by Hawkes, reviewed on
The career continues
”This is what becomes of empire building.” The newest installation of a perennial favourite will certainly reveal the meaning of that quote. Sierra On-Line has teamed with Tilted Mill to create Caesar IV, the latest in a reputable line of city building games.
This review will provide two perspectives; that of one new to the game, and that of one who is a veteran of the previous versions. I’ll begin this with the former point of view, then elaborate further for those who have experienced the earlier games.
I’ll start with a brief introduction to the game itself. Caesar IV is a game in which the player begins as a novice governor, in the service of the emperor. The game opens with the player being given the order to develop a city from what begins as a bare stretch of land.
The city’s purpose is pre-determined, and part of the requirement is to succeed at this appointed task. It may be to provide timber, or manufacture weapons for the use of Rome. It may be to establish a frontier boundary or economic centre to expand Rome’s influence. Whatever the requirement, the player will need to use a wide variety of tools, assets and functions to attain the goal. Oh, but it isn’t that easy. The city must be populated by Romans, who must be lured by the prospect of employment and the availability of the great variety of products and services the denizens of Rome have come to expect from their culture. And all of this must be achieved with limited resources, and within the confines of a tightly controlled economic system which includes taxation and wage-setting, along with meeting the assorted demands made frequently by the emperor himself.
The game begins with a map from which various raw materials may be collected, or mined. From these, items may be manufactured in shops, or factories. Citizens buy these goods, or they can be sold to neighboring cities through a finely-tuned trade system. The player begins with merely a road leading to Rome. The idea is to build housing, and infra-structure to support a population. These include a combination police department/fire department, by way of prefectures, baths, markets, clinics, schools; essentially the wide variety of services one expects even in a modern urban center. All of these require employees, and these employees are the citizens the player can lure into this city using how it is laid-out, or engineered, and how enticing it might be.
Caesar IV begins with a striking graphic design with a noticeable lack of jagged-edged aliased features within the landscape itself. The smooth transition from its ever-changing skies to its pasturelands and forests are a remarkable achievement within themselves. The colors are dramatic, delightful, and satisfying to behold. The developers have artfully created a constantly changing atmosphere that ranges from bright sunny days to moonlit nights, the moon riding high in a star speckled sky and hypnotically reflecting in lakes and streams. Sudden rains pour down, sometimes for days, making an enchanting fog that is pleasing to the eye, makes developing a city rather difficult, as would rain under actual circumstances. This alone is well worth the purchase price. However, it doesn't stop there.
The map can be swung about in various “camera” views. It can be rotated in a 360-degree panorama, viewed from a horizontal “landscape” angle and from an overhead bird’s eye view. Everything, even the impressive zoom function, can be obtained by use of the player’s mouse. The renditions of the various buildings the player may place on the map are historically accurate and what is more, these buildings don’t remain static. As the city evolves and increases in value (termed “desirability”), the buildings themselves evolve and turn into ever more sophisticated versions of the same rudimentary starting structure. This is more than eye candy, it actually serves a purpose. The evolution of city structures is a significant marker in just how well the player is doing.
No Pros and Cons at this time