SouthPeak Interactive Imperium Romanum

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SouthPeak Interactive Imperium Romanum
  • SouthPeak Interactive Imperium Romanum
  • SouthPeak Interactive Imperium Romanum
  • SouthPeak Interactive Imperium Romanum

Pros

  • Good gameplay variety

Cons

  • Harsh time-sensitive mission; the game has a prevalence to crash for inexplicable reasons and to do so with a frequency not usually seen

Bottom Line

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. The city building genre has never been a large one, and since the demise of Impressions we've had few high profile releases. Imperium Romanum may have its faults, but all said it's still an acceptable entry into the ranks of the genre.

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Rome wasn't built in a day. Imperium Romanum wasn't either, but sometimes it seems to have been. We've been a fan of city building games on and off since we first got our hands on Caesar III. Over the past few years though we generally lapsed out of the genre until Imperium Romanum landed on our doorstep.

Few games have given us as many mixed messages as this one has, at the same time giving us a load of nostalgia and a heaping 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 rather lengthy timeline campaign – generally divided between early, high, and late Roman history – with further stand-alone scenarios in well known historical locations such as Alexandria and Hadrianopolis available for stand-alone play. The main timeline campaign is fairly lengthy and gives a good amount of challenge and variety between each city mission – sometimes you're 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, though 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 games content – namely a few maps based on historic Roman cities such as Alexandria. Putting aside the fact that many of these regions were already settled these scenarios lack the direction that others do, lacking overall objectives and serving as little more than sandbox's – while this is nice enough, it would have been nicer had a genuine random map generator been included.

Rome Was Built In A Day.

Getting down to the actual city building Imperium Romanum has a few certain advantages that make it a rather enjoyable experience. In every city you begin generally with just a basic forum, with perhaps a few houses and resource gatherers already built. In the timeline scenarios you're tasked you'll be 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. In contrast to the older Impressions games each house only houses two citizens, one male and one female which can take up jobs in those buildings you construct. The forum and warehouses provide your slaves which move 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 have their own separate phases they go through, running from simple shacks to full blown Roman villas and as citizens acquire wealth to upgrade their houses they demand new services such as bathes, temples, wine, and the like. That said outside of the smallest cities you'll find yourselves managing a fairly complex city building operation, with workers engaged in farming, resource production, resource conversion, trade, entertainment, and a few other jobs.

Then Rome Broke

So far you'd get the idea that Imperium Romanum is a fairly basic city builder and does its job fairly competently – and mostly it does. Maddeningly, Imperium Romanum is also fairly broken in several ways. For one, even with the currently available patch the game has a prevalence to crash for inexplicable reasons and to do so with a frequency not usually seen. Furthermore, like every city builder that has attempted it 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 located through the map. 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 and 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.

The more typical city building also has its problems. In contrast to other games you'll get very little feedback when it comes to what various 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 rather lacking. What little is available to you will let you know that your citizens don't have enough of something and that the city may not be producing enough of anything, but the amount of information on problems runs out about there.

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

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. The city building genre has never been a large one, and since the demise of Impressions we've had few high profile releases. Imperium Romanum may have its faults, but all said it's still an acceptable entry into the ranks of the genre.

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