May 20th, 2003 was the launch of Rise of Nations.  Designer Brian Reynolds of Civilization and Alpha Centauri fame had just founded Big Huge Games and Rise was their first title.  The game blended aspects of Civilization, Warcraft, Command & Conquer, and many other genres and titles.  The mix was a dangerous risk, but it paid off, rocketing the game into an incredible number of Top 10 lists for 2003.  Thinking back to 2004 I recall being ushered into a small office to check out a game called Rise of Legends.  It took a moment to realize that this title was a sequel to Rise of Nations.  Gone were the different ages present in the original title, and now there was a storyline.  It looks like Big Huge Games had once again changed the landscape.  Would this new mix pay off as well as the original?  After a long wait, I finally got my hands on the title to find out.


Rise of Nations featured battles between many nations, each with their own special units and powers.  Rise of Legends ditched the Dark Ages and fast forwarded very far into the future.  Getting away from age of Caesar and knights, we move into the realm of the Vinci, the Alin, and the Cuotl.  The Vinci are steampunk, relying on clockwork technology and steam-powered tanks.  When the battle turns to the sands, it is the desert-dwelling Alin that take center stage.  Their power is based on the magic of fire, glass, and sand.   The final stage of the game centers around the shielded jungle-dwelling Cuotl.  Using weapons that center around strange energy and powerful religion, their units are made of moving stone.  The game begins with a great cutscene that demonstrates the heart of the conflict between the Vinci and the Alin, and so begins my review.

The cutscene I just mentioned is worth watching more than once.  It is very well done, and whatever development house built the game A pattern of opposites presents itself in this game often, the most obvious being between the technology heavy Vinci and the magic heavy Alin.  It is in a similar fashion that the sound and graphics are polar opposites.  While the graphics are rich and varied, with incredible detail and animation, the sound is drab and lifeless while also managing to be oddly random.  Many games have used adaptive soundtracks to ramp up the tension during battle, or tone it down during stealth.  Rise of Legends seems to roll the dice and randomly assign music regardless of what is going on in the battlefield.  During my heaviest clash with literally 100 or more combatants ripping each other apart, the game decided it might be a good time for some slow and gentle music.  Odd doesn

The controls in Rise of Legends are fairly standard RTS fare, but there are quite a few hotkeys built into the game that will allow you to quickly traverse the expansive maps to control massive armies.  While this won

Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends is three games in one.  One thing that was brought over from the original title is the Conquer the World map, except now you get to experience it with three races that literally have nothing in common.   Each will require a completely different strategy, as brute force isn

Many RTS titles are balanced for only one difficulty level, if they have difficulty settings at all.  Rise of Legends has three difficulty levels, with moderate being the

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