We’ve gained a little more respect for Julius Caesar and Hannibal since we started playing Rise of Civilizations. It turns out that running an empire is a serious multitasking exercise.
Not only do you have to keep expanding your interests, wiping out barbarian tribes and overcoming well-organised enemies, but you have to keep the home front ticking over too.
Rise of Civilizations sees you taking the reins of a burgeoning empire, giving you the choice of Rome, Spain, Britain, France, Germany, China, Japan and Korea
You start with a modest walled city with very little in it, but as you upgrade your City Hall and the buildings around it you unlock more building types. Upgrading these lets you upgrade your City Hall in turn, making more building types available, and so on.
Eventually you’ll have a farm, an archery range, a workshop, a barracks, a lumber mill, an academy, and many more buildings besides. Between them they keep your people sheltered, fed, trained, educated, armed, healthy, safe, and prosperous.
Upgrading buildings takes time, but you can speed up the process with consumable cards. You have to exercise a little bit of restraint with these, since you don’t have an unlimited supply, but you have enough that you can expedite a few building, training, and research periods per session, allowing you to get some good progress out of a quick game.
Of course, this just covers the very basics of attending to your own city. Zoom out and you’ll discover a staggeringly huge game world. Your city is just a tiny dot in a vast region, which itself just one of nine regions, separated by mountain ranges and accessible through pathways that you need to find with your scouts.
What’s more, the vast majority of this map is shrouded in fog, so there’s a huge amount to discover. We dread to think how long it would take you to clear every wisp of fog, but every time you send out a scout you uncover new stuff to befriend, explore, conquer, plunder, or kill.
Naturally, killing stuff is a big part of being an emperor. To this end, you have troops, which you recruit and train in your city, but you also have commanders. These are based on real historical figures like Julius Caesar, and you can level them up with their own individual skill trees, RPG-style.
You can have multiple commanders, too, giving you even more to think about when assigning skill points, as well as allowing you to fight on multiple fronts.
Rise of Civilizations also has its own exhaustive alliance system, complete with messaging. Joining an alliance gives you access to communal assets such as research, alliance gifts, and earnings from resources. It also lets you call on alliance members for assistance in completing research, building, and training projects in your city.
Naturally, you can help the alliance too, by pledging your troops in wars, contributing to research costs, and so on.
Believe it or not, we haven’t really scratched the surface of Rise of Civilizations. There’s so much to do, and so many ways to do it, and so much room to do it in, that it would take you days to get to grips with the game’s subtle intricacies.
It would risk becoming overwhelming if not for the inexhaustible supply of missions and tasks. The best way to progress, certainly at first, is to just go to the missions screen and keep taking them on.
For example, accepting a barbarian hunting mission will take you straight to the search function, where you can search for barbarians, among other things, at whatever level you like. Once you’ve found a squad of barbarians it’s just a matter of a couple of taps before you’re wiping them out with swords, arrows, and siege weapons.
As a result of accepting this mission, you’ll learn how the search function works, level your troops up, and earn some resources. There are many different mission types, all of them productive and profitable, so it makes sense to stay on this path until you’re ready to face the big bad world without training wheels.
The slight downside of Rise of Civilization’s huge scope is that it can look a little plain. The graphics are polished and slick, but there’s only so much character a developer can squeeze into an ant-sized sprite. The interface can become cluttered, too, and it’s not uncommon to tap on the wrong building while working in your city.
But these are minor issues, and a small price to pay for the sheer detail and abundance that Rise of Civilizations contains.