I read the good reviews and I'm wondering why.
While looking around the Wikipedia, finding interesting things to read, I happened upon an article for the game. I then went and downloaded the trial version.
I played it several times, winning most of the time, but sometimes being cheated of my victory by the random places of resources.http://www.microsoft.com/games/riseofnatio..._resources.aspx
list all the resources randomly chosen to place around the map, and what they do.
Notice how some lower the prices of certain units.
Horses reduce the Cost of Stable units, salt reduces the cost of barrack units, Aluminum makes airplanes go faster and be cheaper, rubber makes units at the auto plants(tanks) cheaper, etc? And if you get coal, then everything that cost timber, which most things do, is cheaper. Plus all the other bonuses allow you to make more money selling things at the market, have largest borders for greater tax revenue, severe economic bonuses in one form or another, cost of research dramatically reduced allowing whoever finds it to level up through the ages much faster and out-tech their enemy, etc.
Its just way out of balance.
No matter how well you play, or what you do, if your enemy happens upon the right bonuses early on, they are going to win soon enough.
I believe the horses was half price all horse units at the stables. Imagine if you could produce cavalry troops for the cost of infantry, only of course they move faster and are much stronger. Well, you automatically won, able to overwhelm your enemy with ease.
A bucket of oranges make ships magically repair themselves at sea, the fur from a seal makes all military technology cheaper, be it the one that upgrades horse riding archers into tanks, or the upgrade to make nuclear missiles more powerful. Bet you didn't know you needed fur for that.
Then you have the Wonders giving ridiculous bonuses to whoever builds them first. If you build the terra cotta one, it makes three guys with slings magically appear from the clay, every 30 seconds I believe it is. Later on when you upgrade them from slings to guys with guns, hey, you just got a massive army there, free of charge.
There are no walls in this game. No way to slow the enemy down, they able to just rush through your community, doing hit and run raids to kill your peasants, and destroy your economy.
Every mountain can be mined, they all having the resource known as "metal" in them. If the randomly generated terrain of the map has one side with mountains all about, near trees and other resources perhaps, then an unfair advantage is given. Your enemy places one city within range of trees and a mountain. You can not find any mountains with trees nearby, so you end up needing two cities to tap those resources. Perhaps there are trees or mountains farther out from your city, somewhere in your nation, and you can build there, and hopefully not have an enemy ride by and slaughter your helpless citizens. But the lumber mill and smelter give a bonus to production of wood and metal, and they can only be built in a city's limit.