When you think of city building sims you really only think of Sim City at the top of the tree. Itís odd to actually play another title like City Life or any other game that happens to have city building in it. When I ended up with Imperium Romanum, I wasnít sure what to expect since I had cut my teeth on any sim-style game I could get my hands on. I followed the tutorial to the letter and soon learned that the game is pretty fun as it taught me the skills I required to create my first city, to make it grow and prosper as well as to make sure that the populace were happy and crime was at an all time low.
There are numerous game modes in the game, along with a historical timeline mode that allows you to play through various scenarios. One of my favourite so far has been managing the huge city of Rome from its early infancy into the thriving metropolis and centre of knowledge it should become. Thereís a plethora of buildings and the system to choose them is simple. I love radial menus so being able to drop a building down just with a few clicks of the mouse was a god send.
In fact before you go any further, check out the preview of the game. Itíll help explain the things that I will somewhat expand upon. Imperium Romanum Preview
Itís a veritable tight-rope of choices and decisions when playing this city builder, it only takes the wrong investment to watch your hard won fiscal prosperity to take a tumble and the citizens to turn into an angry fire-wielding screaming mob that need to be taken in hand and pacified (beaten to within an inch of their miserable lives!) by your sublime rule. Itís a nice relaxed game at times but there are moments when you might be pulling out your hair and screaming blue murder at the PC when things go terribly pear-shaped.
What may put people off the game is the lack of direction. Itís an arm-chair generalís kind of game where you can sit back and relax, perfect if you want to cultivate the Roman city of your dreams. If you want a gripping story of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire however, youíre out of luck since the game doesnít ship with any kind of campaign. What it does give you however is hours of fun if youíre into building cities like I am. You can fine tune your neighbourhoods with just the right placement of buildings and help to upgrade your town hall into something worthy of Ancient Rome.
The more you upgrade, the more you have access to the right kind of technology and the better buildings you can put down. In that way it parallels the seminal Sim City. It doesnít quite get there though; it falls at the wayside when it becomes more tedium than anything else to slog through yet another objective to find that something else has gone wrong. Donít get me wrong, I like the game. I would have liked to see more to bring the player into the actual game itself. The tutorial is fantastic really and it has more than enough in the way of gameplay to keep you going city wise.
Itís when the barbarian invasion begins that I start to get annoyed as the rts side of the game hasnít really been developed beyond a few options. Thereís something missing. Perhaps I was expecting to command mighty legions, to be able to have the kind of finite control I have in other games where I can choose various options, many kinds of formations, aggressiveness and build up a suitable army of diverse units. Here Iím relegated to picking a couple of things, clicking on a point on the map and sending my pitiful forces off to battle the raging barbarian hordes in mediocre combat.
Itís such a let down compared to the city building/management side of the game that I wish there was an option to turn the combat off completely or totally ignore it.