Released in 2003, Rise of Nations was embraced by the RTS community for its scope and depth of gameplay. Big Huge Games has just released an expansion pack for RON entitled Thrones and Patriots, created by Brian Reynolds who is known for his work on Civilisation 2 and Alpha Centauri. The intention of an expansion pack is to extend the longevity of the original title. It also offers the developers the ability to include aspects from the original release that just missed the cut. Most expansion packs achieve all their aims easily and go beyond expectations, but some suffer from trying to fix something that ain't broke. You may well wonder if this title is worth your time and your money. We think it is.
Thrones and Patriots adds six new civilisations - Persians, Indians, Dutch, Lakota, Iroquois and Americans - to the 24 available in the original release. The new civilisations offer different types of strategic elements to diversify the gameplay for online and single player. For example, Iroquois have better wood gatherers and are invisible in their own territory; Indians can produce cheaper buildings and fortifications; and Americans have cheaper aircraft costs and more advanced weaponry. Six new government types have also been added: Capitalism, Despotism, Monarchy, Socialism, Republic and Democracy. Choosing different government types has its pros and cons, and can affect your civilisation's economic situation.
The single player campaign in RON was deemed a little weak, but Thrones and Patriots addresses this issue with four new Conquer the World campaigns. Similar to the classic board game Risk, a map of the world is displayed and you must move your army from country to country, overthrowing any civilisations in your way and laying claim to the now vacated land. Unlike Risk, your army's success is not measured by the roll of dice. Instead, the gameplay switches to the RTS format and you must conquer the land within the designated time limit. Some of the campaigns follow historical leaders and battles such as Napoleon, Alexander the Great and the Cold War.
The graphics in Thrones and Patriots remains unchanged since the original and still holds its own against other RTS titles. The sound effects during gameplay are nothing special but the musical score rises and falls with the combat, and adds that special something.
If you're a fan of RON or real time strategy titles in general, this title's expanded options may just flick your switch. If you're new to this style of game, give it a go for the historical references and tight gameplay alone. The original release and expansion pack are priced at a bargain $49.95 each.
Visuals: extremely detailed characters and maps
Audio: Immersive musical score
Gameplay: Addictive and well balanced
Developer: Big Huge Games