The product of a collaboration between Firefly Studios and Firaxis, CivCity: Rome is designed to combine the management strategy of the Stronghold games with the deep historical context of Sid Meier's Civilization series. As in many other city building games, players begin in a mostly undeveloped space with limited resources, and are challenged to build their small village into a thriving metropolis through thrifty investment of labor and materials, short-term micromanagement, and long-term vision.
As they say, Rome isn't built in a day. By constructing new facilities, players incrementally expand the range of products and services their city offers, thus raising the standard of living and attracting more immigrants (who in turn become available to staff even more new facilities). Gradually, with research and infrastructure, CivCity: Rome players can unlock hundreds of buildings, each offering different advantages to its home city. Residences and shops, schools and forts, even amphitheatres and the Circus Maximus all become available to a governor who can budget for their expense and upkeep.
As in Stronghold 2, players can take charge of a range of civil concerns, from cultural enrichment and economic stability to technological advance and local defense. The inhabitants of the CivCity player's Rome exist as unique individuals, with their own homes, occupations, and relationships to other citizens. As in Civilization IV, CivCity: Rome features 3D graphics viewed from an adjustable, default isometric view, allowing players to focus on a particular citizen or point of concern, or to take in their entire conurbation from a grand, sweeping perspective.
CivCity: Rome heralds a big shift from the main focus of the Civilization series and switches from building a multi-city empire to a microcosm of it former self by centering in on one great city, Rome. Now let's face facts: without the many references to Civilization and Sid Meier on the front and back of the case many people may not pay attention to a game like this. It is usually a very difficult task to break into the genre with only a few big name titles that really have stood the test of time. Even though the game has Civ written all over, will the long-term fans it desires to appeal to accept the changes it brings?
It's a big statement to make, but I think CivCity: Rome could have been a classic. I say 'could' because even though the game had some nice ideas and has a affinity with a game I love, everything as been so sloppily put together it has just ended up being the latest average city builder on a long list that has developed over the years. Also not only is it too basic of a game to bear the Civilization name, it is also far too basic for a stand alone city builder title.
Upon loading the game you are given the option for single missions or to jump straight into the games campaign mode. The single mission game offers certain goals to complete with a selection with different goals. Some are all about combat while others task you with completing missions while trying to remain peaceful. The last kind of mission adopts a sandbox style approach tasking you with trying to make as much cash as possible. Of course most people are going to opt for campaign mode (as I did) in this kind of game, but there is only a myriad of disappointment to be had when you click on it in the menu. Campaign begins with a lackluster tutorial accompanied by an obnoxious voice actor telling you what to do. This tutorial lasts almost 2 whole missions and is enough to make you hate the game before it really begins.
Gameplay for both city-building and combat is as pretty straightforward as can be. The game also offers a few Civ-like options like tech and research trees, but they are barren and pretty simple. Research is also available to make some of the industries available more efficient and finally there is the option to create wonders of the world and check out a Civilopedia. That's all the game really has to tie to the Civ franchise. Now if the above had some depth to it, it may be helpful; but as I said everything seems over simplified. Also the process of getting raw resources to finished goods is rather easy, simple and boring which is never when a whole game is based around that one aspect. The game also seems to automatically start a fire in your city ever few minutes and if it does it destroys one of your farms or other buildings - you can't build something on those ruins. Combat also seems to lack any options as it only lets you select your troops own troops then click on enemy troops to engage them.
The quality of the sound and graphics just serve to add reasons to make you want to despise the game. First let's talk about the graphics - or should I say the lack thereof. From the moment the game first loads on your monitor it is easy to see that it's not going to be pushing your system to its limits. My system is just about a year old with specs that are far above the recommended requirements that are listed on the back of the DVD case. Happy in the knowledge everything would run fine I set everything to high and started to play, but the game still looked like something that was released 2-3 years ago. Not only are the game's graphics pixelated, blocky and outdated, the city must be viewed at an awkward tight angle that is a strain on the eyes. There are a few nice animations here and there, but nothing that one would ever class as eye candy. As I stated before the audio is not much better than the graphics. The soundtrack offers a lackluster assortment of compositions that do nothing to help the already monotonous aura surrounding the game. The sound effects all sound very flat and any voice acting sounds like it is being read of a piece of paper by one of the most boring people in the world that has had a bout of insomnia during the week of recording. At this point I would usually say something along the lines of "please try harder," but this time it seems the guys at FireFly have not even tried at all.
As much as I love the Civilization series of games (particularly Civilization 4) and as hard as I tried, I could not bring myself to enjoy this game. To add to this I personally cannot understand the appeal of the game or the decision to release it. First the game shares next to nothing with its series of origin other than name. To make matter worse the game is obviously aimed at fans of Civilization, but why would a Civ fan want to play something so distant from the game they love? On paper this probably seem like a great idea that put dollar signs in the eyes of many an exec sting around the boardroom table, but in real life it just does not work as there really isn't an audience for the game to appeal to. The final death Nell in CivCity: Rome's coffin is that it really is not a very good game so there really is no reason to play it. With many bugs and even more flaws this is the first title to blacken the good name of Civilization - but I suppose that had to happen some time.
People who downloaded CivCity: Rome have also downloaded:
Caesar IV, 1701 A.D., Celtic Kings: Rage of War, Axis & Allies, Caesar 3, Anno 1503: The New World, Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, Chris Sawyer's Locomotion
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