Last year we took a good look at Rise of Nations, an outstanding real-time strategy and a title we still consider one of the best RTS games around. One of the few complaints we had about the original was the lack of both Native Americans and American Patriots, in spite of the game’s inclusion of some of their distinctive accomplishments as wonders (read DailyGame’s Rise of Nations review). Since Rise of Nations was a game for Windows, it made sense to expect an expansion pack to address these issues. Well, with Thrones and Patriots, Microsoft and Big Game Studios have done just that, and they’ve done so in a way that really completes an already outstanding game.
Expansion packs have a tendency to add-on thoughts and concepts, maybe even a patch or two, that weren’t originally considered for the general gameplay and thus seem like a completely different game altogether. In some cases this can be a good thing, but Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots does more than that. Rise of Nations delivered with its gameplay, multiplayer features and myriad units. Thrones and Patriots successfully completes this legacy by adding enough campaigns to hold your attention, along with six new nations and 20-plus new distinctive units.
The overall gameplay and functionality have changed little, yet it seems like there is an entirely new world to conquer. Perhaps this new sensation is thanks in part to the additional four campaigns, which include maps of the New World, Napoleon, the Cold War and Alexander the Great. Perhaps it is in part to the new government choices, which include Democracy, Republic, Despotism, Socialism, Monarchy or Capitalism. These alone may fulfill that sensation you are looking for in the perfect game, but I was looking for one thing. And I got it.
The new sensation for me is the recognition of the American Patriots and the Native Americans among the six new nations: Americans, Lakota, Iroquois, Persians, Dutch and Indians (India). Playing the New World campaign can now be an adventure of rewriting history. (Well, not really, but an active imagination is what breathes new life into us all.)
Since Thrones and Patriots is an expansion, we’ve decided not to re-describe the basic gameplay; rather, we’ll review some of our favorite additions:
The Lakota have the Power of the Plains. Each Citizen, Scout and Calvary unit automatically adds food to your resources. That’s right, these people know how to live off the land, so there’s no need for farms and granaries. Possibly my favorite culture, the Lakota Indians are the only nation that does not have to build a new city within already-existing borders. Instead, they can build a new city in any unoccupied or existing territory. Imagine the possibilities. We did, and then we played through them. They’re awesome.
The Iroquois’ Power of the Forest also provides a great new scouting concept. Because they’re so comfortable in their element, an Iroquois scout can go inside any forest, including one in enemy territory, and remain there undetected. In addition, the scouts can also move through enemy territory sight unseen unless they attack. This feature is an incredibly fun addition, but it also provides some very Sam Fisher-esque strategic advantages.
Each of the other nations has some new wonderful advantages in line with their own historical value. Most new units are actually replacements of old units, but the Indians (India), for example, have elephants in addition to their horse units. These elephants can certainly wreak havoc on heavy Infantry in the early ages.
Thrones and Patriots also includes new governments, new campaigns and three new wonders, but the most amazing part about these additions isn’t simply that they’re there, but that they’re there, well-planned and fantastic. Thrones and Patriots is a great expansion pack. Microsoft added all the right stuff without changing any of the good things that made our mouths water the first time around. Even the soundtrack, while adding some new sounds, has stayed within the original confines of excellence established in Rise of Nations. The graphics, too, have maintained their sharpness and ease of distinction between nations. Really, this is a lesson in how developers should “expand” their titles.
Online play and single play are both ample, and the new campaigns and government types create even more gameplay scenarios. Customize the scenario to fit your expertise and playing style. Create a scenario you’re guaranteed to lose, one you have a chance at winning or one where you just can’t fail. Regardless of your creation, you will not be disappointed.
If you already have Rise of Nations, this is the rest of the game. If you don’t own the original, you will have to purchase it to play Thrones and Patriots, and with retail being about $30 for each, that might be a bit too steep. But if you find yourself in the “already own it” category, go get Thrones and Patriots and never look back.
- Gameplay: 9
- Empire building done right.
- Lovely to look at. Great details in the units and terrain.
- Sound: 9
- Quality AI and varied gameplay ensures weeks of enjoyment.
- Overall: 9
- Judgment: Hang the Do Not Disturb sign; RON is complete.
— Durward Holt