Gamespot has all the info you need, including references to the 2nd edition of Big Huge Games' Demo (different links, those).
Rise of Legends succeeds for many of the same reasons I list Rise of Nations (and its expansion, Thrones & Patriots) as the greatest Real-Time Strategy game of all time.
What Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends have in common:
- Impeccable AI that doesn't cheat (on the "tough" and below settings) that gives you a right challenging game.
- Intelligent, intuitive actions as you play. You'll find yourself clicking on something because you want to do this, and the game has had enough human interface engineering put into it that it does what you expect.
- A kind of advanced Rock-Paper-Scissors balance (hint, it doesn't stop at three) among the units.
- A high level of strategy, far deeper than Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (which was a great game, but the amount of strategies at your disposal were far more limited).
- Easy to manage cities that makes base-building a dream. It doesn't leave you starving for more base-building as the original Lord of the Rings: Battle For Middle Earth did (although I enjoyed that aspect of it to an extent, Rise of X's solution is superior).
- A plethora of options to customize your experience, and XML-editable units, techs and nearly everything else but the game itself.
- The ability for more than one human player to control the same country, allowing one person to focus on the economy, and the other on the war effort, until the end game, when I typically commanded the navy or air-force while my friend Kevin steamrolled the foe.
Rise & Fall sucks ass because its AI is so bad - yours and theirs. Your ships are too stupid to maneuver around each other, and so stupid that when you do give them a clear order, like "make a beach landing," they jostle around like indecisive virgins, necessitating you to click-click-click-click on the beach to get them to finally aquiesce. On the enemy side, not only are they so stupid as to keep opening their gates while you have an army outside (thus, letting you pour into their city), but they have infinite resources and cheat liberally. Nevermind the 3rd person "Command Mode" of your heroes, nor the awesome potential of the naval battles - this game is marred by is banal AI.