Everything about this game, from the 18 (24 in Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots, the expansion pack) fully balanced (!) races/nations, via the economical, border- and military related upgrades, to the randomly generated maps (random islands, deserts, polynesia etc), is very close to perfect.
Unlike other RTSes, like Warcraft 3, C&C and so on, who to a certain degree boil down to starting up the economy and moving an army around - RON is, truly, a Strategy game, requiring thinking ahead and multitasking skills. It is also the RTS I've tried which has the easiest learning curve. Like with Chess, the fundament is simple and solid - and the gameplay advanced.
RON's humble approach to graphics is also perfect for RTSing. Excellent symbolics and icons, 3D wrapped into a slick 2D isometric universe, makes it very tidy, functional, and, well, RTS-like! Because of online bugs in the startup-period, similar unfortunate events, and not being made by Blizzard, the game did not develop a WC3-sized fanbase from the start. The strange thing however, is that the game somehow still kept a loyal fanbase for almost 3 years, with money prize tournaments and the works.
Regardless of its smaller following, RON is The RTS. If you like the genre, I really recommend you buy the budget-version of RON + Thrones and Patriots and give us a challenge online!
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