Rise of Nations

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Rise of Nations
Rise of Nations Coverart.png
Developer(s) Big Huge Games
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios
Designer(s) Brian Reynolds
Engine Proprietary
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X
Release date(s)
  • NA May 20, 2003
  • EU May 23, 2003
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
Distribution CD

Rise of Nations is a real-time strategy computer game, developed by Big Huge Games and published by Microsoft Game Studios on May 20, 2003. The development of the game was led by veteran game designer Brian Reynolds, of Civilization II and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. Concepts taken from turn-based strategy games have been added into the game—including territories and attrition warfare.[3] Rise of Nations features 18 civilizations, playable through 8 ages of world history.

On April 28, 2004, Big Huge Games released Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots, an expansion pack. Later that year, a Gold edition of Rise of Nations was released, which included both the original and the expansion.

In May 2006, Big Huge Games released Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends, a fantasy-themed spin-off with similar mechanics and style.

Rise of Nations: Tactics, a game for the iOS was in development at Big Huge Games but was cancelled.[4]


The core of Rise of Nations's gameplay centers around the concept of "territory". The area near the player's settlements is considered their territory, and players may only construct buildings within their territory or that of an ally. A nation's borders can be expanded by the creation and expansion of cities (which are centrally important to gameplay) and forts, a technology tree, and obtaining access to certain rare resources. Other technologies and resources cause enemy units to suffer attrition over time, which can eventually destroy an unsupported invasion force.

Citizens (resource-collecting workers) in Rise of Nations occupy resource gathering sites; build or repair damaged buildings; or even occupy buildings in order to defend. All of the six resource types in Rise of Nations are infinite in supply.

Any of the game's various nations can be played during any age, regardless of that nation's fate throughout actual history. Some unique units are based on units that those factions had, if certain nations were not destroyed in real-life history: for example, the Native American nations (the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca) have unique units in the Modern and Information ages which resemble real-world Iberian-South American guerrillas. The end conditions are also made to be historically neutral, in that one can win the game by a capital capture, territorial superiority, researching four dominating technologies, or the usual wonder and score victories.

Each of the 18 civilizations in Rise of Nations has its own set of between four and eight unique units spread throughout the ages, if at the age of play the faction did not exist in history the faction uses default units that were used in that time.

A single player campaign, Conquer the World, is included in the game. It is comparable to the board game Risk, except that attacks on enemy territories take place using the in-game battle engine, which can last as long as 120 minutes depending upon the scenario. The campaign map is similar to Risk's, but luck is not a factor. The player can also purchase reinforcements or bonus cards and engage in diplomacy with other nations. The campaign starts at the Ancient Age and progresses slowly over the course over the campaign to end at the Information Age (present day). Within the context of a battle, it may be possible to advance to the next available age (and thus benefit from the associated potential unit upgrades in that battle). There are five different campaigns, "Alexander the Great", "Napoleon", "The New World", "The Cold War", and "Conquer the World". They all follow a set formula in which the player either chooses a nation (New World, Cold War) or is put with their general's historic nation (Alexander the Great, Napoleon) aside from "Conquer the World", in which any nation may be chosen to play throughout every age in the game.

Rise of Nations uses an Elo rating system to rank players.

Rise of Nations was shown in 2008 to improve a variety of "critical cognitive skills", most prominently working memory and task-switching ability, in older adults.[5]


A screenshot from Rise of Nations

Gameplay focuses heavily on creating a balance between offense, defense, and the nation's economy based in the city. In each battle, economy is vital to win. If a nation loses all of its cities, then that nation has lost that battle. Generalship is also needed in this game like most RTS games; this includes a knowledge of the troops and what they are good at fighting (pikemen will kill cavalry easier than cannon will). Learning the surrounding terrain of one's empire to defend from attack and to flank an enemy army will allow a player to fight more efficiently. Generals can also be created from a fort to aid an army.

Five tactical formations are also available, including the ability to compress or expand the line of battle. When a formation is chosen, the selected units automatically reposition themselves accordingly, typically with faster moving units in the front and slower moving, vulnerable units in the rear. With sufficient skill in creating proper unit distributions in an army and fielding that army, it is possible to defeat a numerically superior enemy in Rise of Nations.

In a manner similar to chess, slight strategic mistakes early in the game can turn into major tactical problems later on. For example, if a player starts with the nomad setting (where no city is built at startup), it is wise to scout for an area that has resources before building a city, for without resources there is no army and the player will lose.


There are more than 200 different types of units in Rise of Nations, ranging from the Ancient Age Hoplite to the Information Age Stealth Bomber. Military units are created at certain structures: the Barracks, Stable/Auto Plant, Siege Factory/Factory, Dock/Shipyard/Anchorage, Airbase, Missile silo, and Fort/Castle/Fortress/Redoubt.

Most Infantry units operate in squads of three, and when a player builds an infantry unit, three soldiers are produced, rather than just one soldier. Exceptions to this rule are: Scout and Special Forces units, armed civilians, flamethrowers, and machine gunners. When a machine gunner is produced, there are two soldiers, but they are, however, counted as one.

Unit types, such as Light Infantry, Heavy Infantry, and Ranged Cavalry, are upgraded as the player advances through the ages. These upgrades usually represent revolutionary changes in their particular field. For example, the Arquebusier of the Gunpowder Age becomes the Musketeer of the Enlightenment Age, representing the great advantage of flintlock muskets over the earlier matchlock muskets and showing increased attack power and reload speed. Also, each nation gets its own set of unique units. For example, the Greeks can build Companion cavalry; the Russians can build Red Guards infantry and T-80 tanks; the British can build Longbowmen, Highlanders, and Avro Lancaster Bombers; and the Germans get the Tiger and Leopard tanks. In the Thrones and Patriots expansion pack, the Americans can build various Marine units.

Because of the wide variety of units in the game, players have the opportunity to create an army customized to their tastes. Most units have a cost that is roughly equal to that of their peers. Additionally, most units use only two resource types, making the creation of diverse armies easier and almost required. Terraced costs further contribute to the incentive for a diverse army, as each additional unit a player creates of a single type will cost more.


Wonders are important buildings in the game. They are real-life structures ranging from the Colossus and the Pyramids to the Supercollider and Space Program. They improve resource gathering and also provide many other benefits to the game. Building wonders can also allow a player to win the game if 'wonder victory' is chosen as a custom setting of the game, as each wonder is worth a preset amount of "Wonder Points". Wonders can be built starting in the classical age. The only exception is the Egyptians can make wonders an age earlier. As you progress in the game the wonder points for wonders are higher. For example, the Supercollider is worth eight times as much as the Pyramids in terms of Wonder Points. However, it costs many more times in resources.


Rise of Nations received many positive reviews for both its soundtrack & gameplay from many websites and magazines and won several awards. It holds an 89% rating at review aggregator site Metacritic.



  • GameSpy 2003 Game of the Year - PC RTS[6]
  • GameSpy Top 10 RTS Games
  • Best Strategy Game of 2003 by GameSpot
  • Best PC Game of 2003 by GameSpot


GameSpy was originally used to host the game but currently does not host the game on their servers.

The LAN networking, implemented on both platforms, provides a system for people on the same network to play together. There is also a Direct-IP option, allowing non-networked players to connect without the use of GameSpy.

Cross-platform play is not supported between Windows and Mac users.


Rise of Nations and its expansion pack Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots have received combined sales of over 1 million copies,[7] despite it receiving less advertising and media attention as its other strategy counterpart, the popular Age of Empires series.


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