One of the great things about old Impressions games was semi-cartoon graphics, wich worked well with many humoruos touches. Hope the new engine would not put eye-candy before that.
We take an early look at the next city-building game from the creators of Caesar III and Zeus.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo is coming soon, and in preparation for the show, we took a look at Caesar IV for the PC. This upcoming strategy game from publisher VU Games and developer Tilted Mill Entertainment is being worked on by many of the same developers from Impressions--the studio responsible for previous Caesar games and other classic city-builders, such as Zeus. However, unlike those games, Caesar IV will attempt to expand on and improve upon those previous games with loads of new features and a brand-new 3D graphics engine.
The game will take place during the time of the dominion of the Roman Empire of Europe and North Africa. You'll actually start out as a low-ranking official in the Roman administration with designs on becoming the next emperor though smart city administration and cagey military strategy. You'll be faced with the choice to either build and manage new cities or prepare existing cities for war at different points in the game. Going the military route will generally be a tougher choice, though in each case you'll be focused primarily on building up cities rather than directing armies like a more-traditional real-time strategy game. If you decide to focus on military strategy, you'll need to fortify your city with thick walls, as well as conscript soldiers to man the walls to defend against invading armies. You'll also need to build troop barracks, as well as military structures that can train and supply an army.
However, the more-common, and likely more-popular, alternative will be city-building, which, in many cases in the campaign, will let you start from scratch from a huge piece of land with natural features that may be more or less attractive for new cities, such as patches of resources, rivers, and impassable mountains. Cities can be started quickly and easily just by building out a few roads on which citizens can walk, then placing new housing along those roads. Once you've built up a basic economy on the backs of your peasants and set them to work on producing more than just basic food needs, you'll then want to start recruiting middle-class citizens to your city to consume finer goods and to serve higher purposes, such as being a physician or a priest. Finally, once you've got a basic economy up and running, you'll want to start inviting in the nobles of the patrician class, who have many different needs that usually involve pricey luxury goods, like fine wines, but who will also fill your treasury with much larger tax payments.
Since Caesar IV is intended to be a city-management game (and not necessarily a micromanagement game), you won't need to check the status of each individual building and inhabitant to find out if everything is all right or if something needs improving. In fact, the game will have various "overlay" views that will quickly and easily color-code different areas of the city that are in need of further development, like sanitation, entertainment, or law enforcement, so that you can address them directly, rather than clicking on individual Romans to see if they're hungry, bored, or impious. You'll also be able to consult your advisers, who will provide you with broad hints on improving your estates as well. Once you've completed building your city for each scenario level, your city will be judged on various ratings for different aspects of growth, such as its income levels, the general happiness of its citizens, and so on. These ratings may come into play as level objectives, or you may be required to raise a certain amount of gold or resources--but generally speaking, the pacing of the game isn't intended to be frantic or to put a lot of pressure on players. Says Tilted Mill designer Tony Leier, "As long as you don't make enemy armies mad enough to attack you, or make Caesar himself mad enough to send his own armies after you, you'll be OK."
Caesar IV also looks very different than any previous game in the series, thanks to its all-new 3D engine, which displays highly detailed buildings with specular reflections off rounded temple domes and shimmering animated water that laps across the shores. The new 3D engine lets you zoom in on individual buildings and citizens, zoom out to survey your entire domain, and rotate and pan to quickly jump to important hot spots. The new 3D engine represents a big jump ahead for the Caesar series, which has traditionally been a 2D sprite-based game played from an isometric overhead view, and it's certainly easy on the eyes. However, Leier assured us that the game's technological bells and whistles will all be completely optional and will scale down to play on lower-end PCs just fine. Fans of city-building games have seemingly waited for ages for their next fix, and if Tilted Mill can pull all the pieces together, Caesar IV will offer the best-looking, most-comprehensive city-building experience for computers yet. The game is scheduled for release later this year.