Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War Review
Rise and Fall is an interesting spin on the RTS genre that is well worth checking out. While Rise and Fall may not appeal to everyone it certainly does have its qualities that help to set it apart from other RTS titles.
Rise and Fall sports fairly impressive graphics considering the fact that this game is played both from a zoomed in perspective and from the standard RTS perspective. The game has the occasional graphical hiccup, but these are few and far between and do little to distract from the quality of the game. Particularly noteworthy are the water effects, which are possibly the best to date, and sheer number of units that the Rise and Fall engine can support.
The game suffers from the occasionally graphical slowdown, often brought on by the AI or the construction of numerous buildings at once. The guys at Midway could have done a lot more to optimize this game, as the game feels somewhat unoptimized in its final iteration. One of the great strengths of the Titian Engine (the engine that Rise and Fall runs on) has always been its ability to work on wide range of computers. It is somewhat sad that Rise and Fall was rushed out the door before the game could be fully optimized, considering how well Empire Earth and Empires: Dawn of the Modern World were optimized. (Empire Earth and Empires: Dawn of the Modern were both RTS titles that were developed by SSSI)
The failure to fully optimize the game is likely the result of studio switch that occurred partway through Rise and Fall’s development. SSSI the development studio that developed the bulk of Rise and Fall went out of business at the end of 2005. The game was then picked up by one of Midway’s internal studios, and subsequently completed.
There are two campaigns that ship with Rise and Fall; one about Alexander the Great and one about Cleopatra. It is somewhat disappointing that Midway chose to go the ahistorical route with these campaigns, campaigns based on actual historical events would have been much more interesting than the ones that were developed. That said the campaigns themselves are still rather fun. The objectives throughout the campaigns are fairly diversified. Though you will base build occasionally, the campaigns are not defined by base building like in so many other RTS titles (Age of Empires III, Rise of Nations, Age of Mythology).
The campaigns are not without their problems however. One of the problems that severely cripples both campaigns is the terrible cut scenes that ship with the game. For some baffling reason the developers decided to create ugly Bik videos using the in game camera. The Rise and Fall engine is beautiful, these cinematics should have been done in game. Turning them into low quality Bik videos essentially robbed them of all their charm, and transformed what could have been the most impressive RTS cut scenes to date into some of the worst.
Maps, Multiplayer and Civilizations
Rise and Fall offers 24 pre designed skirmish maps that can be enjoyed online and against the AI. The Rise and Fall AI, like every other RTS AI to date, is incredibly stupid. Some of the AI’s decisions are absolutely mind-boggling. That said, even though the AI is stupid, at its hardest it still is quite a challenge to beat due to the resource bonuses that it receives.
The meat of Rise and Fall really lies in the multiplayer experience. The four civilizations, the Romans, Persians, Greeks and Egyptians are fairly well balanced. The game has only been out for a few days now, but we have still yet to see any of the game destroying strategies that have plagued other RTS titles on launch.
The four civilizations are highly diversified. Each civilization has its own compliment of unique units and buildings. Experienced players will most likely gravitate towards the Persians and Egyptians while RTS novices may find themselves more at home playing as the Romans and Greeks.
Rise and Fall brings two major innovations to the table: Hero Mode and Naval Combat. Hero Mode, despite what other reviews have been professing, does not dominate the game. Less than 5% of the time you spend playing this game is in Hero Mode. Hero Mode is really just a useful tool to deal with certain strategic dilemmas. Each player will probably find his or her own unique way to strategically utilize Hero Mode. Personally, I like to use Hero to mode to take out the archers in towers and to deal with siege engines.
The second innovation, Naval Combat, is absolutely phenomenal. Naval Combat in Rise and Fall is like nothing else seen before in a RTS game. After this game it will be totally unacceptable for RTS developers to pawn off the mediocre naval combat models that they have been feeding us for such a long period of time.
Ships in Rise and Fall can be use to transport, and train units. In addition ships can also ram and grapple other ships. If you maneuver your ship into the position where you can ram another ship, you can send it to the bottom in one swift action. Personally, I never ram. Not because it isn’t fun, simply because when I see an enemy ship on the high seas, I want to add it to my fleet. Thus I always go the grapple route.
The units in Rise and Fall are the standard fare that you would expect from a game based in antiquity. You have spearmen, archers, cavalry, catapults, swordsmen, civilians as well as a slew of other units. Though it isn’t a long list of units, it works to help keep the game simple. No one wants to play a game where you have 30 kinds of swordsmen that all have different relations to each other.
Perhaps the best feature of Rise and Fall is the editor that ships with the game. Simply put: “This is the best RTS editor to date”. With the editor you can construct your own scenarios, campaigns and multiplayer scenarios. The editor is so powerful that you’re only really limited by your imagination. I can guarantee that you are going to see better stuff than the standard half-baked RPG scenarios that usually dominate the download section of a typical RTS game.
Rise and Fall isn’t a game for everyone, but it is certainly worth checking out if you are an RTS fan who is looking to play a solid RTS title that mixes things up a little bit. Rise and Fall is not revolutionary, but it does put an interesting spin on what has become a stale, stale genre.