by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
When Roman numerals get all tangled up
In the world of computer games, any game title with a Roman numeral after it usually means one thing in particular: "New & Improved". This is as it should be. If a game with a Roman numeral at the end of the title is not new and improved, it is quite unlikely that you will ever see that title again sporting an even higher Roman numeral at the end.
Unfortunately for the consumer public, some games confuse the whole Roman numeral aspect by simply re-titling what should be an obvious sequel. Such is the case with Grand Ages: Rome. For one, the upcoming game was, until recently, called Imperium Romanum II. For the other, the game should rightfully be entitled Glory of the Roman Empire III. It isn't because of the fact that though the developer, Haenimont Games, has remained the same all along, but rather it is because the publisher for the initial game was CDV when it released in June of 2006. Thereafter, when the next edition rolled out in March of 2008, the publishers were Kalypso Media and Southpeak Interactive, and that required a name change. Thus was born Imperium Romanum - which for all practical purposes should have been Glory of the Roman Empire II. And now the third game in what should be a series, will be called Grand Ages: Rome.
Now, to make things more complicated, there is the aspect that the genre and presentation of this series parallels the Caesar series of Roman city-building games. The first Caesar game appeared in 1992 from Impressions Games and publisher Sierra Entertainment. To be quite frank, it was simply a clone of Maxis' Sim City, but with an ancient Rome setting. The game proved popular enough that the new-and-improved Caesar II appeared in 1995. That one in turn was popular enough to warrant the next incarnation, Caesar III, in September of 1998 - a full decade before Imperium Romanum. That last fact is well worth noting because, aside from the sharper graphics that a decade can generate, Caesar III was arguably the better game. That consideration is particularly noteworthy because Caesar IV appeared in September of 2006 when Sierra Entertainment, seeing the (nominal) success of Imperium Romanum, decided to have Tilted Mill Entertainment (comprised mostly of Impression Games refugees) to give the franchise another go.
So, what we have is that Grand Ages: Rome is actually Imperium Romanum II or even Glory of the Roman Empire III, and that Imperium Romanum was probably not as good as Caesar III OR IV. And I should also point out one other major similarity between C4 and IR: they both had some serious problems with game crashes.
Just an expansion pack?
Of course, once again, the graphics will undoubtedly be sharper. But when you stop to think about it, the game IS all about building a Roman city from scratch. I mean, the buildings are still the same buildings that all of the games in both series used as building blocks in the ancient Roman Lego erector set. Each version uses more detailed images of the buildings in question than the previous game. But what the two series also have in common is that each incarnation twiddles with the combat system - because it seems that every one of these games have something about the combat system that just doesn't feel "right".