What's old is new again, as we check out the fourth game in this long-running city-building series.
It's been eight long years since the city-building strategy game Caesar III was released, and since then, the game's publishers have been known as Sierra, then Vivendi Universal Games, and, just recently, Sierra again. So, in the spirit of old things being new again, we come to the latest game in the heralded city-building series, Caesar IV. At a recent Sierra press event we got to play a fairly complete build of the game, which is due for release in just over a month. While a game of this magnitude obviously requires more time than we were able to give it in a short play period, we like what we have seen so far.
One of the biggest upgrades for the game has been the move from 2D to 3D. The change is dramatic; now you are able to view your city from any angle, and really gain an appreciation for the outstanding building architecture that is a highlight in the game. Even the lowly insulae--tenement housing for the lowest social class in Rome, the plebs--have a fine amount of detail. As you move up the social ladder and build residences for the equites (the middle class) or the rich patricians, you can expect to see some truly intricate building design adding to your budding city's skyline. There's more to the graphics engine than simply 3D buildings, however. The game also features day-to-night cycles, weather effects, and an excellent draw distance that lets you view far off into the horizon when zooming around your city.
This being a city-building game, the essence of Caesar IV is in the tools it gives you to create and maintain an ancient Roman city from the ground up. The game will feature a number of single-player campaign modes; we began our play period with kingdom mode, which acts as the training tool in the game. Here, you're given a small plot of land, a few roads to build around, and a general idea of your goal (which in the first mission is to simply build a base population of 500 plebs). As you progress through kingdom mode, your goals will change to encompass different aspects of your city and its population, including culture, security, prosperity, and favor. When it comes to simply building a base population, though, there are a few requirements.
The first, of course, is a place to live and water to drink. Insulae buildings handle the shelter, and a few well-placed wells will let your plebs get water. Next, it will be up to you to provide food; by placing a field and farm house in hospitable areas on the map, your plebs will get straight to work with the business of growing food for themselves. The level of independence demonstrated by the artificially intelligent citizens in the game is something the development team at Tilted Mill has been focusing on. You won't need to tell your citizens to go get water if they're thirsty, or to go seek out entertainment if they're bored--if it's around, and accessible via a major road, they'll seek it out and take care of themselves. While cutting out the micromanagement of peons is a good thing, it still makes your job as a local governor that much more important; if your citizens aren't provided with the necessities of life, it won't be long before things start going wrong.
The virtual folks living in the various social strata will have their own individual needs, and each will provide services to the community as a whole. Plebs, for example, will provide food and manual labor, and won't ask for much more than a roof over their heads in return. The middle class is the backbone of your market economy, providing goods and services as well as entertainment. Finally, the patricians, as the richest and most finely bred of your citizens, will require the best food and drink, the most access to various religions, and the highest form of culture available to them; in return, they'll act as the most powerful and affluent portion of your tax base. Keep them happy, or your city's coffers will suffer.
i'd like to get the details of comparing it to CIVCITY:Rome, which wasn't very captivating in itself. ONly played till level 4, where the rest of the game were pretty obvious to me - having alreday played the ceasar 3, pharaoh, etc, etc, games.
I enjoyed the Sim City series, but it was Ceasar that sucked me in the most. I just dig ancient Rome. I love it, and I want this game!