Cleopatra Review

Cleopatra adds more of just about everything, and makes Impressions' Pharaoh a more complex and interesting game, without disrupting the fine balance of the original.

Most expansion packs simply add a few new items and missions and assume that fans of the original game will be content to just play more of the same. With Cleopatra, developer BreakAway Games hasn't taken such an easy route. Cleopatra adds more of just about everything, from imports to monuments, and makes Impressions' Pharaoh a more complex and interesting game, without disrupting the fine balance of the original. The minor problems in Pharaoh haven't been addressed, and one new problem has been added, but it's safe to say that anyone who loved or even liked the original will be entirely content with this weighty addition.

As in Pharaoh, Cleopatra's missions are basically variations on a single theme. You must build the infrastructure of a city by ensuring that your residents have food, water, and the luxuries they want. You must provide the food by fishing, hunting, and farming, and then distribute the food to your residents through markets. You must build workshops to make pottery, linen, papyrus, beer, and other important goods, as well as find and supply the needed raw materials. When certain raw materials - goods or foodstuffs - are not available, you must import them from other cities. And you must create goods for export in order to maintain a positive cash flow, especially when your import costs are high.

You win a mission by achieving set ratings in certain categories, such as prosperity - the quality of life in your city and your overall wealth; kingdom - how well your city is regarded by others; culture - the amount of civilized niceties available to your people; and also by successfully constructing monuments.

Cleopatra makes the whole process a bit more complex by adding two new industries, lamp making and paint making. Lamps are made from pottery and oil, of which the latter can only be imported, while paint making requires henna, which can be farmed. The new industries are essential to the construction of some of the new monuments, the best of which are the tombs. To build royal tombs, you need paint to decorate the walls, and lamps to light the caves where the artisans work. You also need to stock these tombs with luxury items, which makes monument building even more involving.

The campaigns in Cleopatra follow the basic formula of Pharaoh, but add a few interesting twists and challenges. The first campaign requires that you build the Valley of the Kings by constructing the royal tombs in the cliffs and, as the campaign goes on, that you keep them safe from grave robbers. Cleopatra starts off at approximately the same difficulty at which Pharaoh left off, and quickly gets much harder. Some missions now have time limits, which can make them much more difficult for players who're used to slowly building an infrastructure before tackling the larger mission objectives. While such constraints certainly can be frustrating, they help to break up the occasional monotony that occurs once you've found a city-building pattern that works.

The second new campaign in Cleopatra deals with the arrival of new enemies, while the third deals with the reign of Ramses II, and the fourth with that of Cleopatra herself. The first campaign basically acts as a primer to the new elements, while the others require that you use everything at your disposal to stop the near-constant invasion of enemies. The military element of Cleopatra is tougher than in the original, and you'll even have to complete some missions that simply require you to survive an onslaught for a given time.

Most of the new challenges in Cleopatra are welcome and serve not only to extend the game, but also to enhance it. Among these challenges are the plagues - problems of epic proportions - that occur when the gods are displeased with you. Rivers of blood, swarms of locusts and frogs, and hailstorms all add to your need to keep any and all of your patron deities as pleased as possible at all times.

Cleopatra does include a few unwelcome additions, like creatures that will attack your populace. The scorpions in the first two missions will undoubtedly make you frustrated as they wander your streets and kill your people. You can theoretically take them out with military personnel, as you are advised to do in the game's help file, which would be fine if you could actually recruit military personnel in these missions. Also, there is a strange bug that occurs when building tombs - if you dispatch any of the luxury goods to the tomb before it's completed, all production on the tomb will stop. However, not only will this affect your current game, it will also affect any saved games you have in that mission, requiring you to start over completely.

What's more problematic is the fact that one of Pharaoh's more frustrating elements has still not been addressed. Quite simply, your workers are still as dumb as dirt, and they wander the streets as if they were windup toys bouncing around your city. You'll have food and water distributors wandering completely unpopulated areas, while residents are moving out because they're starving and thirsty. You can help reduce this problem through strategic placement of markets and the use of roadblocks, but it would have been nice if these key elements had some sort of artificial intelligence that would have sent them where they were needed, within a limited range.

But this problem is endemic to Pharaoh (and the Caesar games before it), and Cleopatra can't be entirely faulted for not addressing it, especially when the additions in this expansion are so numerous and so much fun. Cleopatra is both more difficult and more complex than Pharaoh, but it also makes the game seem new and fresh. And you can't ask much more than that from an expansion pack.

The Good
The Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Pharaoh

About the Author

Pharaoh More Info

  • First Released Oct 31, 1999
    • PC
    While it may seem overly familiar to fans of Caesar III, it offers enough variety and innovation to keep things interesting.
    Average Rating2114 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Pharaoh
    Developed by:
    Impressions Games, BreakAway Games
    Published by:
    Sierra Entertainment, Sold Out Software, 1C, Frogster Interactive
    Management, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Mild Animated Violence