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Rise of Nations: Thrones & Patriots PC CD-ROM

Published by Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by Big Huge Games
Released - 21st May 2004
Requires: Retail copy of Rise of Nations
Price : £19.99

There was no doubt at all about our favourite RTS of 2003 and it has to be Rise of Nations. Brian Reynolds and his development team at Big Huge Games created a thinking persons RTS, which was simply superb. Rise of Nations was the first game to truly resemble a Civilization game in real time (this description was often attributed to Age of Empires but it was wide of the mark) and it proved that Brian Reynolds excellent game design techniques were not merely consigned to turn-based games. Well the game has almost been with us for a whole year now and on the 21st May 2004 the first expansion pack will be released here in Europe, Rise of Nations: Thrones & Patriots.

With most strategy games, gamers will probably draw up a long list of requirements that they would like to see in an expansion pack. However with Rise of Nations it couldn't have been an easy task as, in terms of features, it was pretty amazing. Big Huge Games haven't disappointed though and have compiled a truly impressive expansion pack that manages to improve upon the original game. Six new nations have been included and these are the Americans, Lakota, Iroquois, Persians, Indians and the Dutch. Four new campaigns have been added and these are Alexander the Great, The New World, Napoleon and The Cold War. Governments and new patriot units have been included as well as three new wonders of the world. Let's look at these features in more detail.

Of all the new nations perhaps the one that was most demanded was the Americans. The Americans come with four unique units, the Continental Marine, Rifleman Marine, Infantry Marine and the Assault Marine. The first wonder they build is built instantly. Some of their other bonuses include a free scholar for every university and they'll also receive +3 food, timber, metal and wealth for every barracks unit (other than the scout). The Lakota' unique units are the Sunka Wakan, Eagle Feather Horse, Musket Horse and the Repeating Rifle Horse. The Lakota have no national territory and can build on any land that does not belong to anyone else. Buildings can be razed for a full refund on the resources and farms do not have to be built to earn food. Light and range calvary upgrades are also free. The Iroquois have 7 unique units with Takohs, Spearmen, Mohawk Spearmen, Heavy Mohawk Spearmen, Elite Mohawk Spearmen, Akweks and Okwari. They have the power of the forest with their scouts being able to go through forests and the Akweks and scouts are hidden even whilst moving. Military units are also hidden when in friendly territory when not attacking.

The Persians have 8 unique units, Immortal, Athanatoi, Anusiya, Arquebus Immortal, War Elephant, Mahout, Gun Mahout and the Culverin Mahout. The Persians have bonus starting food, the maximum number of caravans, receive taxation upgrades for free and have cheaper civic research. The Indians have the War Elephant, Mahout, Gun Mahout and the Culverin Mahout as their unique units. They come with the power of majesty and buildings, except wonders and cities, do not increase in cost as more are built. War Elephant buildings are free and War Elephant upgrades are 15% cheaper. Their city's economic radius is also increased. Finally we have the Dutch whose unique units include the Clipper, Fluyt, Brig, Armed Merchant and Armed Caravan. The Dutch have the power of commerce and begin with a free commerce research and subsequent ones are discounted. They also start with a market and two free merchants. They receive two light ships whenever a dock is built, which can prove to be really advantageous.

You can now build a Senate and this will allow you to build a patriot unit as well as select a government. The governments are Despotism, Monarchy, Democracy, Capitalism, Socialism and Republic. Despotism makes military research and barracks units 25% cheaper and gives you the Despot patriot who offers line of sight, plunder and supply bonuses. Monarchy enables you to build stable units more quickly and makes them 25% cheaper to build. With Monarchy you'll have the King patriot who gives supply, siege and mounted combat benefits. Democracy makes all non-library technologies 20% cheaper and also gives you the President patriot who gives you production, healing and building bonuses. Capitalism will give you 500 oil and a +100 oil income as well as a CEO patriot who gives defense, range and healing benefits. Socialism makes factory, airbase and dock units 20% cheaper and quicker to build whilst the Comrade patriot gives supply, combat and assimilation bonuses. Finally the Republic government increases your commerce limit by 50 and gives you the Senator patriot who has healing, bribing and building defense bonuses. These government types don't have a major influence on the gameplay but they do give some nice bonuses and help you to fine tune your existing strategies by giving you a boost in a needed area.

Three new wonders of the world have also been included. The Chinese Forbidden City, the Indian Red Fort and Hanging Gardens of Babylon have been added. The Forbidden City gives 2 wonder points, counts as a bonus major city, gives 50+ food and timber and means that capital timers don't affect your nation. The Red Fort allows garrisoned units to heal at 500% the normal rate, gives free fort upgrades, gives forts 33% more hit points and gives 2 wonder points. Finally the Hanging Gardens give one wonder point, increases knowledge production by 50 and granary, lumber mill and smelter production upgrades are discounted by 66%.

In the original Rise of Nations the only campaign was the Conquer the World campaign. Thrones & Patriots brings four new campaigns to the game and as with the Conquer the World campaign there is no linearity about them and you can play the campaigns exactly how you want to. The campaigns on offer are Alexander the Great, Napoleon, The New World and The Cold War. The Alexander the Great campaign gives you the chance to emulate the great man himself and conquer some of the main countries in the ancient world. Napoleon gives you the chance to take charge of the French and conquer Europe in just 21 turns. The New World is focused on the Americas and lets you either play as the Americans in an attempt to fight for independence, play as Inca, Iroquois or Lakota and attempt to defend yourself from the European nation or play as either the British, Dutch, French, Portuguese or Spanish as they attempt to become the dominant power. Finally The Cold War concentrates on the hostilities between the Americans and Soviets and lets you play as either one as you attempt to defeat your rival. Like the Conquer the World campaign the various scenarios that arise are full of variation and have high replay value. The campaigns alone are worth the asking price for the expansion pack.

Graphically and in regard to the games suitability for deaf gamers Thrones of Nations doesn't make any changes. Of course with the graphics this is no bad thing as the game still looks great a year after it's release. It's still a little disappointing that the game tutorials and the learn as you play modes aren't fully subtitled though as this would have enabled deaf gamers to have learnt the basic mechanics of the gameplay much more quickly. Still a lot of information is shown in text and once you know how to play the game, there isn't much of a problem. Read our review of Rise of Nations to find out exactly how deaf gamer friendly the game is.

Thrones & Patriots is just an all round first class expansion that compliments the original Rise of Nations beautifully. There was plenty of nations to begin with but somehow the extra six included in the expansion pack manage to give you further strategic options. In strategy game expansion packs it's often the case that extra factions/nations are simply duplicates of what was in the original game but with Thrones & Patriots this is not the case. The new governments allow you to enhance and fine tune your preferred strategy with their bonuses. For me though the main feature has to be the new campaigns, which have added untold replay value to Rise of Nations and make Thrones & Patriots one of the best expansions you'll ever see for a RTS.

Overall Game Rating: 9.0/10
A quality expansion for a quality RTS. Big Huge Games are clearly destined for more classic games in the future.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Exactly the same as Rise of Nations, which means that there are issues with the tutorial modes.