They Keep On Riiiiiiising!
TomChick - News - 08/08/07 - Link

I saw the latest build of Petroglyph's Universe at War today. I'd seen it for a Computer Games Magazine cover story last year, at which point they were sort of struggling to find their tone and they were only showing one race out of three. What's more, they were talking a really big game about their distinct races, but didn't have anything to show for it yet.

But today, I saw the full version of all three races in action. I can't talk much about it since the coverage, which will be appearing on Yahoo, is embargoed until Friday. But I can say that I came away really excited, and I'm glad to see the genre isn't lacking creativity or ambition. With Universe at War, I suspect RTS wonks like me will have something besides Age, C&C, and Company of Heroes expansions to tide us over until Halo Wars and Starcraft II.

I don't think it'll violate the embargo to say that I was very favorably reminded of Rise of Legends, which I'm still playing from time to time. So I think I'll take this opportunity for a perennail 'DAMN, Rise of Legends was good!' reminiscence. I tend to have these every few months. Here goes:

I had a great game at the last Shoot Club with my buddy who's probably my most competitive opponent. We'll call him Cornbread because, for some odd reason, that's actually his nickname.

I'd chosen the Vinci and he'd chosen the Alin. It was a biggish map and we managed to expand without tangling up too much. I was trying to cautiously build up and keep my army alive with healing tech, all the while developing a raiding force of Pinatas (as I like to call them, given their durability) led by the pirate chick hero. We have a few border skirmishes and I prevail, taking advantage of Cornbread's temporarily smashed army to push him back from a couple of cities. I manage to decimate a couple of his mines, so I know he's got to be hurting for timonium. He's not standing up to my army as I move towards his capital. I take my time, holding the captured cities long enough to rebuild them until he strikes back.

But then I get the message: "Your Opponent Has Built a Glass Dragon". What the...! How did he do that? I wasn't anywhere near being able to work on my Leviathan. Oh well, I had plenty of juggernauts and my economy was humming along nicely, thanks to investing in clockwork miners. He had attacked a mine, but I didn't pay it any attention. Whatever. It was keeping his paltry army busy. Besides, I had good healing tech and was winning the border game, as well as tilting the balance of cities in my favor.

But Cornbread wasn't obliging me by tackling my army head on. Instead, he kept attacking my miners. I foolishly didn't stop him as I pressed towards his capital. But then I was seriously hurting for timonium while he had a Glass Dragon harrying my economy. Suddenly, Cornbread was on my capital and I has my big fat slow-ass army yet a city away from taking his capital. I'd researched the Fast Capture tech, so maybe I could beat him in a race. Because I didn't trust that my army, which was worn down a bit and unable to afford replacements, could hold out against that Glass Dragon.

So even though I'd won the map control game, Cornbread beat me on the economic raiding game. By the time he was occupying my capital, I was only just arriving at his capital. It was foolish for me to squander my lead on timers, but he'd outmaneuvered me. In the end, it was close, but my Fast Capture wasn't fast enough. Cornbread won, fair and square.

But it was an immensely satisfying game for the back-and-forth, the tactical decisions, and the way we flexed the game's different systems. And, oh, that interface! What a dream, especially after playing other RTSs. It was a really happy re-discovery of just how great Rise of Legends is as an RTS.

Anyway, I was reminded of that game of Rise of Legends today, as I saw the possibilities in Universe at War. Although Petroglyph comes from the same stock as EALA and Liquid Entertainment, both of whom have done some my favorite recent RTSs, the young Las Vegas company didn't really impress me with Empire at War, their Star Wars themed RTS. Ambitious, yes, but not terribly effective, and ultimately awfully confused. But with Universe at War, they're doing something I can't wait to try.

Until then, I'm looking forward to a Rise of Legends rematch.

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