The game's focus is spread over some 6,000 years, with numerous scenarios pitching you initially into the midst of ancient history and ultimately bringing events right up to date. In each scenario, several skills are at times aggressively tested; there's the need for diplomacy, the odd bit of combat, resource management and trading. In short, pretty much the staple diet of most strategy games.
Where Rise of Nations takes a different path though is in its approach. The single player mode brings into play a strategic map--think of the board game Risk and you're about there--and charges you with the task of capturing fresh territories whilst successfully defending your own. It's a weighty addition to an already long-lasting game, and marries up nicely to the real time strategy element that subsequently kicks in.
Furthermore, the game's surprisingly easy to get into, and as you progress your people from a basic beginning through to a more advanced society, it's hard not to get immersed in it all. While ironing out the need for petty decision making that's brought several other titles in the genre to their knees, Rise of Nations still demands much taxing of the grey matter, and to its credit, there's rarely just one way to approach a problem. And that's before the highly entertaining battles kick in.
From time to time, you could argue that the gameplay gets slightly repetitive and the mixing in of two different styles of strategy style isn't going to appeal to all. --Simon Brew