Published by Vivendi
Developed by Tilted Mill Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

I’ll never forget the day I gave the Caesar III demo a spin. I had installed the demo on my PC from a magazine demo disk but for one reason or another I didn’t get around to playing it until a week later. It was around 11pm I thought I’d have a quick look at the demo before heading off to bed. Two and a half hours later I had to pull myself away from the PC and it was hard work because the demo was so addictive. I hadn’t played the earlier Caesar titles and hadn’t really known what to expect but I thought the demo was excellent. Naturally I bought the game and to this day I still regard it as one of the finest PC games I’ve ever played. In fact it still gets played from time to time along with the other titles in the City Building Series such as Pharaoh, Zeus and Emperor (as well as their expansions of course). Caesar III then, turned me into a city building nut and I was very pleased indeed when Caesar IV was announced.

Whilst I would have settled for a graphical upgrade and the game having all the refinements that Zeus and Emperor had for Caesar IV, Tilted Mill have made the game much more advanced. Caesar IV comes with three campaigns. There’s the learning Kingdom campaign which will take you through a series of scenarios that will introduce you to the game. The Kingdom campaign is recommended even if you have played Caesar III for years because Caesar IV does a few things differently. Once you’ve learned the ropes you can take on the Republic campaign and when you really fancy a real challenge (and have completed the Republic campaign) you can try the Empire campaign. You can also play individual scenarios. The game also includes a scenario creator and allows you to create custom campaigns. Of course you’ll be able to download user made campaigns too. The game even has a couple of online modes. Neither one of these modes (called Caesar’s Challenge and The Empire) physically pits you against human opposition. Caesar’s Challenge essentially allows you to undertake the latest challenge with your score for the scenario being recorded. You’ll certainly be able to see how good a virtual city builder you are. The Empire allows you to play listed scenarios and upload them. The more cities you upload the bigger your province will become. Your province is then listed on the Caesar IV website and others will be able to view it too.

Caesar IV certainly has more depth to it than Caesar III had. Your city will need an appropriate mix of Plebeians, Equites and Patricians if it’s to function to its maximum potential. Each of these classes has their own house types, needs and desires if they are to remain in your city. What you will notice in Caesar IV is that the walkers (in Caesar III you had a walker leave a business or workplace and walk past around within a certain radius, the services they provided only reached those homes whom the walker passed by) are no longer present. Your citizens will simply go and fetch what they need if it’s within an acceptable distance. Caesar IV features an improved economy model with over 30 tradable goods, 10 industries and four different markets. Trade routes are an important part of the game and you’ll have to make the most of importi and exporting in order to make a profit and provide goods that can’t be had in your city. Some aspects of the game remain the same. You can still choose whether to take the more peaceful economic missions or whether to battle it out in more military flavoured missions. You’ll still have to satisfy requests from Caesar himself and failure to comply can result in losing his favour. Combat still isn’t up to much in all honesty but we really don’t see this as a problem as the Caesar series has always been about city building, not city destroying.

As much as I like Caesar IV, and it is the best city building game I’ve seen this year, I am a little disappointed with the game. I liked the amount of control you had over the game speed in Caesar III (and the other titles that followed). You could alter the game speed by 10% increments. You could either choose to run the game at a mind boggling 100% or slow it down to a speed to suit yourself (personally I always preferred 70%). In Caesar IV you have a choice of running at slow, normal or fast speeds. The problem here is that I find slow much too slow and normal too quick. For some reason I just can’t put my finger on the it but the game just doesn’t have the same feel as Caesar III and the other city building games such as Pharaoh, Zeus, Emperor etc., in that you never feel like your attention is being pulled from one problem to another. Maybe it’s the removal of walkers and other ‘issues’ that make Caesar IV a more sedate experience? Whatever it is it certainly makes Caesar IV feel quite different. One area that should have been more modern is the user interface as the one in Caesar IV feels old fashioned and a little awkward. Why are there no hotkeys for the overlays? There was in earlier games so it’s puzzling that there aren’t any here. Load times are also rather on the long side.

Caesar III is quite an old game now (around 7 years old in fact) so it’s no surprise that Caesar IV looks far superior. Back in 1999 3D was in its infancy and (I think) all city building games where still in 2D. Since then 3D graphics have matured quite nicely and Caesar IV, whilst not being state of the art in terms of graphics, Caesar IV certainly looks nice and as with Caesar III you’ll see workers and service providers going about their business and citizens walking around your elaborately designed city. You’ll see day and night cycles and a variety of weather effects including some impressive thunderstorms. All of this comes at a price though. The game is a real system hog and certainly made mincemeat out of our PC (which is not state of the art by any means but more than meets the recommended system requirements). The game offers several different ways of controlling the camera but in truth most of these methods feel a little too fiddly. The ‘Best Performance’ and ‘Better Performance’ camera options felt rather limited although they are more manageable and do not allow you to fully appreciate the visuals in the game. The ‘Free’ camera option is better for appreciating your city but can prove to be a real pain when trying to rotate the camera. The ‘Normal’ camera is the best option but even so it can still feel a little awkward at times.

Caesar III was absolutely fine for deaf gamers but sadly there is speech in Caesar IV that is not subtitled. If you’ve played Caesar III or any of the other Impressions’ city building games you’ll remember that you could get a citizen’s opinion of the city by right clicking on them and this opinion was not only voiced but also shown in text. These opinions can still be garnered from your citizens but in Caesar IV they aren’t subtitled making them useless for deaf gamers. When you access the advisor screen you’ll receive a comment from the advisor whose screen you’re consulting. As you select an advisor, a comment is given out giving you a rough idea of the state of things. These comments are not subtitled. Whilst the advisor comments are not that much of a problem (because the information can be found on each advisors screen) the lack of subtitles for the citizens’ comments is very disappointing and it’s something I hope is corrected with a patch. In every other sense there are no problems. Tutorial messages are shown in text. Mission briefings are shown in text and objectives are shown in text. All of this can be recalled when needed, meaning you’ll never be in a position of wandering what to do next. Other information in the game, such as the kind you’ll find in overlays etc. are either shown in text or pictorially.

In closing then there are probably a couple of questions that most fans of the series will want answered. Is the game the best Roman flavoured city building game this year? Does it manage to be a better game than Caesar III? The answer to the first of these questions has to be yes. It may have its problems but Caesar IV is a more complete experience than the other Roman city building games we’ve seen this year and we hope the problems we’ve mentioned can be sorted out. The second question is more difficult to answer. Caesar IV is a more complete game and definitely more advanced in just about every respect (except the interface). That said though I don’t find the game as enjoyable. Caesar IV isn’t the addictive experience that Caesar III was and for all its problems (such as prefectures ignoring fires etc.) I still find it more enjoyable to play. I will continue to play Caesar IV because it’s certainly worth it and I daresay newcomers to the series would definitely find Caesar IV less irritating than Caesar III could be at times.

Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Caesar IV isn’t quite the sequel I was expecting but it’s still a great game and one of the best city building games to date. You’ll need one heck of a PC to run the game with full graphical details though. Sadly it’s not fully subtitled.