain type or have the computer choose a random variety. You can have it select from all of the map types or chose from the land maps, the water maps, etc. The computer will generate a random map based on what you want.

You start with one city, one library, one scout, a lumber mill, three farms, and several workers. From there, you build and expand. (Some races have bonuses that allow them to start with more, though.) With the library, you progress through ages. Farms are used for food and lumber mills, which have to be built near forests, are used for gathering wood. You have to build mines to gather metal and you have to build lumber camps to gather wood. These building set limits on how many units can gather each resource; if you want to gather more, you have to obtain more of these buildings. Each type of building has an auxiliary building. For instance, mines have smelting plants. The auxiliary buildings help out the workers by allowing them to gather resources more efficiently, sometimes doubling or even tripling output. One thing that you’ll like sometimes and hate at other times is the way idle workers will automatically go to work if there’s a vacant slot nearby. This is great if you want to create citizens and set them to work, but not if you want them to build things.

Also, there’s a display that shows you how many slots are available for each task. That helps, but there’s no easy way to tell where the available slots are. Every building has a hot key. For instance, X will rotate among the missile silos; C rotates between city centers; TAB rotates among buildings that have upgrades available. It would just be nice to have available workers go to any open slot regardless of proximity.

You can only build within your territory, which is marked by your color. (There’s a minimap that shows where you are.) If you’re near the border and you build something that expands your territory, there’s a border that actually moves. If you’re neighboring another nation, their border retreats accordingly. (Or advances when they build something.)

You have a limit on the number of towns you can build and there are other buildings, like farms and universities, which have limits based on the number of towns you have set up. (Usually, it’s five farms and one university per town.) Others, like oil rigs, have to be set up on certain spots. (When you go to set up an oil rig, you’re automatically taken to the nearest oil field. It took me a while to figure out what was going on.)

As you progress through the ages at the library, you’ll get access to better buildings and troops. Military research, for instance, is one of the ways to get certain types of new buildings. It also increases the population limit. Civic research allows for more cities to be built. With enough research, you can do all sorts of things. Around the sixth age, you gain the ability to develop nuclear weapons.

You can allow for anywhere up to 200 to be your maximum population, but some races will allow for more and you can even build wonders, which might increase the cap. (There are many ‘wonders’ including a pyramid, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. Unlike Age of Empires, the wonders in Rise of Nations do something. In some cases, they allow for limits to be bumped up. Others generate free units or expand borders.) As for the units, Rise of Nations is a little better than other games I’ve played.

There are other types of games. I don’t really have the patience for a lot of them, but it’s only fair to at least mention them. In some games, you can take over the world in a manner similar to Risk. You have to take over one country at a time until you control the world. There are also tutorials and, as I said, multiplayer. (The only option available for multiplayer is similar to the quick battle.) There are also scenarios similar to Warcraft. For single player, there’s one difficulty for all of your opponents; for multiplayer, you can have a different difficulty setting for each computerized opponent.

The ‘moderate’ setting seems to be where it starts to get challenging. Usually on the ‘easy’ setting, I can beat four opponents. (There’s also an ‘easiest’ setting.) I’d recommend playing a game on easy or easiest to get the feel of the game. Moderate will probably be too difficult for someone that’s still getting the feel of the game. I’ve been playing for a few weeks now and I’m still discovering things about it.

Using the sound is bearable, which is something I couldn’t say for Warcraft. The music was all right, but the repetitious nature of the monologue annoyed me. Most characters had no more than about three lines they said when you clicked on them, and there were a few that you clicked on a lot. “All right,” gets annoying after the 1,000th time. Rise of Nations did away with that, which is a big improvement.

What did get on my nerves were these dialogue boxes that kept popping up to announce major events, like someone advancing to the next age. I still haven’t figured out how to turn this off. Also, you can’t change your capital. (That gets fixed in the upgrade, but that’s for another review.)

The one thing that I absolutely want to warn you about is the amount of resources you’ll need on your computer. I have a relatively new Dell Dimension 2400. It has a 74.4 GB hard drive, a 2.4 GHz Pentium? 4 processor and 256 MB of RAM. The game stalls quite a bit. When I play multiplayer over a LAN, it’s usually my computer that’s the weakest link. I put SETI@home so that it’s not always processing, but that doesn’t usually help much. My brother’s computer seems to be able to handle it. If you have a really good computer, go for it IF not, wait to upgrade. I’m looking into doubling my RAM.

No comments :