Rise of Nations

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Rise of Nations
Rise of Nations Coverart.png
Developer(s) Big Huge Games[a]
Publisher(s) Microsoft Game Studios
Designer(s) Brian Reynolds
Composer(s) Duane Decker
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X
Release date(s)
  • NA: May 20, 2003
  • EU: May 23, 2003
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

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. The game has taken several concepts from turn-based strategy games such as territories and attrition warfare.[1] Rise of Nations features 18 civilizations, playable through eight ages of world history. It is consistently ranked and considered to be one of the greatest real-time strategy games of all time. [2]

Rise of Nations: Extended Edition is a re-release of the main game and its expansion on Steam, released on June 12, 2014. Graphical changes to the game include updated textures, lighting and water. Other changes to the game include Steamworks integration which adds cloud saves, Steam Trading Cards, achievements, Twitch integration and multiplayer with Elo ranked matches to the game. Extended Edition is developed by SkyBox Labs.[3][4][5]


A screenshot from Rise of Nations

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 and forts, a technology tree, and obtaining access to certain rare resources. Other technologies and resources cause enemy units within a nation's borders to suffer attrition over time, which can eventually destroy an unsupplied invasion force.

Citizens in Rise of Nations gather resources, or build or repair damaged buildings. All of the six resource types in Rise of Nations are infinite in supply.

Any of the game's nations can be played during any age, regardless of that nation's fate throughout actual history. Each of the 18 civilizations in Rise of Nations has 4 to 8 unique units. Some unique units are based on units that those nations would have, if they were not destroyed in real-life. 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. There are 4 end conditions: capture, territorial superiority, wonder victory, or score victory.

Gameplay focuses heavily on creating a balance between offense, defense, and economy. 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. For example, pikemen are better than cannon at killing cavalry. Terrain plays a major part in this game and knowing the terrain is an important asset in battle. 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.

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 the start, 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.

A single-player campaign, Conquer the World, is included in the game. It is comparable to the board game Risk, except that attacks are resolved with a real-time battle, which can last as long as 90 minutes depending upon the scenario. 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). During a battle it may be possible to advance to the next available age and upgrade units for the battle.

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


There are more than 100 different 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.

Unit types, such as Light Infantry, Heavy Infantry, and Ranged Cavalry, can be 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 slightly more than the last.


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 provide various benefits such as improving resource gathering or making units cheaper. 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 wonders become more expensive, but generate more points. For example, the Supercollider is worth eight times as much as the Pyramids in terms of Wonder Points.


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.

Game is currently available on Steam (software) that makes multiplayer games simple to create.


38 Studios acquired the rights to Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends, when it acquired Big Huge Games in 2009. After 38 Studios filed for bankruptcy in 2012 its rights to Rise of Nations were sold at an auction to Microsoft.[6]

Related games[edit]

Thrones and Patriots[edit]

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.

Rise of Legends[edit]

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


Rise of Nations: Tactics, a game for the iOS was in development at Big Huge Games but was cancelled.[7]

Extended Edition[edit]

38 Studios bought Big Huge Games at the time it acquired Rise of Nations IP. When 38 Studios went bankrupt, at the auction, Microsoft bought the IP back and charged Skybox Labs to do the extended edition. Rise of Nations and its expansion pack has been revitalized under the name Rise of Nations: Extended Edition and was released on June 12, 2014 on Steam. Rise of Nations was redone by Skybox Labs. It features high definition graphics upgrade, multiplayer ranked matches, and Twitch integration. The core of the game remains untouched.


Rise of Nations received many positive reviews for both its soundtrack and gameplay from many websites and magazines and won several awards. It holds an 89% rating at review aggregator site Metacritic.[8]

Critical reception[edit]


  • GameSpy 2003 Game of the Year - PC RTS[9]
  • GameSpy Top 10 RTS Games
  • Best Strategy Game of 2003 by GameSpot
  • Best PC Game of 2003 by GameSpot


Rise of Nations and its expansion pack Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots have received combined sales of over 1 million copies,[10] despite it receiving less advertising and media attention as its other strategy counterpart, the popular Age of Empires series.

Scientific study[edit]

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.[11]


  1. ^ SkyBox Labs worked on Extended Edition.


  1. ^ "Rise of Nations for PC Review - PC Rise of Nations Review". Gamespot.com. 2003-05-20. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 
  2. ^ "Top 25 Best RTS Game of All Time". Gameranx.com. 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2016-06-16. 
  3. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (30 May 2014). "Rise of Nations: Extended Edition due next month on Steam". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "Rise of Nations: Extended Edition". Steam. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Rise of Nations: Extended Edition developed by SkyBox Labs". SkyBox Labs. Retrieved July 22, 2014. 
  6. ^ Wawro, Alex (30 May 2014). "Rise of Nations' mystery buyer was...Microsoft". Gamasutra. UBM TechWeb. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Tach, Dave (26 December 2013). "The Rise of Nations game that might have saved 38 Studios". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Rise of Nations PC reviews - Metacritic
  9. ^ "Microsoft Game Studios - Rise of Nations". microsoft.com. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  10. ^ "Rise of Nations: Gold Ships". Big Huge Games. October 27, 2004. Archived from the original on September 22, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Strategic video game improves critical cognitive skills in older adults". Phys.Org. 2008-12-11. Retrieved 2011-12-03. 

External links[edit]