by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Where the money comes from
If you have gotten the impression that The Rise of Caesar is stubbornly doing away with many of the RTS’ staple mechanics, then you’d be right. What makes it interesting is that the game gets away with it so brilliantly. Take gold, for instance. Without it your war machine will grind to a halt, but unlike any other game, gold is not accumulated and stockpiled. Gold is a steady stream of income and expenditures. If you recruit a new unit or build stone walls around your town, the expenditure is taken out of your income for as long as that unit exist or the wall stands. Should you run out of money and need new units you will have to take down that wall again.
It is yet another natural constraint to keep you from mindlessly expanding, and it does not stop there. Resource buildings do not yield their products just by virtue of being located within a territory you own. You will need to set up supply routes between them and towns, bridges and forts to get things going. These supply lines cost money and tend to become less efficient depending on the safety and length of the route. It is entirely possible that you are maintaining a route you no longer really need but the cost of its maintenance gets deducted from your income just the same. While income becomes more plentiful as your territory grows, maintenance to supply lines, towns and resource locations never loses importance.
Two sides of the coin
It’s not difficult to find praise for The Rise of Caesar, but there are some shadowy sides too. The AI is capable but not brilliant. I’ve not seen it really actively working against me either in defensive or offensive situations. There is a little more of it in the excellently crafted campaign than in sandbox mode, probably because scripting events for the AI is easier than creating a truly responsive AI. Diplomacy is a very simplistic affair that revolves around sending bribes to improve relationships, with the current hostility level being the only thing standing in the way of success or failure.
The graphics are capable but nothing to write home about. In the grand scheme of things, the graphical fidelity is understandable given the ability to freely zoom in or out anywhere on the map, but if you’re expecting Total War-like graphics you will be disappointed.
A few other small niggles remain. Clicking on the map to move your army to that location doesn’t always mean they will move. The map indicates ridges and forests where you cannot go, but the lines are far from obvious with regular misclicks as the result. At times, units get in the way of each other, seeming a little lost in the process. Capturing an enemy unit is a weird process that requires multiple attempts when the enemy is running, or a single one when it is standing still. Why would you capture an enemy unit? Well, captured soldiers lose their upgrades, and make excellent slaves too!
Rise of the RTS
The RTS genre has been in a lull these last few years. There’s simply not many good games coming out and calling the genre stale is an understatement of epic proportions. Even the latest Total War felt tired. It is clear that the RTS genre is suffering from a severe case of “been there, done that, got the t-shirt to prove it” and that it needs a shakeup.
Enter Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar. It throws out pretty much everything you thought you knew about Real-Time Strategy and then proceeds to - successfully - reinvent the genre altogether.
Real-time conquest on an unseen scale, great campaign mode.
The AI needs some buffs, diplomacy on the weak side.