Imperium Romanum Preview
|Release Date:||February 22nd, 2008 (UK)|
|Writer:||Craig Dudley (Mani)|
Fans of city building titles may well remember Glory of the Roman Empire from summer 2006, I do as I quite enjoyed its mix of involved strategy and ancient history. Anyone wondering what the hell Haemimont Games have been doing since then need wonder no more, coming to a store near you towards the end of this month is Imperium Romanum which is essentially Glory of the Roman Empire II.
The same mix if challenging city planning, management and the odd bit of historical fact remains, in fact it's quite hard at times to tell what's changed. Granted the engine has been modernised but that hasn't led to a huge increase in visual quality, evolution rather than revolution for sure.
The improved military options are still by many measures limited, and are still a little underutilized for me. You can now move squads of military units independently of each other and each type of squad does have its strengths and weaknesses against enemy units in a very traditional rock, paper scissor style. For example you really want to get your arches attacking axe wielding barbarians and not Cavalry (Equites). It can be quite tricky to accomplish this though and military encounters don't tend to escalate over the size of three to four squads, this isn't Rome: Total War so don;t expect epic battles. When it comes right down to it what we have is a very good city building strategy title with a few military aspects bolted on. In this case it's certainly not a terrible thing.
For those that didn't play Glory of the Roman Empire it had the best building interface I've used in this type of strategy title, a series of inter connecting rings which appear on right click and shows types of building to begin with and then the actual buildings inside those options. Fortunately Imperium Romanum has retained that interface intact. How does the saying go; if it ain't broke, don't fix it? Selecting and placing buildings is extremely easy, just how it should be.
As far as actually building your city goes, we need construction materials, slaves, workers, food, trade, temples and latterly leisure facilities to keep our city thriving. Buildings ranging from wooden huts all the way up to the Coliseum or Circus Maximus are possible and each will influence each other. Lower class citizens will only really need bread and temples to be nearby, whilst the upper class will require wine, public baths and theatres. Your houses and citizens will gain stature as they gain wealth and better facilities become available and their needs will change. It all becomes delicate but fun balancing act as you can imagine.
Gameplay has also remained pretty much the same with the addition of some small tweaks such as currency and crime; poor families may well become criminals which seem to tie up your Praetorians in Benny Hill style chases around your city when they should be doing things like putting out fires and quelling riots. Rich families can also be a source of money if you're a bit short, declaring them enemies of Rome and appropriating their funds definitely appeals to my evil side.
It look like the final version of the game will also feature online scenario high score tables which will most likely please some, I'm not sure it will work so well though given that you can play titles like this at your own pace but they certainly won't harm anything.
Imperium Romanum is an all honesty evolutionary sequel that doesn't even try to break new ground in the strategy genre. It simply tries to be a very good game and seems to succeed with ease; it's a very worthy city building title that's well worth a few pounds of anyone's money when it ships later this month. Indeed, the demo is available this very day and I can recommend strategy fans give it a whirl.