In a game as rich in looks and sound as Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires, it's too bad the depth of play isn't as fulfilling as it might have been. In the inevitable comparison to Sid Meier's Civilization II that this title is bound to evoke, the graphics and sound more than hold their own and, in fact, may exceed those areas in the other game. As to the game world itself, Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires falls somewhat short. It's all a matter of timing. Had this game been released prior to the other empire builder, the fine quality and design would have no doubt been ballyhooed as a fresh, innovative and imminently playable simulation of past civilizations. But, alas, just like Avis, they should have tried harder. If you're going to design something with an eye toward competing with or replacing an icon, at a minimum you've got to at least match it in depth and ultimately make the product, bigger, better and totally irresistible.
Unfortunately, for all its gorgeous graphics and enhancing soundtrack, Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires just doesn't put enough innovative spin on game play to lure fans away from the other title. Most of the game play has a very familiar feel to it (assuming you're a fan of the genre) as the culture you choose to play (there are nine) starts with one unit and begins the inevitable climb up the technology ladder to become the eventual dominate force in the world of ancient civilizations. In an unusual and ultimately annoying feature, the designers give the player an arbitrary deadline of 500AD to win the game. Had they chosen to expand the time limit to let's say the 21st century (2000AD) with the introduction of all the fantastic technological advances realized by 20th century world inhabitants, then the game would seriously challenge Civilization II as it would contain many more elements, thus creating a comprehensive, life-altering (for the fans who get hooked on it) game. But, to be fair, that's like asking the French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel why he didn't make his tower higher. The game is what it is and anything more is just wishful thinking.
When judged solely on how well the game does within the designed parameters, Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires is an outstanding entry in the empire building genre. You'll have to manage resources, build up a military industrial complex, research and develop technologies and weapons and foster information exchanges between cities to aid growth. You'll need to increase population, keep them busy and happy while at the same time keep an eye on all the competitors and be poised to strike when the opportunity arises. While both games present this similar scenario, Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires just does it with a great deal fewer components in those areas that create depth, such as research topics, military unit development and an arbitrary time limit. (See enjoyment section below for a continuation.)
Graphics: The word exquisite comes to mind. The nine cultures (Persian, Chinese, Greek, Egyptian, Indian, Mesopotamian, African, Roman, and Celtic) are gorgeously rendered in appropriate period garb and the environments (architecture) and surroundings of the various civilizations are astonishing in their realism and portrayal.
Sound: Superb soundtrack and excellent sound effects.
Enjoyment: Given that the designers may well have had a totally different vision and goal of what their game was all about when compared to Civilization II, one must give Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires its just due. The game's point-and-click interface is seamless and the on-screen help system is very well designed, helpful and quick. Game play itself is smooth and all the various parts mesh well together. The selection of the nine cultures and the graphical representations of each are things of beauty with the portrayals of architecture, societal customs and military units impeccably designed and integrated within the game. The relative paucity of units to develop and topics to research is no doubt a natural limitation of the time span within which the game operates, since obviously technology was somewhat stymied up to the year 500AD. There are plenty of player customizable options to keep the game fresh and the computer AI is sufficiently strong to give even veteran gamers a run for their money. In my opinion, to downgrade the enjoyment factor simply because the game comes up short of its competitors would be unjust and unfair despite my own personal take on it. Volume and quantity aren't always the final measurements of a product's ultimate worth. However, for the record there are only fourteen units available in the game made up of infantry (3 types), cavalry (2), missile (2), galley (2), elephants, settlers, desert raiders, philosophers and merchants and eleven city structures ranging from workshops to Wonders of the World.
Replay Value: Would have been nice to have more topics and units to play around with but there are plenty of options that make the prospect of replays desirous.
People who downloaded Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires have also downloaded:
Rise of Nations, Rise of The West, Romance of The Three Kingdoms 4: Walls of Fire, Caesar 3, Pharaoh and Cleopatra, Romance of the three Kingdoms 3, Pharaoh, Railroad Tycoon 2: Platinum
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