I'm very pleased that Rise of Nations is available once again. It's older than the dinosaurs in computer years but it's probably my favorite RTS of all time. I played it when it first came out over ten years ago. The vanilla version was pretty bare bones. It didn't start to shine until the Thrones and Patriots expansion was released.
I'm surprised at how pricey it is given its age, but if you enjoy RTS games at all, I think you'll love this one. There are 24 nations to choose from, including the Americans which makes a stone aged city called Washington DC a bit incongruous. Civilizations specialize in offensive, defensive, or economic power, although many of them are decent at two out of the three. The Germans and the French are probably the most balanced.
In real life, a general can say to his officers, "Go take that city," and they'll do it. Here it takes more micromanagement of course. When I first began playing, it was ground forces all the way but at higher difficulties you'll get annihilated. You have to establish air bases and shipyards to crank out units for shore bombardment while directing your army and maintaining your country's economy. If you prefer turtling while building up your human waves for one big push, the Russians, Chinese, and Dutch are good bets.
Or you can rush your opponent from the get-go, sacrificing units to cripple his economy while you continue building yours. The Japanese, Mongolians, and Romans are good for this strategy.
My favorite feature of the extended addition would have to be the Conquer the World campaigns. There are four historical scenarios. In the first two you play the parts of Alexander the Great or Napoleon Bonaparte. If you know your history, you can follow the same paths they took in real life or go far afield and succeed where they failed. For example, in the Napoleon campaign the victory conditions include conquering all of Europe. That means a victorious Bonaparte will be hoisting the French tricolor over London.
The third campaign is the New World. You can play as one of the Native American tribes, the American colonists, or one of the major European powers. Each faction has its own victory conditions. But my favorite campaign is probably the Cold War. Whether you play as the Americans or the Soviets, your goal is to conquer the other superpower through economic or military means. Or nuke them into oblivion.
My first time back, I chose the Soviets. My campaign began with the conquest of OPEC. The North Koreans and I swept the South Koreans and UN forces into the sea. China agreed to become a client state. From Castro's Cuba, Soviet forces surged into Central and South America. The campaign ended with the Gulf Coast of the United States a nuclear wasteland and Ronald Reagan surrendering to my mighty empire. Beefy Levinson, Hero of the Soviet Union has a nice ring to it.
If you like RTS games, check this one out. 10/10, would nuke again.