Glory of the Roman Empire PC DVD-ROM

Published by CDV
Developed by Haemimont Games
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Glory of the Roman Empire, an introduction.

Ancient History city building games have been in short supply in recent times. In fact there’s only been Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile released in the last few years. This barren spell is about to end though and over the coming months we’ll see no less than three Roman flavoured city building games. The first one to appear will be Glory of the Roman Empire from Haemimont Games.  Glory of the Roman Empire is a city building game that in some ways is reminiscent of Caesar III (a true city building classic) but in other ways is a very unique experience that should definitely please fans of the genre.

What’s the game about?

Glory of the Roman Empire is a single-player only city building game that puts you in the shoes of a Roman city planner, governor and (on the odd occasion) military leader. The game offers a Campaign, a Challenge Mode and a Free Building Mode. The campaign sees you visiting various locations within the Roman Empire and for the most part it’s your job to sort out poorly organised towns and cities. There are over 30 missions in all with 11 town/cities to visit. Challenge Mode is a real test of your skills as you’ll be given four missions (each with their own goals, restrictions and a choice of bonuses). You are given a rating for these missions that will enable you to see how effective you are at being a governor. Finally there’s the Free Building Mode. There’s a choice of seven maps for you to do as you please. Each of the maps has its own difficulty rating.  Playing on the Rome map for instance means that you must trade for everything you need. Some maps may be subjected to Barbarian raids whilst others not only have to contend with raids but plagues also.

What’s good about the game?

From a distance it’s easy to dismiss Glory of the Roman Empire as a Caesar III clone. In truth this really isn’t the case. Sure some aspects are very similar but there are some rather large differences. For starters Caesar III was a game where a variety of things always required your attention. In fact Caesar III always felt like a juggling act. Caesar III was hectic and extremely fun but Glory of the Roman Empire never feels like its rushing you and the game has a sedate feeling to it, which is very  unusual for a city building game. Part of the reason for this is that in Glory of the Roman Empire there’s no bank balance to maintain. Buildings simply cost resources and trading involves bartering a certain number of one group of resources for another. It’s seems a little strange at first but it’s a method that works well. You won’t see any service providers walking the streets either. Every building in the game has an operating radius, even the houses. As long as the citizens have what they need within the radius of their home there’ll be no complaints. On the subject of citizens you’ll see them go about their business and even complain outside of the Town Hall if things are not running smoothly. Provide your citizens with everything they need and their homes will be upgraded. The houses begin as Magalias  and can be developed through providing the required services,  to Casas, Domuses and Villas. Unlike in Caesar III though, the houses won’t revert back to their previous state if resources suddenly dry up. Instead you’ll have angry citizens attempting to cause riots.

Buildings in Glory of the Roman Empire need a resource to maintain them. Buildings that aren’t being maintained are also more likely to catch fire and suffer damage. Looking at the various  housing types for instance, Magalias need timber, Casas need stone, Domuses require clay and Villas need marble. As the prestige of your city increases then you’ll need more expensive resources to maintain the houses which adds to the challenge somewhat. Having to look after your slaves also adds to the game. For 20 gold (the resource and not currency because, as we’ve already said, there’s no money as such in the game) you can purchase 10 slaves who’ll reside in your town hall. Slaves erect buildings and fetch and carry everything and are vital to the running of your city. You can’t overwork your slaves though otherwise they will revolt, which is the last thing you want as it prevents your city from operating smoothly. It’s always best to have the right amount of slaves at your disposal and to build slave shelters next to any warehouses that you build so they never have to travel far and won’t be overworked.

Whilst most of the game is focused on the peaceful running of your city and providing all the goods and services your citizens need, there are times when you’ll need to defend yourself. You can build watchtowers and forts to warn and deal with any invasion attempts. Those expecting anything more than simplistic military options will be disappointed. In fact the combat is barely any better than what you will have seen in games such as Caesar III .  That said though you do have the option to enslave or destroy your enemies .  Enslaving your enemies is a great way of getting additional slaves, especially as you don’t have to pay out any gold for your slaves using this method.

What’s not so good about the game?

Glory of the Roman Empire is an impressive city building game but there are some aspects of the game that could have been done better.  My biggest complaint is the lack of a map/scenario editor which is something I always like to see in games of this nature.  The early campaign missions are actually far too easy. It’s only when you’ve played a dozen or so missions that the game begins to offer anything like a challenge. The positive side of this is that those who have never played a city building game before will have a very gentle learning curve and will be completely relaxed with the game.

The interface could have been better. You’ll have to click on your town hall (or use the hotkey to jump to the town hall) to check on your slaves or to see how many unemployed people you have. Compared to the excellent interface that was present in the Zeus and Emperor games where you could access any information you wanted from the information bar that appeared on the right hand side of the screen, here you have to click on building to obtain certain information. This is pretty irritating when you’re dealing with a large city. Whilst you can set build priority orders (when building a few structures at once) you can’t set any employment priority orders. If you wanted people to fill all of the vacancies on your farms before working in the mines you can’t and again this is disappointing. If you want to place a lot of buildings quickly (say you wanted to put five houses down), you’ll have to access the build menu for every single house. Fortunately the game does allow the use of hotkeys, so you could simply press ‘H’ to place a house, press ‘H’ again to place another house and so forth, which is actually a better way of doing it although it does require the gamer to commit the hotkeys to memory.

Trading is an essential part of Glory of the Roman Empire. There are maps you’ll play on where most of the resources have to be traded for. Naturally to trade you’ll need a trading post . Strangely enough though you’ll need a single trading post for every trade route which is annoying. Surely trading posts could have handled more than one trade route? This means that you’ll have to not only have multiple trading posts but you’ll also need extra citizens to work in the extra trading posts. It’s not a major problem but it’s a strange way of doing things.

How does it look?

Most ancient history city building games have been in 2D. The Caesar series, Pharaoh , Emperor and Zeus were all in 2D. Children of the Nile was the first to be in full 3D and it looked good. Glory of the Roman Empire though is by far the most impressive 3D city building title we’ve seen to date. The screenshots don’t do it justice in all honesty.  You’ll see the trees swing in the breeze, the water effects are impressive and the buildings all look good too. The game has day and night cycles (you’ll see lights appear in the windows of certain buildings at night) and weather effects too.  The animations are quite impressive and you’ll see different types of workers all going about their business in a fairly detailed way.  The camera angle can be rotated and you can zoom in fairly close if you feel the need to. In short the game looks great and the other city building games  that are to be released this year will certainly have their work cut out if they are to surpass what Glory of the Roman Empire has to offer.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Glory of the Roman Empire can be considered to be deaf gamer friendly. The campaign scenario instructions are all in text. Objectives can be recalled at any time. All tutorial messages are in text. Any warnings or notifications appear in the top left corner of the screen as an icon so you’ll be fully aware of anything that needs your attention. In fact the only sound in the game that doesn’t have some kind of visual indication is the sound effect that is played when a structure has been completed.  It’s safe to say then that deaf gamers will have no problems. We can’t comment on the quality of the game manual as our review copy didn’t come with one. However, the game does have a built in help system that you can access with the F1 key, which adequately answered any questions we had about the game.

Final thoughts.

Roman flavoured city building games are going to be in plentiful supply this summer. Glory of the Roman Empire may have been the first to arrive but with CivCity: Rome and Caesar IV both on the horizon, it’s going to have a fight on its hands to win the attention of city building game enthusiasts. As we’ve already mentioned the game does have a fair amount of similarities with other city building games but the game also does a sufficient amount of things differently to make it interesting and worth purchasing. 

Overall Game Rating: 8.2/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Glory of the Roman Empire may not have the pedigree of the other ancient history city building games that will arrive over the next few months or so but it’s an impressive game in many ways with enough originality to make it appealing to those who have already played the best the genre has to offer.