Contrary to the Gamespot review, everyone seems to think that Rise of Legends deserves more than a 7.6. Here's why.
Gameplay wise, the game is excellent in every regard. Obviously, because it is a new game, there are some minor gameplay balances to work out, but it looks and feels, if anything, like a fantasy version of Starcraft, one of the most revered RTS games out there. Each one of the races is methodically crafted to be completely different, and they play differently. Even the Vinci and Alin, who have similar tech trees, have different styles, as the Alin get vision of the entire map, while the Vinci start out stronger in the beginning. Playing the Coutl may be a slight learning curve in the beginning, but they balance out the early game tactics beautifully.
The beef with the campaign seems to be that it isn't easy to get into or something - not a sentiment I shared. It will not win the Best Campaign of the Year award but it was excellent in teaching tactics and bringing new and interesting scenarios that had to be waded through - from protecting a hero character while he was insane to attempting to defend an Oasis with both Alin and Vinci forces that had their own separate economies. The progression of the campaign was nicely done and the strategic maps balanced out such that the player would be forced to make choices in what to build and upgrade, instead of typical games where the player can get every upgrade for every possible unit and then have no difficulty defeating the boss. And did I get into it? Oh, Giacomo, Petruzzo would be proud of you.
The graphics in the game are undeniably good for an RTS. Turn it to the max resolution and fire up anti-aliasing, and you have a screen that looks pretty and takes a nice machine to handle, especially when the master units of each race start clashing and spells are thrown left and right. There are quite a few times in the campaign where you can just sit back in utter delight at watching two armies clash with everything they have.
The sound justly deserves a lesser rating than gameplay or graphics. It is not always the right sound at the right time - in the midst of a battle, summoning a hero and changing the soundtrack seems a bit odd, but it is nevertheless a grand soundtrack. Occasionally, it actually punctuates the action with startling preciseness, with your attack on multiple fronts drawing grand and epic background music.
As the reviewer missed, the multiplayer component is, with most strategy games, what it's all about. It's what keeps players coming back, time and time again, after they've exhausted the difficulty levels of the computer and the campaign. It is what I tend to judge "value" on, because it emphasizes the replayability of the game. For Rise of Legends, this replayability is there. Rise of Legends provides for automated matchmaking and ranking, which draws another nice comparison to Blizzard's Warcraft III, and executes it flawlessly. If you want to chat, you can join a room, but you don't have to - instead, just search and go, with options of 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, custom, or search any, if there aren't too many players on. In game, the laggy players may drop, with a nice voting system of how to continue.
Is it the same as Rise of Nations? No. Is it better? Hard to say - I liked it in a completely different way than I liked Rise of Nations. Rise of Nations appealed to my megalomania in conquering the world. Rise of Legends appeals to my imaginative side of conquering the world...with unique units and much better gameplay than throwing tanks at each other.