When a game opens with a cinematic focusing on a little boy kissing and then releasing a dove to fly majestically over an idyllic countryside, you know not to expect much in the way of intense action. So you have to give Glory of the Roman Empire kudos for honesty. But you can't dish out too much praise when it comes to the game itself, as it is such a light take on the city-building genre that it practically disappears into its voluminous toga after a few hours of play. Haemimont Games takes such a casual approach to everything, from the ancient Roman setting to the quickie campaign scenarios, so that many players will find little here to latch onto and really enjoy.
Based on this idyllic screenshot, you'd never know that the citizens of Syracusae are afflicted with the Black Death.
When you get right down to it, this is really a budget-minded take on classics like Caesar III. Glory of the Roman Empire puts you in the toga and sandals of a Roman governor for hire who bops all over the empire dealing with various municipal problems. Both competitive modes of play--a campaign and a challenge option where you're given random objectives to deal with in random cities (there is also a free-building sandbox mode, but no multiplayer beyond the ability to post challenge scores online at a wall of fame)--are fast-moving. No sooner do you deal with the plague at Syracusae than your expertise is needed to battle wildfires in Florentia, or to add to the stature of Londinium, or to repel barbarians from Colonia Claudia.
Objectives in each burg are always straightforward. As with other city-building games, you're tasked with building a certain number of homes, growing town population, making sure everybody has a job, establishing trade routes, and so forth. Unlike most other city-building games, though, objectives are typically realized quite quickly. Design has been streamlined to the point where there is no micromanagement, which is good, but there are also fewer choices to be made, which is bad. There are no more than a couple of dozen structures, and scenarios typically center on just a few of these. Resources are gathered and distributed pretty much automatically. Just throw up some pig farms, clay pits, mines, and wheat fields, along with businesses like butchers and bakeries that process raw materials into usable goods like sausages and bread, and you're good to go.
In short, it's way too easy to make with the bread and circuses here. The feel of most scenarios is akin to open-ended sandbox play, where you're free to do pretty much whatever you want whenever you want to meet goals. This is largely due to the lack of a monetary economy. Gold is present in the game, but it is used almost solely for the purchase of slaves (and you do have to keep their numbers up, or their workload becomes so arduous that they pull a Spartacus and revolt). Buildings are constructed and maintained only with raw materials, which are generally found in abundance locally or via easily accessible trade routes with other towns.
Towns are also easy to plan because you don't have to worry about negative effects. Unlike a lot of other city builders, here you can place a row of houses right behind a pig farm and a butcher's shop and not have the citizens offer up a single peep of complaint. So you can essentially proceed to build towns however you like, with little regard for the barely there bottom line, and just plop down buildings wherever their circles of effect benefit the surrounding structures. The only exception is provided by a few scenarios in northern Europe, as there you need to work fast in order to build watchtowers and train soldiers in barracks before burn-and-pillage barbarians come storming over the hills.