Imperium Romanum PC Review
Imperium Romanum, Age of Empires with a growth disorder, stuck in the late great era of Rome. As is with this type of city builder/strategy game, you start of with a structure and a set amount of supplies, and from then on it is up to you to seek out new resources, find trade routes and generally provide a safe and prosperous life style for your tiny digital society.
It’s all smooth sailing for a while; you roll through the nice tutorial, your making a city, keeping it supplied, fulfilling your citizens’ needs. But with every scenario I played, you reach a point there is no way you can actually plan and multitask well enough to keep everyone happy all the time, so your city falls into a spiral of damage control, where you flit around providing the most urgent needs for your people. You can run a pretty tight ship mind you, minimizing and streamlining where need be, forcing your city down to a minimum population to keep everyone balanced and happy… but where’s the fun in that? My only realisation that I was actually having fun with this game was three hours into my first city after realising I had started with a speck in the top left of the map, and was now dominating the whole terrain, and every natural resource it supplied. Even an outpost I had created to supply me with distant resources, was now a huge city in its own right. For a brief moment, I was Julius Caesar!… until the game decided to crash and forget all of its auto saves that it specifically went out of its way to inform me it was doing, leaving me back at building one, three hours ago.
Et Tu, Brute?
The Romans always interested me because of their sophisticated take on war, being one of the first great armies to implement ingenious strategies and formations. But the conflict system here seems completely bolted on, and one dimensional. You create a building with the desired troop type init, ranging from 3 different types, then deploy them to a position. Player influence on the fighting from then on is either giving your troops a formation, or telling them to attack the nearest enemy group. This all would be fine if fights became a matter of “I have more troops than you!”, but troop morale and attack preferences play a huge influence. The best example of this is the Cavalry troops; they’re most effective against archers, archers having a natural preference to stay at the back of the battle of course. So with no clear way to tell them to attack the archers beyond “engage closest” they run into a slaughter against troops they aren’t supposed to be fighting. If you’re expecting huge Roman armys clashing with huge opposing nations, think again. You’ll spend most of your time smashing the brains out of barbarians who are hogging your resources. When you find yourself being defeated as the well equipped and rigorously trained Roman army, by a rag tag group of people living in caves and straw huts, it leaves you with the general feeling that you are the Empire, and they’re the Rebels.
Dum Dum Dum…Dum Dah Dum…Dum Dah Dum!
By far the most interesting aspect of this game is the timeline scenario. You can visit and command all of the significant points in the rise and fall of Rome. I personally chose Pompeii (it being one of the only things I remember from high school history) and the game finally took a unique turn. Starting with just the bare essentials you have to match the conditions of Pompeii’s destruction, by the volcano ominously situated next to your town. You will have to fulfill requirements such as, population, building types, monuments. All the while being informed by the in game’s narrator of the significance of what you’re creating, and why it is historically accurate. This gave me a slight appreciation for the development team, that will have had to research that all the scenarios are applicable, as well as being appropriately fun.
Those of you who played Dark Chronicles will remember a similar game attribute, finding yourself creating a city the way it should have existed, but no longer does. If the previous paragraph appealed to you for that reason, Dark Chronicles does it better and with much more to offer elsewhere. Style wise, I even found myself looking to see what my Black and White pet was doing elsewhere on the map, only to be disappointed not to find one. You would be hard pressed to find a reason to play this game over Black and White, even if you’re a Rome fanatic, who is in it for each scenario’s history lesson.
Overall this game doesn’t have much depth. You create a bakery when your people are hungry, you create a fire station to put out fires; control is dumbed down but for that reason it’s very easy to pick up and play. But with limited offerings as a city building game, and very little to master as a strategy game, it’s highly likely that fans of similar games will find this to be too simple, too repetitive and “too Romany!!” (You can quote me on that).
…Asterix where art thou?