Rise of Nations

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Rise of Nations is a Real Time Strategy computer game, developed by Big Huge Games and published by Microsoft on May 20, 2003. The development of the game was led by veteran Brian Reynolds, of Civilization II and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. Concepts taken from turn-based strategy games have been added into the game, including territories and attrition warfare. Rise of Nations features 18 civilizations, playable through 8 ages of world history. It also has one of the most clever User Interfaces in recent RTS history, averting the Hunt & Peck Hotkeys that have plagued so many other titles in the genre.

On April 28, 2004, Big Huge Games released Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots, an expansion pack. Later that year, a Gold edition of Rise of Nations was released, which included both the original and the expansion. In 2006, a Spiritual Successor Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends was released, but instead of a historical game, Rise of Legends turned more towards fantasy elements, creating a world where fantasy and technology coexisted.

The original game and Thrones and Patriots were given an Updated Rerelease as Rise of Nations: Extended Edition in 2014. Released on Steam, it includes several enhancements such as HD graphics, streamlined multiplayer and streaming support.

Tropes used in Rise of Nations include:
  • 4X: A real time strategy version of this.
  • A-Team Firing: Asian "Partisans", who look suspiciously like Viet Cong, cannot shoot a machine gun to save their lives (even though they often need to for that very reason). Like an untrained civilian probably would, they can't control the gun because of recoil and fire randomly. They still hit their targets 100% of the time though...
  • Alternate History: Some campaigns in Thrones and Patriots (especially those relating to Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and the Cold War) can (and often will) become this if you deviate from what happened historically, even to a degree anticipating such scenarios. In the Cold War campaign, for example, you can get the Bay of Pigs invasion to succeed in deposing Castro and intervene in Prague Spring for the US; for the Soviets you can take a more active than historical role in the Korean War and unite the Koreas under Kim Il-Sung and defeat NATO and subsume Western Europe into the Warsaw Pact as your puppet without nuclear war.[1]
    • Interestingly, the Napoleon campaign alludes to this happening offscreen, if you pay attention to the Wonders you control. Assuming you do well enough, you're given wonders from Southeast Asia (French Indochina being formed decades early) and Mexico (French victory in the Franco-Mexican War).
    • Some civilizations like the Aztecs, Bantu, and Inca have access to late game unique units, long after their respective societies had fallen in real life.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: This game has a pretty huge limit of 250 units. Some units count as two, but this still allows for some really huge armies.
    • Also, most of infantry units count as one, but consist of 3 people, so it makes those armies look even bigger.
      • And with the right civilisation pick and correct resources found it can reach 320.
    • You can change the game files to allow more units (I changed the max population cap to 1000, for example).
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The tactical offensive campaign mode. It starts with a large amount of your troops landing in a completely hostile territory without any backup. Then, you must capture every single city in the map with the forces you have at hand.
  • Battle Theme Music: The game plays depressing music when you're losing and triumphant music when you're winning.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper:
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Completely averted, actually, although this might also be due to the fact that, if the enemy is overwhelming you, you can change difficulty settings from the Pause menu. However, this is played straight when an AI player gets a missile online: it knows just where your Cities and Barracks are when human players wouldn't. And whenever you fire a V2/cruise missile, the AI always knows where it targets and sends the troops away from the target.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Except that you're not just building a network of military bases; at the core of each new outpost is a village, growing to a town and then a city. You're building a nation, not just winning a war. In theory, at least.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Ultimately subverted. Each nation has the exact same unit lineup. However, each nation also has three or four unique units that replace something in that lineup. For example, the Americans have Marines, the Germans have Tiger Is and the Mexicans have Atl-Atl Throwers for Javelineers. In addition, there are unique national powers that provide various bonuses to each nation.
    • Also, each nation's normal unit may tend to different from the others'. Japanese Modern Age fighters for instance have (not always red) circles on their wings and French fighters have tailless delta wings. Industrial Age German riflemen can also be seen donning dark gas masks, while Modern Age Indian infantry are clearly based on Gurkhas.
    • Certain factions like the Americans and Koreans even have aesthetic styles for their units or architecture that are exclusive only to them.
  • Crosshair Aware: The target of a nuclear missile is shown on everybody's minimap. Most units are too slow however to actually avoid the blast if they are anywhere near the center of the blast. Deployed artillery is completely screwed regardless.
  • Damage Is Fire: However, the fire itself is fairly understated, closer to "Damage Is Smoke".
  • Death From Above/Rain of Arrows: Mod the range of ranged units, and this will happen.
  • Decade Dissonance: Without any support, a nation could remain at early technological levels while its neighbors are developing stealth bombers and aircraft carriers.
  • Defcon Five: Averted in Thrones and Patriots. The threat meter in the Cold War scenario accurately starts from DEFCON 5, and counts down the more reckless you are. If your threat meter reaches DEFCON 1, both sides launch the nukes, and Mutually Assured Destruction results.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted to some degree: Any unit that stands in enemy territory suffers attrition damage - but this can be avoided by keeping a supply line nearby.
  • Eenie Meenie Miny Moai: "Ruins", one available resource, resembles a moss-covered moai and makes Scientific research easier.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The main infantry unit for the Americans and the Russians are respectively the Marine and the Shock Infantry (VDV/Spetznaz).
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Of the Every Man Has His Price variety.
  • Fanfare: The game plays victorious fanfares whenever you are winning a battle, and during the victory debriefing screen.
  • Firewood Resources: Only the icon for wood. Workers are shown moving small logs while logging camps (which must be built near forests) are seen moving around large logs and lumber.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Americans in the New World campaign start out as a small group of colonies subjugated by the British that no other nation (including the natives) takes seriously and simply get dismissed as a "nation of shopkeepers". Even after you gain independence, they are still not considered a threat since everyone were convinced that their democratic form of government will surely collapse in chaos. By the end of the campaign, if you go by the American victory condition, they will have united all of North America and driven all European imperial powers off the Western Hemisphere.
  • Garrisonable Structures: Citizens can be ordered to take cover, at which time they will garrison themselves in a nearby city or tower, and use guns or bows to defend themselves. Scholars generate the Knowledge resource when garrisoned in a University, and can be moved from one to the next. Oil platforms require a worker to garrison him/herself inside to function.
  • Glass Cannon: The Katyushas and just about any Artillery Weapons available.
  • Geo Effects: The major one being attrition: units in enemy territory suffer damage over time. The Russians have a "Russian Winter" perk that means this applies much more on their land.
  • Handicapped Badass: The Americans in the New World campaign, as they can potentially persevere despite increasing taxes from the British and an initially low population cap, reflecting the colonists' struggles to settle down. Eventually, they can stand toe to toe with both the Native Americans and their colonial masters.
  • Instant Win Condition: It's possible to do this, depending on your game settings or unique bonuses.
  • Invaded States of America: Besides starting a nuclear war with them, the Soviets can also stage a conventional invasion of the United States during the Cold War.
  • Invisible Wall: Averted, in a funny way. The edge of the map is literally the edge of a map.
  • Lost Forever: Once a wonder is built, nobody else can build it and others who were also building it (but didn't complete it first) lose all their progress. Also once a wonder is destroyed, it cannot be rebuilt by anyone. See Game Breaker in the YMMV section for problems with this.
  • Mook Maker: The Terra Cotta Army wonder continuously spawns infantry for whoever builds it.
  • No Fair Cheating
  • Nonstandard Game Over:
    • There are two types of defeat: the normal sort, when your opponent simply wins, and the Armageddon defeat, involving a nuclear holocaust.
    • The Cold War campaign adds a few new ones involving strategic missiles: winning the war with a nuclear strike gives you a What the Hell, Hero? combined with a Bittersweet Ending regarding the amount of civilians that died on both sides because of it. Having the same happen to you condemns you for choosing the complete destruction of your entire population over surrender, and if both sides have enough strategic nukes to completely raze the other's territory, you get a special kind of Armageddon which is even snarkier about your strategy of conquest than the regular one. Conversely, all of the endings for winning, stalemating and losing the war the regular way congratulate you with avoiding the apocalypse.
  • Nuke'Em:
    • Though too much of it could invoke Nonstandard Game Over. But hey, it looks really cool!
    • There's also a cheat (hit Enter and type "cheat nuke") that causes a nuclear missile to drop on where your mouse is pointed.
  • Reality Ensues: Sending in outdated units on a technologically advanced opponent is not guaranteed to end well.
  • Reinventing the Wheel: To Rise of Nation's credit, while the campaigns play this trope straight, as you advance through different eras the names of the technologies are at least altered to match the time period (if still serving the same function).
  • Risk-Style Map: The Conquer the World campaigns have a strategic map which looks very much like Risk maps, complete with Risk army pieces and bonus cards.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Subverted. While somewhat less-advanced nations can still put up a fight, the wider the technological gap the more one-sided matters become. Thus unless it's in sheer size, "spear beat tank" moments become highly improbable.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • The landscapes are quite pretty, especially the Caribbean-esque archipelagos.
    • Maps in the Conquer the World campaigns actually resemble (quite closely) the area they represent (a battle in Japan will take place on a map of Honshu, attacking Britain will require a dock built in the English Channel, etc).
  • Schizo-Tech: You can have main battle tanks squaring off against crossbowmen and dragoons (leading to a Curb Stomp Battle). Also, although it's most likely going to be strategic suicide to focus on Science research rather than going up Ages and upgrading your troops, you can access electronics and computers while your men consider the arquebus to be the latest big thing.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The details on the units and architecture of various nations are rather accurate. Even down to smaller touches like the Americans having P-51 Mustangs for their Modern Age fighters.
    • The Conquer the World campaigns generally have detailed descriptions of the various scenarios and battles as they happened in real life. Or in some cases, what would have happened had they actually occurred.
    • There are a number of small touches in the Cold War campaign. One such example is the leaders of the various blocs and countries changing based on the era and general timeframe of the period (with Joseph Stalin at the first turn eventually giving way to Mikhail Gorbachev towards the very last turns for the Soviets if you don't play as them). Another would the names of the combat operations and conflicts that can be triggered, based on actual and theoretical events, be it The Vietnam War or World War III scenarios like Able Archer Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • Slap-On-The-Wrist Nuke: Averted, for the most part. A single nuke can level an entire city and severely damage nearby units and buildings, while the Information Age ICBM can obliterate everything within its blast radius. If the explosion still looks small, then that's because of disproportionate unit sizes.
  • Support Power: Type 3.
  • Symbology Research Failure: The Kremlin wonder is actually St. Basil's Cathedral, but hey, who's gonna notice?
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Rise of Nations plays this trope absolutely straight: it's practically Crippling Overspecialization. Several combinations abound but here's a general example: Light Infantry ➞ Heavy Infantry ➞ Heavy Cavalry➞ Light Cavalry ➞ Light Infantry, with a mix of Archers, Machine Gun Infantry, and Ranged Cavalry thrown in the mix. For the water, Heavy Warships beat Light Ships, which fend off Fire Ships or Submarines, which destroy Heavy Warships. Better write that down. The entire web is about as convoluted as Pokémon. On the other hand, this tends to break down to a degree if one side is an age or so ahead or behind technologically. See Rock Beats Laser above.
  • Take Over the World: The objective of the various Campaigns:
    • World: Take over the entire world in a free-for-all between every sizable nation on Earth from the beginning of history up to the future.
    • Alexander: Take over the known world of ancient times as Alexander the Great.
    • Napoleon: Take over Europe, and hence the colonized world, as Napoleon Bonaparte.
    • New World: Take over the New World as either the Americans, a European colonizer, or one of the Native nations.
    • Cold War: Take over the entire world as either the Americans or the Soviets.
    • America Takes Over the World/China Takes Over the World/Japan Takes Over the World: Each of these is possible in one or more of the campaign modes.
  • Technology Levels: Eight of them. Nine, if you count the Twenty Minutes Into the Future technologies.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Alongside Theme Music Power Down should the player be on the losing end.
  • United Nations Is a Super Power: The "World Government" Near Future tech makes occupying cities instantaneous for your nation, which implies that your country has effectively become the one running the planet.
  • Units Not to Scale: Typical of an RTS game. A Main Battle Tank, for instance, is one third the size of its factory. A real army tank plant, on the other hand, takes several hundreds of acres. In the case of the Lima Army Tank Plant, the main production building is roughly the size of thirty football fields.
  • Updated Rerelease: The Extended Edition.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Not much, but it does make you feel kind of sad or like an inept, uncaring bastard when your Citizen, who you sent out with your army to make any emergency captured-city repairs, screams in agony and staggers away to die as the enemy plugs her with a five-foot-long flaming ballista bolt... and it's all because of your tactical failures.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: There's something to be said for watching a nation that's getting destroyed plead frantically for peace even as your troops are marching on their capital. Not to mention how much fun it is to nuke the fishermen, use cruise missiles on the Citizens, and launch airstrikes against the Scholars of the nations you've defeated.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Using nukes reduces the "Armageddon Clock". Using too many means the game ends in apocalypse.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: Almost, but not quite. As in most games, they're not much good in combat. But most games don't allow you to set fire to wooden buildings (thus also forcing garrisoned units outside where they're more vulnerable), which flamethrowers are pretty handy for both in real life and in this game.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The Cold War campaign includes special covert ops missions away from the public eye that can be undertaken once per turn. Many of these involve stealing intel, sabotaging military facilities and engaging in proxy wars via armed coups, which can have mixed results.
  • A Winner Is You: The game has this for the different campaign modes. You conquer the entire known world as Alexander the Great and all you get is a splash screen that says something along the lines of "Great job. Your empire will surely go down in history as the greatest." The only amusing ones are when the game goes What the Hell, Hero? on you if the Nuclear Option is employed in the Cold War campaign.
  • Worker Unit: Actually called citizens.
  • X Meets Y: Age of Empires meets Civilization and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. It helps as well that Brian Reynolds was involved in the latter two.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: Even if you are in the Modern Age, you will still have to research things such as crop rotation or medicine as if they are totally unknown to your civilization.
    • Although, some researches are cheaper if someone else on the map has already researched it. Also, science research tends to lower the cost of other types of research.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Food, Stone, Wealth, Metal and Knowledge, specifically. Unlike other games, there's limits to how quickly each resource can be gathered or produced; making a bunch of Farms early on in the hopes of becoming an economic superpower will fail without Commerce research or Wonders to increase those limits.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The Terracotta Army wonder automatically produces free infantry, except in the Conquer the World Campaign, where it just counts as a separate army.
    • In the New World campaign, the Native American nations will start with this as the only tactic available to them, since unlike the European colonist they don't have access to gunpowder weapons and only have their larger population as an advantage. But eventually, they will get access to gunpowders weapons to level the playing field.
    • Later upgrades allows citizens to instantly become militia.
    • One of China's bonuses is instant citizens. Combine that with the Partisan upgrade in the Modern Age, and you'll get an inexhaustible horde of AK-47 wielding villagers.
    • Researching the Near Future technology Artificial Intelligence reduces all your units' creation time to zero, allowing you to instantly spawn entire armies if you have the resources.
  1. This will cause Canada and Australia to join the US proper.