Rise & Fall
Civilizations at War

Format: PC

5 037930 060182
Age Restrictions: 16+
16 June 2006

The ancient world is at war. It has fallen to you, in the role of Rome, Greece, Egypt or Persia to bring peace through combat. Taking the role of one of eight heroes, you lead your armies against your enemies to determine which civilisations will rise or fall...

Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War proves without a doubt that the Real Time Strategy (RTS) genre is one of the types of game that you really need a PC for, which is why they are lacking, in any significant amounts on consoles. Installation worked flawlessly, thank goodness, although it did reboot the computer afterwards, this may be a normal part of its instillation, but without a warning this comes as a worrying surprise.

Once into the game there is a myriad of settings for you to play with regarding graphic settings. The game looks pretty good on the default settings but it you have a high end machine you can turn on all of the available textures and effects to make it little short of stunning. Audio options are included and if you have your PC hooked up to a good 5.1 system, you'll be able to get the best out of your equipment. The settings also allow you to customise mouse, game play and network choices. There was a big button which said "UPDATE", so of course as a bloke, and with no idea of what it did, I pushed it. Not really sure what it was supposed to do, but on my computer it just froze the whole system.

One of the things you have to understand is that review games rarely come with a manual or as a completed game, therefore it's a bit of a hit and miss affair to get some games running. In the case of Rise and Fall most of the interface was very intuitive. Once into the game you get a choice of playing against the computer or engaging in various campaigns and scenarios. The best two options are most probably the skirmish mode and multiplayer.

An overall downer with the game is the lack of enough progress bars. This might seem like a small thing but without one how are you ever going to work out that, although the music keeps playing, your computer has hung again, which of course is the first thing it does when you pick a game - reminds me why I bought an Xbox. So, we indulge in another reboot of the computer and a further attempt to turn everything that I can find off to see if it will like that better.

Once you're into the game the set-up will be familiar to anyone who has played a RTS before. From your central post you can build granaries, barracks, housing and the normal things that you will need to cause death and destruction. The interface is simple to use, so that even if this is your first RTS, you're not going to have any trouble getting up and running. Like any empire what you really want are men, so that you can go and kill your neighbours. Initially, you can have archers, infantry, spearmen and ladder troops, but as the game progresses this goes up to an impressive eighty units, including boats and siege towers. My first attempt at world domination did not go too well and it was back to the drawing board. But, therein lies the addictiveness of this game; although I personally balk at having to train up men, when what I really want is a ten thousand strong army, I still found myself clicking away trying to match my opponent.

As you progress through the game you get bigger and better toys to play with, one of the most important being your hero, who under the player's control can do a lot of damage and turn the tide of war. Your hero is vital to your success. As he kills he gains more points and you gain access to the better weapons and units. The different units, which you train and buildings that you raise, will have a tactical impact on your game. For instance a large party of archers will finish off a ship in short order but are pants against cavalry and swordsmen.

The game has some very nice elements. Animation is excellent and the ability to zoom from either a large overview of your army to straight into the one-on-one action was impressive and vital if you're using your hero - though I doubt, given the rather hit and miss option of trying out keys to see which did what, made the best use of this feature. You get a third person perspective which is fine zooming around the battlefield until you're behind a palm tree and can't see a thing.

As is the norm for RTS's, you spend a lot of time building up your resources in order to fight your given foe. Sometimes this can be a real bore, better to have the option to assign a lieutenant to go off and do that sort of thing. I'm pretty sure Cleopatra or Alexander didn't spend their whole time chopping wood and bedding down troops. Actually now I think of Cleopatra... well that's another story.

Given the various campaigns and the online option you should get many hours of happy game play out of this game. So, a good game that gives a much needed shot in the arm to the RTS genre - though you need to ignore the historical inaccuracies.

Charles Packer

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