Do you ever wonder why some games just don’t get talked about much? I don’t mean obscure games, either, or even mediocre ones. I mean games that were pretty great, but just sank like a stone in time, while others continue to float to the top of our memories. Rise Of Nations is just such a game.
It came to mind when we recorded this podcast on what makes a classic “7/10” game. I thought of RoN because I was wracking my brain for games I hadn’t thought of in years, and because that’s usually the trench into which solid but unremarkable games sink. But when I really reflected on it, immersing myself in memories of the summer I spent thrashing my cousins with stealth bombers in LAN games, I realised it wasn’t a 7/10 at all. It was really, really good.
For those who haven’t come across it, Rise Of Nations played like a classic RTS from the genre’s golden age around the turn of the millennium, but incorporated some 4X stylings, particularly from the Civ mould. You played as one of the classic big countries off of history, putting down cities on the map with real-world names, and sent out groups of incongruously vast men to attack other peoples’. You progressed through the same swathe of “ages” as you’d expect to in a historical 4X too, so geezers with sticks eventually became riflemen, while horses underwent an agonising metamorphosis into tanks.
It was ace: well-balanced, diverse in its offering of civ-specific perks, and a superb choice for fast-paced, messy multiplayer games. But somehow, despite the general thumbs up it garnered on release, Rise Of Nations just hasn’t stuck around in the collective understanding of the RTS pantheon. Probably means it’s time for a remake, no?