Imperium Romanum isn't a perfect game - far from it - but to fans of the city-building PC game genre it will be a worthwhile purchase.

Rome wasn't built in a day. Imperium Romanum wasn't either, but sometimes it seems to have been.

I've been a fan of city building games on and off since I first got my hands on Caesar III. Over the past few years though I generally lapsed out of the genre until Imperium Romanum landed on my doorstep.

Few games have given me as many mixed messages as this one has, offering pleasant nostalgia, and a heap of frustration. Imperium Romanum certainly isn't a perfect game, far, far from it - but to fans of the genre it has enough going for it to make it worthwhile.

Welcome to Rome Praetor

Imperium Romanum is a rather standard city builder focusing on the Roman Empire between the Punic Wars and the reign of Marcus Aurelius (that chap you might remember from 'Gladiator').

The game doesn't differ much from the standard city builder formula. After completing two small tutorial scenarios you'll engage in a lengthy timeline campaign - generally divided between early, high and late Roman history - with further standalone scenarios in well known historical locations such as Alexandria and Hadrianopolis available for standalone play.

The main timeline campaign is fairly lengthy and gives a good amount of challenge and variety between each city mission - sometimes your goal will be to construct a mining colony, and other times it will be to create a city to rival Rome itself.

Overall the variety is quite good, although the inclusion of a harsh time-sensitive mission was certainly not appreciated. In contrast to these somewhat scripted missions, where objectives are dispensed through tablets and accompanied by a little historical knowledge are what accounts for the rest of the game's content - namely a few maps based on historic Roman cities such as Alexandria.

These scenarios lack the direction that others do, lacking overall objectives and serving as little more than sandboxes. While this is nice enough, it would have been nicer had a genuine random map generator been included.

Rome: built in a day

Getting down to the actual city building Imperium Romanum has a few advantages that make it an enjoyable experience.

In every city you begin with a basic forum, with perhaps a few houses and resource gatherers already built. In the timeline scenarios you're tasked with developing further resource buildings, monuments or things such as population goals.

Cities have several resources - about two dozen in all - but generally fitting into food, raw resources and population, which you'll use to build up your city.

Each house is home to only two citizens, one male and one female. They can take up jobs in the buildings you construct. The forum and warehouses provide your slaves which more slaves and do just about everything needed in the city.

While it's a rather simple system in theory - build houses to get your workers, build businesses and services to employ those workers, and use slaves to get everything done - it's slightly more complicated.

Houses each go through their own separate phases, running from simple shacks to full blown Roman villas. And as citizens acquire wealth to upgrade their houses, they demand new services such as baths, temples, wine and the like.

Outside of the smallest cities you'll find yourselves managing a complex city building operation, with workers engaged in farming, resource production, resource conversion, trade, entertainment and a few other jobs.

NEXT PAGE: Rome: broke > >

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Imperium Romanum isn't a perfect game - far from it - but to fans of the city-building PC game genre it will be a worthwhile purchase.

Rome: broke

So far you'd get the idea that Imperium Romanum is a basic city builder and does its job competently - and mostly it does.

Maddeningly, Imperium Romanum is also broken in several ways. For one, even with an available patch the game seems to crash for inexplicable reasons, and to do so with a frequency not usually seen.

Furthermore, like every city builder, Imperium Romanum throws a critical fail when attempting to incorporate elements of combat within its system.

Frequently missions will require you to combat Barbarian tribes. You'll construct barracks, archery ranches and stables, deliver goods to these structures and then deploy small squads of soldiers to take on nearly identical Barbarian units.

'Rock, paper, scissors' would be the best way to describe the way in which the combat system finally plays out. The side that has the most troops usually wins, regardless of the supposed advantages each unit type has.

Moreover, when Barbarians do attack they are often so small a threat as to require no actual retaliation. Burning only a few buildings at a time the financial nuisance is little noticed in many ways. Constructing walls to keep barbarians out usually costs more.

More typical city building also has problems. In contrast to other games you'll get very little feedback when it comes to what citizens want.

Constructing the various religions buildings and taverns will give you some knowledge of what is irking your citizens - they lack enough sausages at market, or such - but a more extensive overview of the issues facing your city is lacking.

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Imperium Romanum: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • 3.0GB Hard Disk Space
  • DirectX 9.0c
  • 64MB ATI Radeon 8500/Nvidia GeForce3 Video Card
  • DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card
  • 8X CD-ROM-ROM Drive
  • 1.6GHz Processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • 3.0GB Hard Disk Space
  • DirectX 9.0c
  • 64MB ATI Radeon 8500/Nvidia GeForce3 Video Card
  • DirectX 9.0c Compatible Sound Card
  • 8X CD-ROM-ROM Drive

OUR VERDICT

Imperium Romanum has some significant problems - it's a buggy mess, has horrible combat mechanics, and doesn't really get across what the problems with your city is - but in spite of these problems there is still a good amount of fun to be had.

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