After a long 8 year break, Sierra has brought back one of the greatest city builders around
After a long 8 year break, Sierra has brought back one of the greatest city builders around.
A critical fact about this type of builder is that all the small things have to come together, there’s no luck in just getting it right so if you want Rome then you’ll have to earn it. Caesar games have always been a source of challenge; you need to balance not only your cities treasury but every resource moving in and out of your citizens hands.
Redefine Roman opulence
Beautiful, at a distance
It’s a true test for lovers of the city building genre, if you’ve ever played other titles like Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, Pharaoh or Zeus then this is the next step. Make no mistake about it; Caesar needs a great deal of concentration from you to maintain the socio-economic harmony. This is no Roman SimCity where simple infrastructure, some plumbing and a few public services will let everything tick over. This is no discredit to SimCity, I for one love it to bits and happily await a number 5, but this is a much “heavier” simulator.
Starting off you’ll need housing; a water supply, a food supply and then shortly you’ll need to invest in some industry for trade. It may sound a simple prospect but you soon learn efficiency is everything. There’s no magic teleporting of finished goods for instance, grain is taken from the fields and to the farm, a cart then carries it on to the Granary store, another cart will then take food supplies to Food markets to be sold to your citizens. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the longer the journey for carts the longer your people may have to wait for something to eat.
This goes for every resource, in the short term it may be easy to get away with plonking down industry here and there, but as the city grows a lack of proper planning could choke development and money. Low money levels doesn’t just make yourself feel bad but the citizenry feel insecure and could very well gamble their future someplace else leaving you a Governor of thin air.
Of course it would be all too easy if that’s all you had to take into account, you need to house and pamper three different type of citizen. The plebeians are your true working class, happily enjoying the simple life with no bigger goal than seeing through to the end of the day and will take up the resource related jobs. Equites are the middle-class and aspire to higher callings in Rome; they have better tastes and will staff city services as well as enjoy collecting taxes. Patricians are the noble elite and demand the highest grandeur in luxury items, but of the three classes they don’t work. Instead they contribute lucratively through estate tax, and given enough of them they could fund the entire wages for your citizenry.
Closer inspections yield bland results
Beauty versus Efficiency
Woe is to the Governor who doesn’t invest in Prefectures and Engineer Posts, without these two buildings liberally splashed about a bristling city you might as well curse the Gods themselves. Fire and general collapse is a looming danger and entire blocks could go up in smoke or simply fall down. Adequate respect to ones superior beings is also a necessity, to bring the wrath of Jupiter to a city is not a pleasant site but gain his favour and will actually smite the criminal populace.
Models of the people and their animations are a major flaw to the game and land it a disadvantage that could put some people off. For all the power of machines now, a lot better artwork could have been achieved. Zooming out and viewing your creation from above is a wonderful sight, watching up close quickly breaks the immersion and cuts some pride in your own, and Tilted Mill’s work. Certain animations are just plain silly as carts walk through buildings, a big two thumbs down for this setback.
Also the interface for placing buildings could have been better, some placements accompanied with foliage just looks stupid. It can be difficult when you start planning diagonally as some buildings/objects don’t get along together. The tool to delete unwanted developments is criminal and should be thrown to the lions, there’s no confirmation and while an undo button is present it shouldn’t need to be used as much if they just got this right. Otherwise there is a great diverse selection of beautification for the city, which if you want the nobles to hang about will be a big factor to consider.
The Roman Empire of course was an entire network of big cities so trade is on occasion, a necessity. This isn’t some obstacle though; you can profit big golden denarii bucks from surplus supplies. Just always keep a watchful eye of your resource levels as you don’t want to be selling stuff you need to quell the mob.
There are three campaigns offered in Caesar IV, the Kingdom Campaign is for new players and is essentially a tutorial which gradually introduces more and more elements of the city to better digest. The Republic is a series of scenarios for the Governor who knows where his/her vision lies and you can choose between a more economic or military path. The same applies for the Empire Campaign but this is much harder, overall your best bet would be to choose the economic side.
Sadly one thing that has always plagued the Caesar series, and the same for Pharaoh and Zeus etc, is the lack of enjoyment or competent execution of armed conflict. It feels so out of place, which is a weird thing for a game involving the Roman Empire. There’s no real benefit from it other than trying to add a bit more authentic Roman lore to the heart of the game. Luckily these can be mostly avoided.
With all the resources being carted about the place, taxes flowing and people knifing each other in the arena you’ll be glad to know that a great advisory panel is at hand. Yes you have advisors for specific elements of the game and what’s more they actually help you, yes you read that correctly they do really offer valuable pointers. You don’t need pay them much attention, which would be a shame, a simple click on some citizenry and you’ll hear a number of voice-overs. These aren’t just to impress you; they offer their own hints as to what’s bothering or even impressing them.
Advisors with brains!
I’m glad to see Caesar IV; it shows the series is still able to show the rest of the genre a thing or two. It leaves once again a lasting impact and shows the real depths city building can go to and how strategy counts all the way. A few questionable elements hover like a dark cloud but honestly this is the best experience you’ll have to sate a city building lust, Roman or not.
Top Game Moment:
TOP GAME MOMENT
Nothing can beat the moment you first “stabilise” your greatest urban creation, sitting back and realising you’ve actually done something right!