Imperium Romanum Review
|Release Date:||February 22nd, 2007 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Craig Dudley (Mani)|
Glory of the Roman Empire from Haemimont Games shipped in summer 2006 and was without doubt a challenging city building title that any strategy nut would enjoy. However it did perhaps lack a bit of real depth and its military options were limited at best. Fast forward eighteen months or so and Haemimont are back with Imperium Romanum which is essentially a sequel. Some sequels attempt to change the formula in order to bring in news fans and some prefer to improve the previous game incrementally; Imperium Romanum definitely falls into the latter category.
Graphically the two games are really not worlds apart, the engine has certainly been improved this time though and buildings tend to look that little bit more realistic but they are pretty much the same buildings in most cases, textures do seem to have been upgraded however. An evolutionary step would be a fair assessment when comparing the two visually. As you might expect the engine can handle zooming in and out and spinning a full 360 degrees with ease and would seem to run quite a bit faster than Glory of the Roman Empire. It is however quite hard to confirm that as it's been a while and I'm not using entirely the same machine. No performance issues have been experienced though until extreme levels of anti-aliasing were used.
Perhaps the best thing the Imperium Romanum shares with the older brother is the interface which is without doubt as good as any I've ever used in a strategy title, it's simple to use and you'll be plonking down buildings with consummate ease after getting yourself up a very shallow and short learning curve. In short, a single right click will bring the buildings interface which is a central circle with a number of circles containing building type icons around its circumference, clicking one of the outer circles will re-populate the central circle with that icon and the outer circles with the individual building in that class. A single further click attaches a shadow of that building to your mouse cursor and you can begin finding a suitable construction site for your building, spinning the mouse wheel at the point rotates the building. It's as simple as that; there aren't any extensive docked menus to hunt through either just a few icons at the top left of the screen to activate the main menu and the check your settlements current stats and reports.
Statistics reporting of your goods is separated into three basic groups; construction materials, food and raw materials. The reports themselves are again not over complicated and show your recent consumption/usage and production together with a pictorial representation of you current supply situation, keep everything in the green and your inhabitants won't start complaining or rioting.
Initially your citizens will require basic good such as bread or fish along with similarly basic entertainment facilities such as altars, this will change as your town grows and its stature increases. The richest of your Roman inhabitants will require wine to go with their food and such utilities as public baths and theatres. They're a needy bunch for sure and should you not keep them supplied they will perhaps riot, of course whilst they are involved in such disorder they're not doing any work and will most likely also set fire to a building or two. Praetorians can however put down such unrest as well as putting out fires when needed.
Buildings in Imperium Romanum all have an area of influence in some way, for example a marketplace's area is the inside which your settlers will walk to visit it and purchase their goods and a house's area of influence dictates how far its owners will travel for work. You get the idea, what you're aiming for is a bustling town in which all inhabitants have a job and have access to the goods and services they require. Not quite as easy as it sounds but don't be afraid to demolish and re-plan areas of your city if things aren't going well.
What's new this time round is a currency system which now extends into each family. Poor families who are perhaps unemployed have the potential to become criminal; it isn't a good idea to let this happen as these miscreants also have a fire-starting tendency. Praetorians will spend time chasing the criminals too, which can lead to comical Benny Hill style chases at times; it's not a good use of them though and cuts your crowd control and anti-fire capacity down. At the other end of the scale the rich can be declared and enemy of Rome and have all their wealth confiscated if you see fit, the evil amongst us will quite enjoy that when extra funds are required quickly. You can now also tax your population each time the forum get's an upgrade.
Of course making sure that your charges are all employed is a little less than simple, each house you build will when full be occupied by one woman and one man of working age, plus perhaps a old person and a child. The complication here comes from the fact that some jobs can only be done by women, and some only by men. For example only women can be tailors and men can be bakers, both sexes can take jobs in some particular trades though.
As with Glory of the Roman Empire, all goods transport is done by slaves and make sure you always have enough of them. Should you not have enough they too might riot and as you might have guessed, they are also pyromaniac s when unhappy. Having a slave schedule that's too busy will also seriously reduce the speed that goods get moved around your town too, and that's not a good thing.
Your military also now plays a bigger part in the game, individual squads of up to 36 archers, swordsmen or cavalry can be deployed across the map to meet the Barbarian threat. There's no foreign powers to tackle as such, just various villages full of Viking like warriors who'll gladly cause havoc in your streets if you let them. These guys too have a few unit types but no cavalry. As is common the game follow a rock, paper, scissor formula for which units are best to use and following the basic rules does have a big effect. Units can also now be moved around which does give you some scope for tactics but again the main focus of this game is city planning, this isn't Rome: Total War and you won't need that many units at once to accomplish any military task.
What surprised me is that this time we don't get a campaign as such, the main section of the game takes place in a historical timeline, a mix of scenarios in which certain good might not be available and Barbarians might be more aggressive or indeed be missing altogether are included, along with the occasional timed mission in which tasks will have to be completed against the clock.
There is of course no multiplayer here, in its current form that simply would not work but I certainly believe there's potential for a good multiplayer game here somewhere. More changes and perhaps bigger maps might well be needed before that could become a reality.
Imperium Romanum is a very solid city building strategy title that's very similar to its predecessor; it does however improve on it in just enough ways to be worthwhile. The lack of a campaign mode with any sort of story does trouble me slightly but I'm not really sure why, there are plenty of missions to try after all, and does this type of strategy title really need a story? However, I've very much enjoyed ploughing through the game and I'm sure any city building game fan will too. It does need to be said that if you've played Glory of the Roman Empire, Imperium Romanum is not very original and you need to knock half a point off the below review score, but if you haven't then I thoroughly recommend you at least try the demo.
- A fun strategy challenge
- Graphically quite good
- Improved military abilities
- Lots of historical facts
Not so good stuff
- Very similar to it's predecessor
- A little bit easy at times
- No multiplayer
- No campaign mode as such
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