“RoN: Rise of Legends″ by Mazer

You know what’s great about the RTS genre? It’s so open to innovation and creativity! And that’s exactly what you’re going to see in this review: some interesting game mechanics and an amazing game world. Speaking of the world I think Silenced Requiem (and those who enjoy her work) will love the Steampunk-esk Vinci, who are the coolest of the three races in my opinion.

What I Expected:

Rise of Legends (I’ll be referring it to RoL from now on) came from the great minds at Big Huge Games who I’d grown to love when this game came out. I had already enjoyed the first Rise of Nations (RoN) game and was looking forward to playing another RTS by BHG. My main expectation was a similar RTS that would be in the same vein as RoN.

What We Got:

Well, we didn’t get another RoN but it doesn’t matter: we still got a great, fun RTS! First off, RoL has three distinct races akin to Starcraft’s race set up. We’ve got the Vinci, normal humans with a nice Steampunk society/tech; the Alin, a magical civilization made up of Arab fantasy-type races; and the Cuotl, an Aztec-themed race which seems to take a little bit from the Ancient Alien theory (where aliens visited Earth during the early BC era and gave humans technology). It’s a very cool distinction between races: you’ve got Vinci with their technology, Alin with their magic, and Cuotl with their advanced technology that looks like magic. Each race shares some very basic unit types but they aren’t too similar in that they’re not symmetrical copies of each other; you can just kind of tell where each unit fits in the tech-tree/power-structure. RoL does take a small aspect from RoN in that there are specific cities still but, unlike RoN, they’re pre-built city ‘hubs’ that you attach districts to. That may sound limiting but it really isn’t once you start playing, plus all of the unit production, upgrade, and defense buildings are free-placed so there’s still that nice building-placement aspect of RTSs in it.

Game Play Overview:

I decided to talk extensively about the game play because there are quite a few differences between RoL and a ‘normal’ RTS (like C&C and SC). There are three resources in the game: Timonium (think minerals/Tiberium), Wealth, and Energy. You gain Timonium constantly by having miners assigned to your Timonium mines which are spread out across the map. Wealth and Energy are slightly different in two ways: Energy is only used by the Cuotl who gain it by building Reactor Districts and Wealth is only used by the other two who gain it by building Caravan units which can be attacked and are limited by Merchant Districts and places of interest that you’ve discovered. Both Wealth and Energy are gained at a constant rate just like Timonium based on the number of Energy/Wealth producing buildings/units you have; all three resources have an amount-per-minute number associated with them, similar to RoN’s resources.

Oh, and speaking of resources, this game has a fascinating way of dealing with resource-bloat. By that I mean the stage of the game in most RTSs where you have more resources than you know what to do with. Every time you purchase something, that same something becomes slightly more expensive. But it’s not a constant thing either; for example, the price of a certain type of unit goes up as you own more. So it really nudges you in the direction of diversifying but at the same time you aren’t handicapped if you want to have an army of only Vinci Clockwork Men. It makes for some interesting game play when you start to have more than one City (more on Cities next) since you want to expand your smaller Cities because you’re getting the same benefit for fewer resources; this also makes you want to get other Cities besides your starting one.

The base building in RoL is… well, it’s unique, let’s say that. You have your normal buildings: unit production, upgrade buildings, static defenses but you also have Cities. These Cities are built up from base ‘hubs’ that are found at specific points on the map. When you take control of a City you can start building Districts onto them. Every race has shared districts which do the same thing for each race: Military District, which increases the population cap, spawns a basic unit, and acts as a static defense; Palace District, which increases the number of Districts a City can have, increases the health/trade/border push of the City, and enhances the effects of the other Districts in the City. Each race has one defining District (though the Cuotl technically has two): the Vinci have Industrial Districts which increases Prototype points (separate Vinci-only tech tree), and speeds up building/unit production; the Alin have Magnus Districts which add Research points (overall tech tree) and improves your Heroes; the Cuotl have Holy Districts which increase attrition/border push, spawns a special unit, gives you a Research Point, and heals nearby friendly units. The last type of District deals with Wealth/Energy: the Vinci and Alin have Merchant Districts which increases Resource Cap (similar to the Population Cap; you can only make a certain amount of resources per minute), Amount of Caravans you can have, and how much Wealth each Caravan produces; the Cuotl have Reactor Districts which increases Resource Cap, increases Energy generation, and adds a Research Point.

The Tech tree is fairly simplistic in that you build specific buildings to get better units and you have this overall Research tree that increases Border Push, Unit healing, Resource gathering, and improving your National Power. The National Powers are interesting as well: each Race gets a specific Power that gives you a strong tactical advantage on a long cooldown. The Vinci and Cuotl have direct damage powers while the Alin’s power summons a temporary army. These can be useful for turning the tide of a battle but they aren’t nearly as powerful as the Super Weapons in the C&C series.

There are also several heroes for each race that you can purchase (each purchase increasing the cost of the other heroes substantially). Once purchased you can place the Hero anywhere on the map, though they do take a while to ‘build’ so it’s probably best if you ‘build’ them in or close to your base. Each hero has 4 abilities with one of those four being an ultimate ability. These abilities are based on the hero itself so if you get the Vinci hero Giacomo for example, his abilities all deal with supporting your units while the Vinci hero The Doge has all damage-dealing abilities. The level system is quite unique as well in that instead of killing stuff to get experience you purchase new ranks of each of the abilities with the normal resources. Each time you purchase an ability, your hero will gain a specific amount of experience which can lead to having more abilities and ability ranks available for purchase. There are also unique Special Units for each race that are as strong as a max level hero and has access to some very devastating abilities; each player can only have one of each hero and one Special Unit out at any time.

Single Player:

The Campaign is fairly fun and it plays like a Conquer the World mode game. The CtW mode is similar to how Risk is played except every battle is a normal RTS skirmish match. The only downside of this type of game play is that it can get boring after a while: especially when you have overwhelming numbers and are still forced to play through an entire, albeit short, normal game. The story is decent and easy to follow: you play as the leader of a Vinci faction and move through the world encountering each of the three races. At the same time, the quality of the Campaign isn’t really up to the C&C or Starcraft standard so it’s fun but there’s no real point in playing it when you can just do large-scale single player battles instead.

Multiplayer:

The Multiplayer is excellent which multiple options including Team Options, Rush Rules, and Map Tweaking. This is where most of the meat of the game is: either playing against Computer opponents or Humans. I love the options that the game gives plus the game itself is fun to play. It definitely plays differently than other RTSs but not so different that a RTS player would find it alien. The City aspect of the game is an interesting concept that might take a game or two to get down but you’ll have a blast playing it no matter how many matches you’ve played.

 

Conclusion:

This game is a great RTS and I suggest picking it up. Plus there are some cool features that set it apart from other games in the genre which is always nice to have. Each of the three races all feel different as well so there’s always room to try a different race if you’re getting tired of one or the other.

Overall Rating

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