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Rise of Nations is a Real-Time Strategy computer game, developed by Big Huge Games and published by Microsoft on May 20, 2003. The development of the game was led by veteran Brian Reynolds, of Civilization II and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. Concepts taken from turn-based strategy games have been added into the game, including territories and attrition warfare. Rise of Nations features 18 civilizations, playable through eight ages of world history. It also has one of the most clever user interfaces in recent RTS history, averting the "hunt-and-peck hotkeys" nuisance that has plagued so many other titles in the genre.

On April 28, 2004, Big Huge Games released the Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots expansion, featuring new civilizations, campaigns, and game mechanics. Later that year, a Gold edition of Rise of Nations was released, which included both the original and the expansion. In 2006, a Spiritual Successor, Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends was released, but instead of a historical game, Rise of Legends turned more towards fantasy elements (similarly to what Age of Mythology was to Age of Empires), creating a world where fantasy and technology coexisted. Rise of Nations: Extended Edition was released on Steam on June 12 2014, featuring both the original and expansion pack with enhanced graphics, Twitch integration, and reworked multiplayer. With this causing a revival of the game's fan base and fan sites, the game is more popular than it has been for years.


This videogame contains examples of:

  • 4X: A real time strategy version of this.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: In the gunpowder age a unit known as the Arquebusier will look straight down the barrel of their gun when idle to check it as will the minutemen and partisans in later ages. Justified however as guns had only just been invented.
  • A-Team Firing: Asian "Partisans", who look suspiciously like Viet Cong, cannot shoot a machine gun to save their lives (even though they often need to for that very reason). Like an untrained civilian probably would, they can't control the gun because of recoil and fire randomly. They still hit their targets 100% of the time, though...
  • Alternate History: Some campaigns in Thrones and Patriots (especially those relating to Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and the Cold War) can (and often will) become this if you deviate from what happened historically.
    • In the Cold War campaign, for example, you can get the Bay of Pigs invasion to succeed in deposing Castro and intervene in Prague Spring for the US; for the Soviets you can take a more active role in the Korean War than historically and unite the Koreas under Kim Il-Sung, and defeat NATO and subsume Western Europe into the Warsaw Pact as your puppet without nuclear war.note )
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    • In the New world campaign, it's possible for any of the European nations, the native tribes, or the United States to conquer both North and South America.
    • Interestingly, the Napoleon campaign alludes to this happening offscreen as well as onscreen (like winning the Battle of Leipzig and the Invasion of Russia), if you pay attention to the Wonders you control. Assuming you do well enough, you're given wonders from Southeast Asia (French Indochina being formed decades early) and Mexico (French victory in the Franco-Mexican War). You can also choose whether to sell the United States the Louisiana territory.
  • America Is Still a Colony: In the "New World" campaign, the players can deviate from history quite heavily, including the European colonial powers (especially Britain) keeping the United States from gaining independence.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: This game has a pretty huge limit of 200 units. Some units count as two, but this still allows for some really huge armies. With the right civilization chosen, the correct rare resources collected and the right wonder built it can reach 320note  Also, most infantry units count as one person, but consist of 3 people, so it makes those armies look even bigger.
  • Army of the Ages: Largely averted thanks to the game's smooth unit upgrade system, but it can easily happen if several players on the same team are at wildly different points along the march of history and staging a coordinated attack.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The computer would give away a supply depot right next to its capital territory if offered enough tribute or territories, allowing the player to conquer a huge empire in a single battle.
    • Without your guiding hand, your units might not survive a paper bag. They'd go into an ambush or attack a fortress alone even though it's certain death, but might not protect fellow units in their line of sight if they're not right next to them.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: The tactical offensive campaign mode. It starts with a large amount of your troops landing in a completely hostile territory without any backup. Then, you must capture every single city in the map with the forces you have at hand (usually just the one city in the center of the map).
  • Barbarian Tribe: The main Conquer the World Campaign has your nation dealing with these early on, while the Cold War one has either the Americans or Soviets dealing with warlords that serve as the modern equivalent.
  • Barrier Maiden: The whole point of the Supply Caravan unit, which serve no function other than to ward off the effects of attrition on your forces. They can also heal forces in the field if you either have the Versailles wonder active or if you're playing France.
  • Battle Theme Music: The game plays depressing music when you're losing and triumphant music when you're winning.
  • Capital Offensive: Taking an enemy capital activates a countdown timer, which ends the game once it expires unless the city is retaken. If the capital is the last unoccupied city, the game instantly ends.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Mostly averted, although this might be due to the fact that, if the enemy is overwhelming you, you can change difficulty settings from the Pause menu. However, this is played straight when an AI player gets a missile online—it knows just where your Cities and Barracks are when human players wouldn't. And whenever you fire a V2/cruise missile, the AI always knows where it targets and sends the troops away from the target.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: Except that you're not just building a network of military bases; at the core of each new outpost is a village, growing to a town and then a city. You're building a nation, not just winning a war. In theory, at least.
  • Cosmetically Different Sides: Subverted. Since the game is a historical RTS, there's a decent bit of variety; each nation has unique advantages and disadvantages alongside units which are significant enough to seriously influence playstyle. Units are ultimately mostly similar but their special units and bonuses definitely pushes individual nations towards particular playstyles. Aesthetics-wise meanwhile, there are subtle visual differences even among nations belonging to the same cultural group; the standard Industrial Age infantry units for the Germans wear gas masks while the Japanese's Modern Age fighter plane is clearly a Zero.
  • Crosshair Aware: The target of a nuclear missile is shown on everybody's minimap. Most units are too slow to avoid the blast if they are anywhere near the impact point. Deployed artillery is completely screwed regardless.
  • Damage Is Fire: However, the fire itself is fairly understated, closer to "Damage Is Smoke".
  • Death from Above/Rain of Arrows: Mod the range of ranged units, and this will happen.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Any attempt to destroy buildings with pre-Gunpowder Age ships will result in this, if the ships are not stopped first.
  • Decade Dissonance: Without any support, a nation could remain at early technological levels while its neighbors are developing stealth bombers and aircraft carriers.
  • DEFCON Five: Averted in Thrones and Patriots. The threat meter in the Cold War scenario accurately starts from DEFCON 5, and counts down the more reckless you are. If your threat meter reaches DEFCON 1, both sides launch the nukes, and Mutually Assured Destruction results.
  • Defenseless Transports: All land units turn into landing craft when moving over water, which can be easily and quickly sunk by destroyers, submarines, or fighters.
  • Early-Bird Boss: In the Alexander campaign, if you consider attacking the Persians before uniting Greece, your advisors will warn you that it "will bring the might of the Persian Empire down upon us", and suggest you unite Greece first.
  • Easy Level Trick: In the Conquer the World mode, weaker territories can be seized using only your starting troops, ignoring base building entirely.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted to some degree: any unit that stands in enemy territory suffers attrition damage, which can usually be negated by the presence of a nearby supply wagon or some leader units.
  • Eenie, Meenie, Miny Moai: "Relics", one available rare resource, are 2 moai and make research faster.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The main infantry unit for the Americans and the Russians are respectively the Marine and the Shock Infantry (VDV/Spetznaz).
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Of the Every Man Has His Price variety.
  • Fanfare: The game plays victorious fanfares whenever you are winning a battle, and during the victory debriefing screen.
  • Firewood Resources: Only the icon for wood. Workers are shown moving small logs while logging camps (which must be built near forests) are seen moving around large logs and lumber.
  • Femme Fatale: The spy unit, specially in pre-modern eras.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Americans in the New World campaign start out as a small group of colonies subjugated by the British that no other nation (including the natives) take seriously and simply get dismissed as a "nation of shopkeepers." Even after you gain independence, the colonists are still not considered a threat since everyone's convinced that their democratic form of government will surely collapse in chaos. By the end of the campaign, if you go by the American victory condition, they will have united all of North America and driven all European imperial powers off the Western Hemisphere.
  • Frontline General: The General is a support caster unit and can't actually fight; keep him slightly back from the front lines, but he has to be close in order for your troops to benefit from having him around.
  • Garrisonable Structures: Cities can raise an alarm to take cover, at which time citizens will garrison themselves in a nearby city, tower or fort and use guns or bows to defend themselves. Scholars generate the Knowledge resource when garrisoned in a University, and can be moved from one to the next. Oil platforms require a worker to garrison him/herself inside to function. Almost every military building can also be garrisoned to some heal units at a faster rate than others (barracks for infantry, stables/auto plants for cavalry/tanks and siege factories/factories for artillery and supply wagons), some simply hold units (airbases, missile silos), while others just get an increase in firepower (towers, forts and cites).
  • Geo Effects: The major one being attrition: units in enemy territory suffer damage over time. The Russians have a "Russian Winter" perk that means this applies much more on their land.
  • Glass Cannon: The Katyushas and just about any Artillery Weapons available.
  • Hold the Line: The defender in "Barbarians at the Gate" game mode wins by staying alive until the timer ends.
  • Instant-Win Condition: When the "sudden death" setting is used, a player wins the moment any victory condition is met without the usual countdown.
  • Invaded States of America: Besides starting a nuclear war with them, the Soviets can also stage a conventional invasion of the United States during the Cold War.
  • Invisible Wall: Averted, in a funny way. The edge of the map is literally the edge of a map.
  • Mechanically Unusual Fighter: There are a few unique units that go beyond having simple stat bonuses:
    • The Spanish and Persian heavy infantry lines obtain the capability of fighting from range prior to the Enlightenment Age.
    • The Chinese obtain gunpowder infantry in the Medieval Age, earlier than the Gunpowder Age.
    • The American marines automatically entrench themselves when stationary without the need for a general.
    • The Dutch get caravans, merchants, and supply wagons that can fight back.
    • The Persians and Indians get war elephants that don't replace units at all. They're effective against crowds of infantry while being vulnerable to anti-cavalry weapons.
    • Some of the Conquer the World campaigns have unique units that aren't available anywhere else. Examples include the Napoleonic Imperial Guard, Colonial American Ironclad, NATO Humvee, and Soviet Nuclear Submarine.
  • Modern Mayincatec Empire: This is the result of having the Aztecs, Mayans, and Inca survive far into the future beyond their historical demises.
  • Mook Commander: The General, an unarmed unit which provides nearby military units with bonuses to armor, as well as possessing a number of useful tactical powers. The Thrones and Patriots Expansion Pack adds the Patriot, a unique version of the General who gains additional powers based on your government type and is immune to sniping and bribing.
  • Mook Maker: The Terracotta Army wonder continuously spawns infantry for whoever builds it.
  • More Dakka: Stock in trade of the Machine Gun line of units, which specialize in mowing down infantry at the cost of having to deploy like an artillery unit. Their Information Age incarnation takes the cake by using a minigun.
  • No Fair Cheating: Cheating in the main campaign gets you labeled "the Cheater".
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: France having the "power of the leaders" and their special units being horse grenadiers ? Now where did we see that ? Comes full circle in Thrones and Patriots with the Napoleon ccampaign.
  • Non-Standard Game Over:
    • There are two types of defeat in skirmish and the "Conquer the World" campaign—the normal sort, when your opponent simply wins, and the Armageddon defeat, involving a nuclear holocaust.
    • The Cold War campaign adds a few new ones involving strategic missiles: Winning the war with a nuclear strike gives you a What the Hell, Hero? combined with a Bittersweet Ending regarding the amount of civilians that died on both sides because of it. Having the same happen to you condemns you for choosing the complete destruction of your entire population over surrender and if both sides have enough strategic nukes to completely raze the other's territory, you get a special kind of Armageddon which is even snarkier about your strategy of conquest then the regular one. Conversely, all of the endings for winning, stalemating and losing the war the regular way congratulate you with avoiding the apocalypse.
  • Nuclear Nullifier: The SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) renders the builder unable to be attacked by nukes. However, it also sets the Nuclear Winter Counter to 1. In addition, the Missile Shield future technology prevents Missile Silo units (both nuclear and conventional) from being targeted or detonated in the researcher's national boundaries (as well as turning the Armageddon Counter back by 2); once everyone has the Missile Shield technology, nukes are essentially useless.
  • Nuke 'em:
    • Though too much of it could invoke Non-Standard Game Over. But hey, it looks really cool!
    • There's also a cheat (hit Enter and type "cheat nuke") that causes a nuclear missile to drop on where your mouse is pointed.
  • One World Order/United Nations Is a Superpower: Researching the "World Government" Future tech implies this, though with your chosen nation being the one running things. This also makes conquering enemy cities instantaneous.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Once a wonder is built, nobody else can build it and others who were also building it (but didn't complete it first) lose all their progress. Also, once a wonder is destroyed, it cannot be rebuilt by anyone.
  • Rage Quit: It's perfectly possible for a player who is about to lose to intentionally set off the Armageddon counter so nobody wins.
  • Railroading: The Napoleon campaign starts out like this, where choices of scenarios are limited between two maps at a time. The campaign also forces you to retreat whenever the scenario tells you to, until Napoleon becomes Emperor.
  • Reality Ensues: Pitting spearmen and archers in a battle against machine-gunners and aircraft goes about as well as one would expect. While launching too many nukes triggers a nuclear Armageddon.
  • Red Is Heroic: The player is always red in single player mode. The enemy army is usually blue, with additional colors being added in for multiple factions. This gets a bit weird in the Napoleon and American-side Cold War campaigns, and the New World scenario when playing as the likes of the French or Americans, where the normally blue but colored red French and American armies fight the normally red but colored blue British and Soviet armies.
  • Reinventing the Wheel: To Rise of Nation's credit, while the campaigns play this trope straight, as you advance through different eras the names of the technologies are at least altered to match the time period (if still serving the same function).
  • "Risk"-Style Map: The Conquer the World campaigns have a strategic map which looks very much like Risk maps, complete with Risk army pieces and bonus cards.
  • Rock Beats Laser:
    • Averted for units of the same category. More advanced units are almost guaranteed to be superior to their less technological versions, eventually leading to Curb-Stomp Battle situations in your favor if you're moved up the tech tree enough...except for naval units, which inexplicably gain relatively minor increases in stats, even with the transition from wooden to metal ships.
    • However, played straight for hard counters if the circumstances are right. You can still have the situation where a spearman beats a tank, because Heavy Infantry hard counter Heavy Cavalry. On the other hand, motorized vehicles are more likely to gun down any approaching spearmen before they get the chance.
  • Russia Takes Over the World: The expansion campaign Thrones and Patriots has a Cold War campaign where you can diverge heavily from history to ensure that the Soviets dominate the globe. A more generic Russian takeover is also possible in the vanilla Conquer the World campaign.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • The landscapes are quite pretty, especially the Caribbean-esque archipelagos.
    • Maps in the Conquer the World campaigns actually resemble (quite closely) the area they represent (a battle in Japan will take place on a map of Honshu, attacking Britain will require a dock built in the English Channel, etc.)
  • Schizo Tech: You can have main battle tanks squaring off against crossbowmen and dragoons (leading to a Curb-Stomp Battle). Also, although it's most likely going to be strategic suicide to focus on Science research rather than going up Ages and upgrading your troops, you can access electronics and computers while your men consider the arquebus to be the latest big thing.
    • Taken to the Nth degree if you lock the game's advancement to an early age (like the Medieval Age) yet can still research Supercomputers at the University.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • During the pacification of Greece in the Alexander campaign, upon defeating Thebes and Athens, your advisors remark that Sparta looks quite beefy and may not be worth the effort. They instead recommend that you make peace with them and doing so will end the mission immediately. If you choose to fight, they reiterate that this isn't a good idea and a few minutes later, the game asks if you really want to go ahead with it, even giving you a "don't say we didn't warn you" if you insist. Thing is, if you listen to your advisors and choose peace, then every single battle for the rest of the campaign will see whatever enemy you're fighting getting Spartan reinforcements just a few minutes into the battle, with the game explicitly rubbing it into your face every single time that "perhaps it was a mistake not to crush them earlier".
    • Attempting to storm Greenland in the New World campaign is a very daunting prospect. You need to gather 1000 food in a short amount of time, all the while the enemy is harassing your base. The only reward for it is the rare resource fish, which can be found anywhere with water and only provides a food and commerce bonus, resources that are already plentiful in the campaign map.
  • Semper Fi: The Americans' infantry units from the Enlightenment Age on are various incarnations of the United States Marine Corps. While they don't have the raw firepower of other unique infantry, their sea transports move faster and they automatically entrench after a few seconds of idling, allowing them to cross dangerous waters and establish a beachhead with ease.
  • Shown Their Work: There's a good deal of detail put on much of the game. Even the way infantry units move or stand in place vary depending on role and time period. Even the look of some units change from one nation to the other (most obvious with the fighters).
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: Averted, for the most part. A single nuke can level an entire city and severely damage nearby units and buildings, while the Information Age ICBM can obliterate everything within its blast radius. If the explosion still looks small, then that's because of disproportionate unit sizes.
  • Suicide Attack: Fire ships attack with this method in mind. This is the only available hard counter to heavy warships until the industrial age, where they're replaced with the not-so-suicidal submarines.
  • Support Power: Type 3, in the Conquer the World campaigns. If you attack a region that is adjacent to another one of your armies (or an ally's) then you will receive reinforcements at some point during the battle.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Before the Modern Age, put some male scholars on partisan duty.
  • Symbology Research Failure: The Kremlin wonder is actually St. Basil's Cathedral, but hey, who's gonna notice?
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: Rise Of Nations plays this trope absolutely straight; it's practically Crippling Overspecialization. Several combinations abound but here's a general example: Light Infantry ➞ Heavy Infantry ➞ Heavy Cavalry➞ Light Cavalry ➞ Light Infantry, with a mix of Archers, Machine Gun Infantry, and Ranged Cavalry thrown in the mix. For the water, Heavy Warships beat Light Ships, which fend off Fire Ships or Submarines, which destroy Heavy Warships. Better write that down. The entire web is about as convoluted as Pokémon. On the other hand, this tends to break down to a degree if one side is an age or so ahead or behind technologically. See Rock Beats Laser above.
  • Take Over the World: The objective of the various Campaigns:
  • Technology Levels: Eight of them. Nine, if you count the 20 Minutes into the Future technologies.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Alongside Theme Music Power Down should the player be on the losing end.
  • Turn-Based Strategy, Real Time Combat: The Campaign mode takes place on a turn-based "Risk"-Style Map, but the player has the option to fight individual battles in real time.
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • Playing as either the Americans or Native factions in the New World Campaign can give this impression. Mainly since the European Nations tend to look down on them as upstart colonials and savages respectively.
    • Certain factions controlled by AI in the general Conquer the World Campaign can be a lot like this compared to real life (such as Korea taking over China, Mongolia, and Japan without difficulty).
  • Units Not to Scale: Typical of an RTS game. A Main Battle Tank, for instance, is one third the size of its factory. A real army tank plant, on the other hand, takes several hundreds of acres. In the case of the Lima Army Tank Plant, the main production building is roughly the size of thirty football fields. Fairly well averted between most units, however.
  • Updated Re-release: Rise of Nations: Extended Edition, released on Steam in June 2014. In addition to including the Expansion Pack content and being compatible with modern operating systems, nearly all the graphics got some serious spit and polish and Internet streaming options were built in.
  • Video Game Caring Potential:
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: There's something to be said for watching a nation that's getting destroyed plead frantically for peace even as your troops are marching on their capital. Not to mention how much fun it is to nuke the fishermen, use cruise missiles on the Citizens, and launch airstrikes against the Scholars of the nations you've defeated. Attacking Scholars, regardless of method, usually qualifies as this, unless they turn themselves into militia. Slaughtering Citizens is both this and good strategy.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment:
    • Using nukes reduces the "Armageddon Clock". Using too many means the game ends in apocalypse.
    • In the Cold War campaign, you can sign a treaty with China promising to not attack them at lease until the Information Age in exchange for their military support during your conquest of South Korea. If you decide to betray them, one of the Warsaw Pact countries will quit and join NATO since it doesn't want to be associated with a liar.
  • Video-Game Flamethrowers Suck: Almost, but not quite. As in most games, they're not much good in combat. But most games don't allow you to set fire to wooden buildings (thus also forcing garrisoned units outside where they're more vulnerable), which flamethrowers are pretty handy for both in real life and in this game.
  • Washington D.C. Invasion: In the Cold War campaign, if the player as the Soviets launch a conventional attack on the US capital territory (Eastern Seaboard), the scenario that plays starts with the Soviets having seized control of New England up to Hartford (even if you attack from the south). The win condition is the capture of Washington.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: If you win the Cold War campaign with the nuclear victory, the narrator in the ending slid will give you a massive What the Hell, Hero? speech, asking you if committing a nuclear holocaust in the name of democracy/socialism was really worth it. If so, then feel free to celebrate with what is left of your country.
  • We Have Reserves: Attempting an amphibious assault without sufficient naval and air cover requires this.
  • A Winner Is You: The game has this for the different campaign modes. You conquer the entire known world as Alexander the Great and all you get is a splash screen that says something along the lines of "Great job. Your empire will surely go down in history as the greatest." The only amusing ones are when the game goes What the Hell, Hero? on you if the Nuclear Option is employed in the Cold War campaign.
  • Worker Unit: Called citizens, in this case.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: Even if you are in the Modern age, you will still have to research things such as crop rotation or medicine as if they are totally unknown to your civilization. However, some researches are cheaper if someone else on the map has already researched it. Also, Science research lowers the cost of other types of research. Averted with Library technologies, whose names change appropriately depending on the match's beginning and ending Ages.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Food, Timber, Wealth, Metal, Knowledge, and Oil. Unlike other games, there's limits to how quickly each resource can be gathered or produced; making a bunch of Farms early on in the hopes of becoming an economic superpower will fail without Commerce research or Wonders to increase those limits.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The Terracotta Army wonder automatically produces free infantry, except in the Conquer the World Campaign, where it just counts as a separate army.
    • In the New World campaign, the native American nations will start with this as the only tactic available to them, since unlike the European colonists they don't have access to gunpowder weapons and only have their larger population as an advantage. But eventually, they will get access to gunpowder weapons to level the playing field.
    • Later upgrades allows citizens to instantly become militia.
    • One of China's bonuses is instant citizens, scholars, caravans, and merchants. Combine that with the Partisan upgrade in the Modern Age and you'll get an inexhaustible horde of AK-47 wielding villagers and bookworms.
    • Researching the Near Future technology Artificial Intelligence reduces all your units' creation time to zero, allowing you to instantly spawn entire armies if you have the resources. This bonus also applies to nuclear weapons, allowing you to spam ICBMs with abandon.
    • On campaign maps, if you attack a territory with at least two more armies than what your opponent has in the target territory plus all its neighbors (including any allies you and your adversary have), you automatically win by overrun and the attack doesn't count as your one attack allowed for the turn. Capital territories are exempt, however.


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