After a decade, the traditional real-time strategy formula is perhaps getting a bit played out, so it's not surprising that developers are looking to mix things up. In Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War, that means inserting action into the strategy. Rise & Fall puts you in charge of one of four factions from history and lets you play it as a real-time strategy game or as a third-person action game. It's an interesting concept, though unfortunately its execution is found wanting in Rise & Fall. Simply put, this is a game that doesn't know what it wants to be. Its real-time strategy gameplay will certainly appeal to traditional fans of the genre, but it's almost frustratingly difficult action gameplay will likely turn those same fans off.
Rise & Fall isn't your regular real-time strategy game, as you can drop down to third-person and play it as an action game, as well.
Rise & Fall revisits the ancient world of Greece and Rome. In addition to the standard skirmish mode, the game ships with two campaigns, with the Alexander campaign having you leading the Greeks against their ancient nemesis, the Persians, while the Cleopatra campaign has you fighting as the Egyptians against the Roman invaders. Famous characters from history and mythology appear throughout the campaigns as hero characters, such as Mark Antony and Achilles, though the focus is definitely on the two titular characters in the campaigns. You'll get to know them quite well, thanks to a feature called hero command in the game. Hero command basically lets you toggle between the real-time strategy perspective and controlling a hero directly from a third-person perspective, much like an action game. Doing so lets you hack-and-slash to your heart's content, as this provides an over-the-top way to let you get into the action.
During some missions, you can switch back and forth between hero command and the traditional real-time strategy viewpoint, though some missions require you to play entirely from one perspective only. These are likely to be the cause of most consternation for you, as the hero-only levels are, by far, some of the most frustrating in the game. In small doses, hero command is a nice feature that lets you vent some steam by hacking and slashing mindlessly. But when it's the basis of an entire level it can be maddening, thanks to the fact that many of the hero-only levels require a vast amount of patience, the reflexes of a teenager, and a good deal of luck.
For instance, in one level, you'll be tasked with killing 100 enemy soldiers within a set amount of time--the only problem is that you have to use a bow and arrow for most of the killing, and they're on one moving vessel while you're on another. Fail and you get to try, try again until you get it right. In another, Cleopatra has to battle her way through an island infested with archers who can hit her even if they're on the other side of a hill, and it's a constant effort to keep moving and dodging and firing. It's bound to turn off strategy fans; if they wanted to play an action game, they'd play an action game. Yet, at the same time, these sequences are a bit too arcade-like to be taken seriously for an action game.
Unfortunately, the action sequences in the game require quick reflexes and a fair bit of luck, which can lead to some frustrating battles.