by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Experiment, or re-invent?
City builders are a dime a dozen and only a handful manage to stand out from the crowd. Most games in the genre go for the tried and true gameplay mechanics and try to distinguish themselves by choosing a different setting or a different graphical styling. You can't really fault developers for choosing this relatively safe road. It is a gamble to try something new. Last year, Electronic Arts tried a different take on one of the oldest gaming franchises around. They were keen to stress that Sim City Societies was not Sim City 5 and that they were experimenting with a totally new formula. It didn't work. Review tracking site GameRankings shows an average score that is just over 6 out of 10. One could easily argue that the experiment failed. Having played and reviewed Societies, I would say that a large part of the reason for the low review scores of the game is due to players trying to find the original Sim City in the new game. Needless to say that it wasn't there.
Taking the safe road and electing to update a previously successful game is far less scary and that is understandable. The popular belief is that employing a new engine, molding the gameplay mechanics somewhat and tweaking the AI goes a long way. Truth to tell, if the original game was particularly strong, gamers will often settle for ‘more of the same’ in a sequel. Haemimont Games must have felt that they had such a game. Today we review Imperium Romanum and despite its difference in name, it is intimately related to a two-and-a-half-year-old game by the same company, called Glory of the Roman Empire.
Getting up to speed
Starting a new game in Imperium Romanum is done by choosing a scenario. I am certain that this will sound familiar, but Haemimont has provided us with a slight twist in addition to the usual selection list. Opting to play a History game shows you an overview of towns and cities from the Roman Empire. Each of these represents a scenario set in a particular time but not every map can be played right away. Finishing a scenario will unlock others, thus guiding the player through the history of the Empire in a campaign kind of way.
Once the scenario has loaded, you will find yourself blessed with a town center, some basic goods, cash and a lot of eager Romans ready to settle in your new town. Your task, of course, is to provide them with the basic goods to satisfy their needs so that the town can prosper. Once you have the basic needs under control, you can grow the town into a thriving city by providing more than just food and shelter. Your city will need luxury goods, healers, firemen and military to survive. A clever layout of streets, houses and other buildings is of the utmost importance. Nothing new here though.
One of the precious few new gameplay elements is the introduction of stone tablets. Tablets are used to give the player missions and, sometimes, rewards. Early on in the scenario the tablets will help you achieve the goals required to successfully finish the scenario. Completing goals can yield rewards such as additional resources and special buildings that can help increase your cities' stature.
Another new feature is the addition of crime. Jobless families may turn to crime after a while, increasing the need to keep a healthy balance between workforce and job availability. Praetorians will keep an eye out for thieves. And that is the extent of this new feature - there is nothing more to it. Wealthy citizens, on the other hand, can be useful. When your coffers are empty you can mark them as an enemy of Rome after which you can evict them and repossess their wealth. Useful, but hardly worth mentioning. The reason why I mention these minor updates is because – sadly - there is absolutely no big change or improvement over Glory of the Roman Empire.
No Pros and Cons at this time