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First Impression: Rise of Nations: Extended Edition (PC) ~ Apes With Tanks

21462-rise-of-nations-windows-front-cover.jpgOfficial website

Since my childhood I have been playing a lot of RTS games. From Rise & Fall Civilizations At War to Age Of Empires, I have played a lot of them. And I have to admit, I’m not great at them. Whenever I would play online against other players, I get easily defeated. Yet, I enjoyed my time with these games quite a lot. I love to play skirmishes or various matches against the computer. Now, one of the favorite RTS games is Rise of Nations. And that’s the game we are going to take a look at today. A game where you take your civilization from give or take the stone age to the modern times of today. So, let’s not wait longer and let’s dive right into my first impressions of this game. The reason the first impression is simply because I never finished the campaigns, so yeah. I haven’t seen all the content of the game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Apes with tanks

Rise of Nations has been developed by Big Game Studios, the studio that also worked on the second expansion of Age of Empires III. While this game has a “Conquer the world” campaign mode where you play as for example Napoleon conquering Europe, I haven’t played a lot of that mode. And that has a simple explanation, I already talked about in the introduction of this article. Now, for this article I have played parts of the first campaign of Alexander The Great.

Now, for this article I have played the extended edition of the game that is on Steam at the moment. The core gameplay of this game is extremely similar to games like Age of Mythology and Age Of Empires. If you have played a RTS game in the past, you will feel right at home in this game.

Some mechanics do work differently in this game. First of all, the way to claim land. When you start the game, a certain part of the map is colored in your color. You can expand this area by building more cities or defensive buildings. You are unable to build any other buildings outside of that area. It’s quite important that you plan out your city structure well, since it’s a factor in how much wealth you will earn from your trade route or the ability to build even better wood cutting or mining camps.

To increase the population limit or the efficiency of certain buildings, you will need to upgrade at the library. There are 4 trees you can update. The military level which allows you to create even better military units, the science level to have even better buffs to your economic output and military, the economics level to have your resource gathering be even more efficient and stockpile better and the civic level which allows you to build even more units and cities. On top of that, you have to worry about advancing through the ages. You go from the early stone age to the middle ages to finish in the modern ages.

The way you gather resources in this game is also quite different. In this game you don’t have to worry about re-seeding farms or finding now ore veins for your villagers. All the resources are infinite. Now, there are certain restrictions. You can only build up to 5 farms per city. The placement of the building is also quite important. For example, if you place a woodcutter camp in the middle of a forest, more villagers will be able to cut wood for you. If you place it at the edge, less villagers will be able to cut wood for you.

Now, with all of this, you need to keep in mind that if you enter enemy territory, your units automatically get attrition. So, if one of your camps or buildings falls into enemy territory, you will loose slots or loose that building entirely.

Another mechanic in this game are the merchants. Spread over the whole map are certain bonus items. Sometimes they can be presents like the relics you can find in Age of Empires III but without the guardians. And sometimes they can be rare resources that can give certain buffs. On this Wiki page, you have a list of all the different buffs you can get.

One of the mechanics I really love and miss in a lot of other RTS games is the automatic exploring. Seriously, I can let any unit automatically explore the map without me having to worry about it or me always giving it a path. The times I forgot to explore the map in other RTS games… Man, I’m unable to count that anymore.

As you can see, there are many layers on top of the gameplay. The game is very complex and expansive. And I haven’t talked about how you can conquer and take over cities, set the unit production to loop, the fact you can take out your enemies in many different ways, the ability to rename your cities, the unique wonders and their bonuses… The features that set this game apart from other RTS games are just amazing and make for a very unique experience.

Visual fluff

This game can be very challenging. Depending on the difficulty of the AI, this game can be quite easy or quite difficult. While I’m able to beat the computer on Normal, I always have trouble when the computer is on hard mode. Yet, the issue I have with this game is that the normal mode provides just a bit too little challenge for me and the hard mode provides a bit too much challenge for me. Whoops.

Something I really like about this game is the fact that the visuals change when you change through the ages. You see the building style change when you advance through the ages. And not only that, the sound design changes as well. For example, when you get to the industrial ages, you start to hear chainsaws in the lumber camps instead of saws.

Up close, the visuals can look a bit dated. But, that’s completely normal. Since near the end of the game, there are so many units on the screen, I’m glad that they aren’t too detailed. The ending of a game can be so extremely hectic, I can barely keep track of what’s going on. I remember a multiplayer session with my best friend. In the end of that session we neglected our economy and idle villagers because the warfare required most of our attention. At the end of a match, you are able to make 4 big upgrades. One of them is instant creation of units. With this upgrade, the warfare gets so crazy, you have to focus on it.

Some elements of the UI in this game can be expanded and collapsed. For example, when you expand the resource menu, you have quick access to the market where you can trade resources. You don’t need to click on a market to do that. You can also see if there are open spots for mining, farming, wood cutting… And when these get in your way, one simple button click and they are hidden.

Not only the visual presentation and sound design changes through the ages, the animation does as well. When you reach the industrial ages, the miners you jackhammers instead of pickaxes to mine.

The sound design is amazing, it really captures the enjoyable chaos that happens on screen perfectly well. On top of that, the sound effects for male and female units are different. Yes, when a female unit dies, you hear a woman scream. And guess what, you hear a male scream when a male unit dies. This attention to detail is just amazing.

Couple this sound design and amazing visual design with an amazing orchestral soundtrack and you have an amazing visual presentation. In the original version, I had issues with the soundtrack. It never played during gameplay. While playing the Extended Edition, I haven’t encountered that issue once.

Perfection?

Now, is this game perfect? No, there are some things I would change in this game. One complaint I have is that there aren’t too many differences between the nations you can choose to play as.

Due to the various amounts of game mechanics, this game can be extremely overwhelming. If you aren’t into RTS games, just don’t play this game as your first RTS game. This game isn’t easy to get into because the various amount of layers upon layers of complexity in this game.

Due to the length of some rounds, I honestly got a bit bored at the end. This game is a lot of fun to play but near the end, I found that the game became a bit too repetitive to my liking.

Also, compared the to original game and the extended edition, there hasn’t been a lot of additions. Thankfully, the community picks up the slack from the developers in the Steam Workshop.

Some achievements are rather grindy in nature. I have close to 60 hours of playtime in this game and I’m not even halfway to the achievement of killing 50K units. Yes, I have killed 8K units during my 60 hour playthrough.

And to be honest, that are all the negatives I can talk about. Maybe I discover a few more negatives when I’m trying out the campaign mode again soon, but I highly doubt that. This game is quite a lot of fun if you are into RTS games. Once this game has a hook on you, it barely lets go. This game is one of my favorite RTS games and I’m so glad that it’s available on Steam. And after writing this review (well, first impression) I can’t wait to boot the game back up again and start up a new round.

With that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

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First Impression: Fantasy Life (3DS) ~ Strangely Fun.

Fantasy_Life_box_artNintendo.com entry

I was very surprised that Level5 published a game like this. While I was silently hoping to a sequel of Professor Layton, or a spin-off, they published a game with similar graphical vibe. But don’t let it fool you, the fantasy and the life is quite different in this game. After playing 3-ish hours of it, it’s time to write an article about it since I’m quite enjoying myself. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Graphically Layton?

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Maybe it’s only me, but this game gave me a Professor Layton feeling. At least, on the surface. Possibly the used some assets from the Layton game. But hey, let’s not think about the biggest series this developer created, in this article we are talking about Fantasy Life.

This game must have been a nightmare to develop. Since all the different classes play differently. I’m quite curious if the overall story stays the same in the different classes. Also, the fact that you can change your class in mid game, is just mind-blowing and quite a risky move of Level5. I hope the game stays challenging and doesn’t make the mistake that The Legend Of Zelda – A Link Between Worlds made. That game was also more free then other games, yet the difficulty curve was off.

While the story has some plottwists, I was able to see some coming. But I’m quite sure that to a child or a casual gamer, the plottwists might come more as a surprise. Overall, the writing is excellent. The characters can be a tad bit generic in some cases, but they are written so well that I had a few moments that made me smile, not only as a critic but also as a writer.

Quests

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I was on the fence for buying this game. I actually had it pre-ordered but cancelled my pre-order since I lost interest in the game. But now that I gave it a chance, I was quite surprised. The gameplay is nothing what I expected. If you aren’t doing a story quest, you can roam around freely and solve people’s daily needs.

The quest system, while quite fun, isn’t 100% perfect. Sometimes quite important information isn’t in the quest log, the quest log is out of order and you can’t have a map where all the accepted quests are located. The quest logging could have been done better in my opinion. While I’m beating it, I’ll surely try out all features of the quest log. Maybe I’m overlooking some things and bashing it, while it’s not needed at all.

You have three sorts of quests. Each give you a different reward. From dosh (currency) to stars (allow you to grow in your class) and bliss (expand the game.). The different quests yield so many different yet satisfying rewards that I explore the world in quite more depth then I usually would. Then my coin dropped. (Dutch expression for releasing something.) This was totally the designers intention to help you explore the world. It’s quite deep honestly. Apart from some aspects that is.

At the moment of writing, I’m in the magic class. They actually passed on a great oppertunity for the magic combat. When you use fire attacks on forest mobs, they don’t increase the damage. Also, your mana replenishes so slow, it’s painful. And the quite expensive potions only give you 10 mana back. Yup, only 10 mana. And the free water bottles you pick up, give 5. That’s so not enough!

So, the magician is long ranged combat. What I love about this game is that the target system works so nicely. I can easily circle around my enemy while trying to defeat it. If only there was an easier way to switch weapons. It would have been less of a pain when I would have been able to quickly switch to my dagger if my mana ran out.

Gamesystems

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In the last section of this article, I want to talk about the overall game. I can’t judge on the box and such, since I own this game thanks to the eShop.

The game controls quite fine. While I sometimes have the impression that they switched some buttons around from similar games, I can easily adjust.

Graphically, this game is just amazing. This game gave my impressions of Professor Layton, while it’s really nothing similar. The look, the animation, color pallet and level design is just really well done. Maybe they should have planned out the shops a bit better. Like the furniture shop closer to the wallpaper and flooring shop. Also, why can’t I sell furniture?  I bought by accident two items when I needed one. -sigh-

Something I would have done differently is the icons on the touch screen. They take up quite a bit of space on the map. While it’s not a big deal, I honestly don’t like various icons on my map. I would have made a bar at the bottom of the touch screen with the buttons on it. That would have been way easier to organize. Speaking about the map mode, it’s quite handy. I can safely say that it helped me out of some tricky situations. It’s clear and you can’t get lost thanks to it. If only you were able to have an overview map. Since if you tap on the map button, you get an overview of the map of the whole game. Thankfully there are buttons to quick travel.

Anyways, I’m nearing my usual article limit. So, it’s time to wrap this article up. I still have quite a lot to talk about, but I will keep that for my review if I beat this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I can honestly recommend this game to you. Also, feel free to drop by on a later date! I try to publish an article each week. So, maybe until next week.