The Mechanics of Rise and Fall
Rise and Fall is a typical Real Time Strategy game with several innovative features that really make it stand out against other RTS titles. RTS veterans and casual players alike should have very little difficulty getting into Rise and Fall. All of the games played at the event were 1 vs 1 network matches. As I mentioned previously the multiplayer setup window is very similar to the one found in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, except perhaps that it has a few more options. Each game we played took place on an aptly named map called the Corridor of Blood. The Corridor of Blood represents one of the 18 maps that will ship with Rise and Fall. Corridor of Blood is a 1 vs 1 map that combines both naval and land combat. The best way to describe Corridor or Blood is as a section of land in "C" shape with a lake in the centre. Although it was entirely possible to avoid naval combat on this map, ships were useful for conducting raids and amphibious assaults.
Each game of Rise and Fall starts like an RTS game that we are all familiar with. To start each player is given a Town Centre and a few villagers. Subsequent villagers can be trained from the Town Centre for gold. Your villagers can then be used to harvest gold or wood, build buildings and then later on, siege weapons. Buildings, with the exception of towers cost only wood, and most units tend to only cost gold with the exception of archers, ships and siege weapons. When a game begins your immediate goal is to start getting both gold and wood so you can continue to produce villagers and so you can start getting buildings. Once you have accumulated 200 gold it becomes possible to train your hero. Each civilization has two heroes to choose from, each of which has their own strengths, weakness and special powers. Cleopatra for instance has an allure power that can be used to convert enemy units.
Rise and Fall focuses more on military combat then on economy, the economy in the game is highly simplified. The only harvestable resources are gold and wood; your villagers gather both of these resources. The other two resources stamina and glory, can be earned over time, glory can also be earned by making upgrades, killing enemy units and constructing glory statues. Glory is the resource used for almost all of your upgrades. Researching a new hero level, unit upgrades and advisors all cost glory. Your hero level is displayed in the top left hand corner of the map by a crown with the level of our hero engraved in it. As you reach new hero levels new units, technologies and advisors become available. Advisors can be researched by clicking on the advisor button in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Each advisor gives your civilization a particular bonus. With limited glory, choosing an advisor becomes a strategic decision.
Villagers will harvest resources until they reach the maximum amount that they can carry; at this point they take the resources back to a resource deposit point. Resources can only be deposited at Town Centres or Settlements. Settlements are deposit buildings that can be upgraded to Town Centres for a cost. You no longer have to garrison villagers in building in order to upgrade them. Town Centres can also be upgraded so that they can serve as defensive buildings to protect your villagers in case of an attack.
One of the most interesting things about Rise and Fall is how buildings themselves are constructed. In past games villagers would hammer away at the ground beside the building as it inflated. Now when you construct a building, the villager goes inside the building and works on the building from different layers of the scaffolding that appear around the building when it is under construction.
Rise and Fall is perhaps one of the first Real Time Strategy games where units are the proper size in comparison to buildings. In other strategy games units are often half the size of a multi story building. This isn't the case in Rise and Fall. Buildings, and other objects like trees and walls look massive compared to units. No longer is it the case where a citizen is half as tall as the tree he is cutting down. Trees in the game tower over the villagers that are cutting them down.
One of the things I was rather confused about before sitting down and playing Rise and Fall was the role of outposts in the game. In Rise and Fall outposts essentially act as conflict points. Since every map is static (not random) outposts have been placed in areas where military conflicts would be the most interesting. I think Corridor of Blood had 4 outpost locations, one in the water, one in the middle of map, and one by each player's respective starting location. Outposts produce units that will attack each player indiscriminately until a player takes control of the outpost. The units produced by the outpost will then join the player that captured the outpost. The outposts on land each have a tower and a few buildings around them; a flag at sea designates the outpost on the water. If you position one of your ships by the flag, units will continuous spawn on that ship. In the games that I played, most of the fighting took place by the outpost at sea and the outpost at the middle of map.
The buildings that you train units from are the standard fare in Rise and Fall. Like in most games based on antiquity you can train units from a stable, an archery range, a barracks and shipyard. Infantry units are produced from the barracks, archers from the archery range, cavalry from the stable and ships from the shipyard. Villagers construct all these buildings and each civilization has its own unique units and unique looking buildings.
Ships constructed from shipyards act as mobile barracks; archers and infantry units can both be trained from ships. As you progress through the hero levels in the game you will be able to upgrade your ships and produce larger more powerful ships. The most powerful of these ships has a catapult in its front that can be used to bombard enemy fortifications. Very cool. Ships are just as versatile as they have been made out to be in the screenshots and trailers we have all seen, it is possible to load and unload troops on the shore, board enemy ships and in certain circumstance ram enemy ships, sending them to Davy Jones Locker. As I was told by Midway's producer Matthew Vella ramming only happens occasionally in a game as it requires a ship to be perpendicular to the ship that it is trying to ram. Since most players don't want their ships sunk they try to avoid placing their ships in such a position.
We all remember castles from Age of Empires II: Age of Kings and the fear that they could create in the minds of other players. In AoK castles were the ultimate defensive weapons that could stop an assault dead in its tracks. I am happy to report that castles make a return in Rise and Fall, though in a much different way. Everyone by now knows that units can be placed a top walls and towers in Rise and Fall. Essentially through the construction of walls and towers players can build their own custom fortifications that evoke the same kind of fear that castles did in Age of Kings. When your taking your army to assault an enemy position and you find a complex of walls bristling with siege weapons and archers defending that position, you tend think twice about making an assault. This isn't to say that these kinds of defenses are unassailable, simply that defensive structures are very effective in Rise and Fall. In order to combat defensive structures players have a wide variety of siege weapons. Players can also utilize ladders in order to assault the units atop walls and towers directly with their own infantry.
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