There isn't anything particularly wrong with any of this, of course. During stable moments, the game plays quite smoothly, with a reasonable level of challenge and an easy-to-use interface that places all of the controls at your fingertips. The only real hitch is the absence of a proper time-compression option, as the game runs on only two speeds--"really slow" and plain old regular "slow." But it all feels so dreary and uninspired. Too much here is patterned after the city-building template first laid out in games like Caesar over a decade ago. Scenario objectives sure don't break any new ground, so don't expect any big thrills here unless you're still having a blast building a town up to 60 citizens, or reaching a certain number of villas, or constructing a monument like a triumphal arch. The only mildly intriguing modern touch is automatic tracking of high scores over the Net, which gives you a target to shoot for each and every time you load up a scenario. Of course, this is still a pretty poor excuse for going head-to-head with another wannabe city planner in a real multiplayer mode.
Raising armies and sending them into combat is a brainless exercise.
Even if you appreciate this sort of mundane city building, many aspects of the design seem broken. It's sometimes impossible to satisfy citizens' demands for basic amenities like water and sausages. Residents often won't stop whining even when you drop wells and butcher shops right on their doorsteps. Many times you have to micromanage your plebs by manually clicking on them and ordering them to satisfy their needs by buying sausage or whatever it is that they're griping about. Riots will sometimes start up when you've got just a couple of angry citizens in your whole town. Fires will sometimes begin for no reason, even if you've got the town fully covered by prefectures, apparently just to set you back and drag out scenario length. Needless to say, this isn't a great deal of fun. Having half-wits torching villas when they can't find the butcher shop across the street is a real pain, as is enduring the random, fiery wrath of Vulcan on your farms. Employment is another problem. Jobs are slotted for men and women, with men getting the grunt farm work and women taking care of taverns. This is fine and dandy when it comes to providing a realistic look at the sexist times way back when, but it's a pain when most of the jobs are reserved for men. Unless you have the room and denarii to build a pile of woman-hiring taverns, your unemployment rate is guaranteed to be eternally high due to all the women who can't find jobs.
Army management is such a total waste of time that it shouldn't have been included in the game at all. Buildings such as barracks and stables create and maintain only a single complement of troops. If you want more than one company of soldiers, you have to build multiple buildings, which is well-nigh impossible in many scenarios due to lack of space and money. This makes combat excruciatingly drawn out. If your single company of, say, hastati is beaten to a hasty retreat by a pack of marauding barbarians (all your enemies are marauding barbarians, by the way), you have to wait for your boys to retreat to their barracks and then slowly rebuild their numbers. Lose a couple of scraps and you spend more time waiting for troop strength to get back up to snuff than you do actually playing general. Not that you can do much ordering around even if you get onto a Trajanlike roll. Aside from basic moving and a couple of formations, the only battle commands are attack, retreat, and stop. So all you can really do is point your troops at the nearest enemy town and hope they wind up burning it to the ground.
Buggy, boring, and pointless, Imperium Romanum is about as hard on gamers as Nero was on Christians. It may get some of the basics right, but the many technical flaws and the simplistic regurgitation of game mechanics almost as old as Hadrian's Wall leave very little here to be enjoyed, no matter how much you like playing Caesar.
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