by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Zoom in, Zoom out
What Julius would have given for the view I have of Gaul. Without it, he crushed whatever armies stood in front of him. With it, one can only dream what he would have been able to achieve. The location of my armies, movements from enemy brigades, settlements, rivers, fisheries and mines that I have discovered... Itís all there at the tip of my finger and I can zoom in and zoom out at will to either get a grand view of the world or a close-quarters image of soldiers clashing in battle.
Itís every commanderís dream.
Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar is not like other RTS games. Generally speaking, RTSí that sport a campaign map use it to simulate progress by painting any and all territory owned by you in a certain colour. Maybe you get to pick the location you are going to fight next (Rise of Nations) or move your armies around turn by turn (Total War), but youíre not going to actually be fighting - on - that map. In The Rise of Caesar, the map is your battlefield and unless you pause it using the spacebar, everything on it will be going its merry or destructive way as it pleases.
Armies come, conquer and leave. Supplies are being sent to forts and towns. Brigades swell with new recruits, replacing fallen comrades as fast as their home town can provide them. Itís an impressive feat if you consider that there are literally hundreds of locations on the map. The region of Brittany alone has 4 towns and 19 locations that provide resources such as gold, lumber and fish, and the mapís borders arenít confined to Gaul either. Yet despite that scale, the game engine runs smooth as a babyís behind, only showing ever so slight hiccups when you reach the point where you own more than say 80% of the map.
The scale of The Rise of Caesar is mesmerizing in a way that Total War never quite achieves, but that doesnít mean it offers quite the same depth. Towns can be upgraded but the number of building slots is so small that it is often a tough choice what to do with a town. Turning it into a melee soldiers factory virtually bars you from raising ranged units there as well, and if you want to build ships, then best forget about recruiting any other types of troops. Specialisation is the key.
Turning farmers into fighters
Other design choices impose similar limits. Towns can only support so many soldiers so once a town has fielded three, maybe four units, youíre done recruiting there. This annoyed me at first but as I got deeper into the game I appreciated this elegant and natural-feeling way of imposing a unit limit on the player.
Combat between units is a relatively simple affair. At this time there are no formations, though being familiar with Longbow gamesí track record, I believe them when they say that they will be adding this in a future update. So armies clash, maybe with a 2x charge bonus and thatís all it is. Sieging a walled town is a little more intricate. Defenders have a clear advantage, especially when equipped with bows or slings. It is tough keeping your men from fleeing the battle and bringing siege weapons is an absolute must when dealing with stone walls. Prepping a siege is perhaps even more important than giving instructions during the siege.
Unless they are captured, defeated units automatically return to their hometown to start recruiting again, neatly holding on to the valuable upgrades that they have gained through experience. This, along with unit morale and availability of food, acts as another natural restraint. As long as your men are happy and willing to fight you can go on a rampage but sooner or later you hit a point where they are simply too run down or hungry to conquer. The resulting break is a perfect excuse to tend to towns and resource locations and fortifying bridges and forts which, incidentally, can be built on a variety of strategic locations throughout the map.
Real-time conquest on an unseen scale, great campaign mode.
The AI needs some buffs, diplomacy on the weak side.