Like most real-time strategy (RTS) games, Rise and Fall puts you at the head of a great civilisation, (in this case, ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt or Persia) and lets you lead vast armies to conquer your enemies. But it also lets you get up close and personal.
Stainless Steel Studios has taken the popular hero concept a step further by allowing you to enter "Hero Mode" and take command over one of eight potential heroes such as Julius Caesar, Achilles, Alexander the Great or Ramses II in the third person. Now you can smite your enemies face to face in the frenzy of bloody battle.
Every enemy you put to the sword earns you glory, which in turn gives you the ability to upgrade your hero. Each hero has special powers, and the more glory you get the more abilities you'll be able to perform. Step into the shoes of Cleopatra and woo your enemies into joining your army by your sheer beauty and charm alone, or take a page out of Cupid's book and show them your love via a multi-arrowed launch from your bow.
Controlling your troops can be done in both classic topdown RTS and third-person modes. Unlike most RTS games the units are individuals who will "Smart Group" when enough of them are standing together. Unit control in third person is less sophisticated, but still lets you charge your troops or hold them back, rather than leaving them standing around twiddling their spears while you solo away.
As well as controlling a plethora of fierce land units like elephant cavalry or scythe chariots with spinning blades on their axles, you can also board ships in tense naval battle, grappling and boarding other ships or ramming your opponent's vessel - which literally sends his crew fl ying into the water where they swim for as long as they can before sinking to Davy Jones' locker. The models are based on historical units so you can tell your parents that you're learning as you play.
The environment is a marvel of the game's Titan engine, which uses dynamic lighting to create some of the most amazing environments yet seen in an RTS game. On land, the trees swing in the wind and grass sways back and forth, while in the water, refl ections of boats and surrounding lands shimmer and distort as waves undulate and rows of oars ripple the surface.
Multiplayer gives up to eight people the option to fight it out, and the potential for detailed map creation gives you almost as much developing power as the game designers themselves. Epic battles are thrown together with hero-only solo levels which even have bosses, making Rise and Fall a thoroughly gripping game with lots of enjoyment to be unlocked.
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Verdict: A fun new spin on a classic genre style, taking it to the next level. It has all the trimmings of an RTS and some hands-on fighting to liven things up and keep you entertained.
Score: 4 out of 5