Thrones and Patriots expanded on a variety of features in the original game, such as new monuments (called "Wonders"), nations, governments, and campaigns. Gameplay still remains similar to Rise of Nations, with its wide span of ages and players still manage and expand their nations at the macro and micro levels. However, Thrones and Patriots has campaigns which offer more turn-based strategy features than the original and the ability to make decisions outside of combat. Up to eight players can play in multiplayer matches, with artificial intelligence being able to fill slots at the server host's choice.
Tim Train, executive producer of Thrones and Patriots, stated that various features were added to the game in an attempt to balance gameplay, including the addition of armed caravans and merchants. IGN claimed that Thrones and Patriots is "a great game [which] gets better," in reference to its predecessor Rise of Nations and other critical reviews also praised many features of the game, though some noted deficiencies. As of 2008, Rise of Nations has received a compilation score of 88% on both Game Rankings and Metacritic.
Within Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots players control various units during battles, including land, sea, and aerial units. Units used during gameplay include slingers, musketeers, tanks, large Persian war elephants, aircraft carriers, and nuclear missiles. Players progress in different ways in Thrones and Patriots by using various means including espionage, political strategy, technology races and population growth. The gameplay takes place from ancient history to modern times. Players are able to lead their nations at the macro and micro levels, and build their nation up and expand it throughout the game.
Thrones and Patriots added six new nations to the original Rise of Nations of game. The 'New World' situation playable in the game was enhanced by the introduction of the European nation—of the Dutch. Three North American nations were added, the Americans, referring to the ex-colonial civilization, and two Native American nations were added, which were the Lakota and the Iroquois. Two Asian nations: the Indians, and the Persians were introduced. New Wonders were made available for building, such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Forbidden City, and the Red Fort.
New features of the game were added to the new nations, for instance the Lakota, which is unable to build farms to generate food, instead receive a constant food supply for each of their citizens, scouts, and cavalry units. They can make buildings in any region that is not possessed by their enemy, can raze buildings quick while receiving a full refund, and receive resources when enemy resources are destroyed.
Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots added four new "Conquer the World" campaigns: Alexander the Great, Napoleon I of France, the New World, and the Cold War. The Alexander the Great campaign allows the player to choose whether or not to raze or incorporate conquered territories. A player's decision to raze may cause the rest of the enemies to either fight harder, or question their casus belli and ally with you. The Napoleon campaign challenges the player to conquer Europe in a limited amount of time, with diplomacy, alliances, conquest, and bribing with land. Players must have intuitive leadership in this campaign because faulty decisions by the player can force themselves, Napoleon, into exile. The New World campaign allows the player to choose either the Americans, a European power, or a Native American tribe. If the player chooses to lead the Americans, they must pay taxes to Great Britain, until they declare independence. The map of a battle incorporates the region's environment, for example large forests in the Pacific Northwest. The Cold War introduces the ability to fire nuclear missiles in the main map and initiate espionage missions.
After reaching the Gunpowder Age, the player may choose to upgrade to either a Monarchy or a Democracy, each with its own different permanent gameplay bonus, and then after reaching the Industrial Age, the player may upgrade again, to either Socialism or Capitalism. The previous gameplay bonuses remain, allowing players to select the most appropriate combination of benefits as the game evolves.
|Americans||Continental Marine||Rifleman Marine||Infantry Marine||Assault Marine|
|Dutch||Armed Caravan, Armed Merchant||Brig, Armed Supply Wagon||Fluyt||Clipper|
|Indians||War Elephant||Mahout||Gun Mahout||Culverin Mahout|
|Iroquois||Takohs, Spearmen||Mohawk Spearmen||Heavy Mohawk Spearmen, Akweks||Elite Mohawk Spearmen||Okwari|
|Lakota||Sunka Wakan||Eagle Feather Horse||Musket Horse||Repeating Rifle Horse|
|Persians||Immortal||Anusiya, War Elephant||Athanatoi, Mahout||Arquebus Immortal, Gun Mahout||Culverin Mahout|
Big Huge Games added multiple new features to the game during its development, in an attempt to fix issues with the original version. In an interview with GameSpot, executive producer Tim Train explained the development of the expansion pack. He stated how some nations were previously either too weak or too strong, and so features were added to balance gameplay. One way they did this is armed caravans and merchants were added to the Dutch nation, in order to weaken raids initiated by other players who rush their opponent. He said Big Huge Games brought in professional players in order to get suggestions on how to improve the game.
In the expansion pack, many insignificant changes were introduced to complement the existing game structure, rather than radically alter it, and critics considered the continuing of the original game format to be good. GameSpy claimed that, even with all of Thrones and Patriots' additions, the framework of the game still feels excellent. However, IGN declared that the developers only added many features into the game "in the hopes that it would seem coherent," rather than actually giving the game a "central theme."
Both IGN and GameSpot claimed the game's government mechanics were similar to those of the game series Civilization. However, GameSpy stated the game's artificial intelligence for "managing the individual movements of units and citizens...strategically brain dead." Their review explained that the wide range of upgrades, units, and technology research in different buildings requires micromanagement and the use of hotkeys, especially during online play. The review stated that the game had biased gameplay times in single-player with different nations, such as Lakota having very limited use, and Americans having a massive amount of playtime.
GameSpot stated that the multiplayer functionality of Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots had some lag, even when on a local network. 1UP.com reported problems with stability of the games, with crashes on both the single and multiplayer modes of the games.
In awarding Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots "Best Expansion Pack" of 2004, IGN acclaimed the additions of more playable nations and new government mechanics that Rise of Nations didn't have, and new "Conquer the World" campaigns.