Rise of Nations: Thrones & Patriots is almost what every expansion pack should strive to emulate. Along with the prerequisite new units and new factions, Thrones & Patriots honestly expands upon the original with four new campaigns that provide the absorbing single-player experience the original lacked. Unfortunately, some stability problems keep it from being perfect.
More nations for rising
The six new civilizations include Americans, Lakota, Iroquois, Persians, Indians, and Dutch. Each has unique powers and comes with 20 new unique units. Most of these powers are unexceptional, although it’s rather fun watching hordes of war elephants from the Persians and Indians go on a rampage. Persians have civil research bonuses and free caravans, Indians have cheap buildings, the Dutch are economically successful, and the Iroquois gain benefits in forests. There does seem to be a bit of a balance problem with the Americans and Lakota. While the Americans seem too powerful with advantages in science, economics, and the military, the Lakota are severely handicapped by not being able to build farms. On maps without fishing, they have little hope of competing with the others. In exchange, they get some meager military benefits that are relatively unimportant, since winning in RON is often more about economics than tactics.
Other than the factions, Thrones & Patriots modifies the original through the senate building. This building allows you to set governments like despotism or republicanism to rule your empire. The totalitarian selections usually offer combat advantages, while the democratic ones aid production. Additionally, you gain access to a head-of-state unit that’s basically a respawning übergeneral. The powers you choose stick with you as you advance through the ages so that you can customize your government to your style, mixing the six available options as you will.
Less board game, more PC game
These additions by themselves would make for a decent expansion pack, but the single-player modes set Thrones & Patriots apart. While the original game came with a rather bland “conquer the world” campaign that spanned millennia of history, Thrones gives you four highly focused campaigns covering such subjects as Alexander the Great, colonialism in the New World, the Napoleonic Wars, and the cold war. All of the campaigns offer a good mix of missions, from the standard conquest to well-scripted scenarios that almost feel like they came from a story-oriented RTS. The campaigns also have a lot of historical flavor provided through various strategic objectives and prescripted events. The cold war scenario in particular excels in this and even includes espionage missions as a break from the larger-scaled conflicts.
Unfortunately, there seem to be some major stability issues with the game.
My forays into online sessions met with spotty success, and even the single-player modes had frequent crashes. Still, for anyone who even remotely enjoyed the original, Thrones & Patriots should provide more hours of enjoyment. There’s almost enough gameplay packed in here for a full-fledged sequel, so it’s definitely worth the price of an expansion pack.