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Posted on Dec 14, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Glory of the Roman Empire – Game Review (PC)

By Robert Mackey

Passed Inspection: Generally fun, playable and very stable. Colorful graphics, a workable economy and is easy to play.

Failed Basic: Unoriginal concept. Adds nothing to the overall multitude of Roman Empire city builders that has not been seen.

Gather ’round kids, let old Uncle Bob talk about the ancient days of PC gaming, when there was this new, inventive and original game called SimCity. It allowed a gamer to run a city, from sanitation to traffic control. It was fun, it was exciting, it was new. And then came a variation of that genre, the ancient city simulator was born, and gamers said "Cool…" As most gaming sub-genres, the Roman Empire took the fore and the Caesar series dominated the market. Again, it was fun, it was original, it was exciting. Then, in the hallowed tradition of computer games, other developers ran the idea into the ground. They not only beat a dead horse, they found the horse’s great-grandma and beat it too.

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Enter the CDV and Haemimont Games entry into the overstocked field of Roman Empire city simulators, Glory of the Roman Empire (GRE). GRE isn’t a bad game-it has many great facets and the graphics are excellent-it is just another in a series of ancient city building games that fall into the same old mantra of "build house, build market, build business, rinse and repeat until victory."

The gameplay of GRE is fairly simple. A very useful tutorial leads a new player through the major factors of the game, providing both a good overview and the ability to try different strategies early on. Sadly, the strategies all consist of the same thing-what can be traded via trade routes, to gain money and buy slaves, which will in turn help me build up my city and finish the scenario? Early on, a gamer will find himself waiting for long periods of time while slaves bring finished products, such basic items as wheat or finished products like cloth, from the producers to the warehouse and then to the trading post. Then the item is sold to another city for cash, which allows for more slaves, which means…

The game itself has the expected spread of buildings that can be constructed-Basic houses, warehouses and wells; Food producing farms, bakeries, etc.; Production including woodcutter’s lodges, mines; Public like altars and marketplaces; Finally, support structures like police stations that double as fire stations. Three basic categories of materials exist as well for trade and use in production: food, construction materials-timber, stone, clay, marble-and general goods-linen, cloth, oil. The economy functions relatively well; the only real weak point is the ability to move and trade items quickly and efficiently.

And that leads to slavery. The game is based on the ability of a city to ‘own’ enough slaves to do all the manual labor. This game is clearly placed in the Imperial era of the Roman culture, and slaves provide the grease for the big Roman machine. They carry things, build things and make it all run. If you work them too hard or give them too many tasks-i.e., build too many buildings too fast-they will become surly and possibly revolt. It is always a good idea to build warehouses and prefectures close to one another in case this sort of thing plagues your city.

The game’s campaign is fairly straightforward. As a new city manager players go from city to city like a one man fire brigade, fixing what is wrong for the Emperor and then going on to the next. The missions vary from building specific ‘reward’ monuments to fighting local barbarians or developing a city to a certain size. This gives the game a certain amount of replayability.

The big question is whether a gamer would like to replay this game or not.

The sheer repetitiveness of the game was a barrier to completing a full campaign. I was looking forward to building legions and stomping those Gallic heathens. That doesn’t happen in the game. The result is this feeling of a series of scenarios only roughly tied together in a campaign, without any sort of geopolitical or military effect outside your single town. What happens if Rome is sacked and the center of the Empire destroyed? Well, nothing, because that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the game.

The 3D graphics of GRE are by far the games strongest point. A player can zoom into very close resolution, shift angles or zoom out with ease-very intuitive use of the mouse will ensure a player will quickly grasp the camera manipulation aspects of the game. Of any weakness the graphics have, it is with the graphics/information interface. Some buildings look very much alike at higher zoom levels, and the only way to get information is to click on the building. While the information is plentiful and easily understood, it would have been nice to have a simple "help balloon" with basic information available when the mouse is moved over a building or person.

The sounds in the game are excellent and do not detract from the experience. However, a decent soundtrack would have been a nice addition that would have added to the immersion into the game.

A manual! Dear sweet mama, the game actually has a printed–on glossy paper even–manual that has useful instructions! A rarity in today’s games, the manual is actually informative, attractive and useful.

GRE does what it is designed to do, and does it well. It is easily playable and for someone who is very interested in the era but spends little time actually studying the Roman Empire, the game would be a fun distraction. For serious gamers or scholars of the Roman Empire, they would be better served by waiting until the promised future version of Caesar is released.

Armchair General Rating: 80%

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