AGEOD's games have always been something of an acquired taste. Epic in scope and astonishingly detailed, yet also harder than a granite statue of the Klitschko brothers and sporting a learning curve so sharp you risk severing a limb on it. It's clear that the developers are catering for a very specific corner of the market. This is also apparent in the fact that, throughout all of their games (Birth of America, Campaigns of Napoleon, World War One) very little has changed about them aside from where and when they are set.
However, according to AGEOD, their latest strategic venture Rise of Prussia is the most accessible of their games yet. Unfortunately this is a little bit like saying Hitler was a more amiable genocidal maniac than Stalin, because Rise of Prussia remains a bloody difficult game.
Looks like Charles D'Arberg has been banned from swearing again.
Global warming was a problem in the 18th Century as well.
Set in AGEOD's most obscure historical period yet. Rise of Prussia takes place between 1756 and 1764 during imperialist-king Frederick II's rapid imperial expansion of his territories. Compared to AGEOD's previous games, the campaign map is somewhat smaller, yet still has approximately a thousand provinces ripe for conquering. Visually the map is simple but functional, lacking the detail present in the Total War series yet showing everything you need to know about, including the nature of the terrain, potential resources and of course cities and towns, the accumulation of which is the key to victory. Units are represented either by a 2D portrait or a rather ugly 3D model.
To get you started in the game, AGEOD have provided three short tutorial missions to teach you the basics. I feel obliged to warn you that they only teach the absolute minimum required to play (the first tutorial focusses entirely on movement). Annoyingly, they are text based which wouldn't be so bad if the text wasn't absolutely tiny and spaced very closely. They are also rather eccentric, with multiple jokes which, while mildly humorous, only serve to confuse you about what you're supposed to be doing. Something which amused me in the final tutorial, which concentrates on attacking, was that I was told the strategy being taught was probably not very effective. Magical.
The majority of Rise of Prussia's gameplay revolves around your armies and your commanders. Armies are stacked into various sized groups ranging from elements, through units, brigades, corps and finally your full sized army. Each unit has reams of statistics regarding attributes such as offensive and defensive fire, discipline and initiative, all of which come into play when fighting a battle, thus it is important to have as balanced an army as possible before charging into the fray. Battles are represented only by the total points of both armies ticking down until either counter reaches zero or one side retreats, all accompanied by a few token sounds of gunfire. Hardly exhilarating, but it does the job.
Regardless of your army's quality, you're unlikely to win a fight without a decent commander. Commanders bring additional abilities to an army, such as being able to set the aggression level and rules of engagement for that particular force. For example, setting an assault stance will see your army attack anything it comes into contact with, whereas a defensive stance will mean your army will let opposing armies pass unless they are attacked. Leaders also come with individual attributes, some may be more respected than others, or more likely to attack the enemy on sight.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Rise of Prussia is the rigid chain of command system. In summary, commanders are appointed according to the Prussian social hierarchy rather than their tactical prowess. Should you promote a tactically brilliant knight rather than Baron von Idiot (yeah, I made that name up), your country will lose morale points. This may sound like a ridiculous system, but it is of course historically accurate, and as the tutorial points out, the majority of your generals are capable tacticians anyway.
The unit ledger, like reading War and Peace written in wingdings
As already stated, this is probably the most original and intriguing aspect of Rise of Prussia, which sadly isn't that much of a complement. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what audience AGEOD is targeting with Rise of Prussia. It remains too difficult and eccentric to attract many new players, but the reduced difficulty and map size alongside the lack of anything particularly new doesn't offer much to entice the existing fanbase either. There are also moments where the game becomes rather baffling, epitomised by the unit ledger, which lists all of your available units, and is like trying to read a book written in Klingon while holding it upside down. That said, there's nothing massively wrong with the game either, and it's certainly enjoyable when you cobble together a decent strategy and knock the enemy for six.
RISE OF PRUSSIA VERDICT
Rise of Prussia is a solid but unspectacular slice of neoclassical strategy gaming that is worth a look if you are a die-hard fan of AGEOD’s previous efforts, or if you’re a strategy buff looking for a new challenge. And possibly if you have an obsession for white wigs.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Surrounding a particularly irksome enemy army and crushing it beneath your Germanic might.