In the spirit of classics such as Pharaoh and (especially) Caesar, Glory of the Roman Empire is a city-building game set in ancient times. Beginning with limited resources and a very small population, players develop their city by adding new buildings. These offerings attract new citizens, just as they require more workers. Eventually, an infrastructure of realistically interrelated facilities covers the landscape, requiring careful management to keep balanced. Even still, it will take more than fancy bread and circuses to keep citizens content, as they must feel safe from the barbarians who lurk on the outskirts of civilization. Some may find success through diplomacy and trade with the northern tribes, but wise governors may also want to train military forces in their cities, to fend off raiding savages.
Glory of the Roman Empire provides basic challenges, such as juggling resources and buildings while trying to keep your people happy. You slap down structures like pig farms, clay pits, and temples in order to build a flourishing city. As governor you need to deal with fires, plagues, raiders, and the like. It all works they way you'd expect it to: pig farms produce meat, which the butcher shop turns into sausages, which are then distributed to your people.
Creating a bustling city takes planning and a bit of intuition, but the problem is that it feels very un-Roman. There's not a whole lot to distinguish the fact that you are playing a Roman Empire builder rather than just an ancient society sim. Unlike the old classic Caesar games, which beat you over the head with the fact that you were on the emperor's leash, Glory of the Roman Empire is a much more laidback game that lacks real Ancient Roman flavor. The only neat twist is that men and women will only work a specific type of job; you can't tell a woman to work at the butcher shop and you can't tell a man to work with linen or in the bakery. This requires you to juggle your houses to make sure that you have the proper work force.
When comparing it to the Caesar series (as well as games like Pharaoh), which was bright, colorful and full of charm, Glory of the Roman Empire not only feels a tad generic in how it plays but also in how it looks. In Caesar, it was a marvel just to sit back and watch your city operate, to watch warehouse workers maneuver through city streets carrying a cart full of stone. Here, everything looks drab despite the 3D graphics. It's hard to tell one type of structure from the next, so you spend a lot of time clicking on a building just to make sure it is what you think it is. Farms are a bit easier to distinguish because you can see the pigs, grapes, and so on but it's still a bit too generic. In fact, you spend a lot of time playing on "fast speed" just to get a building thrown up because it's just not all that compelling to look at -- which admittedly takes away some of the flair of a good city-builder.
The game's other technical aspects are hit and miss. The camera works very well; it's easy to spin it on its axis to get the exact viewpoint that you need. The graphics aren't bad, just a bit nondescript. There are day and night cycles, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense because of the accelerated time patterns, and makes it difficult to see. Even the game's sound is vanilla. There's nondescript music and idle chatter from the villagers when you click on them, but the audio is completely forgettable.
That said, new players who might be intimidated by a really hard-line building sim should find a lot to like here. There are a lot of missions in the campaign (around 30 or so) and several free-build maps that allow you to sit back and build until your heart's content, with only minimal threats from outlying barbarians. During the campaign you even get the chance to go back to previously constructed cities (although, sadly, they don't evolve at all while you are away). The military aspect of the game, where you must deal with said barbarian tribes and other factions, is also very basic; you build barracks (and some watchtowers) in order to field some troops and they pretty much take care of the fighting if and when it ever happens. The heavy fighting doesn't even start until much later in the campaign and is really a secondary component in the game's design. You usually don't play a city-builder for real-time combat and Glory of the Roman Empire is no different.
Multiplayer could have added a nice little twist to Glory, but there isn't any -- just an online high score chart, which hardly qualifies. While the game doesn't lack content for the solo player, the absence of a multiplayer component is a bit of a letdown considering how stale the campaign gets after a while for veteran players.
Overall, it feels as if developer Haemimont crafted Glory of the Roman Empire almost exclusively for those who have little to no experience playing city-builders. This in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but it would have went a long way to add additional layers to the gameplay instead of just rehashing the same objectives over and over again without adding any political or internal Roman trappings. It's tough to sell a Roman city-builder without political forums, taxmen (and money in general), or gladiators.
People who downloaded Glory of the Roman Empire have also downloaded:
Caesar IV, Empire Earth II, Medieval Lords: Build, Defend, Expand, Empire Earth, Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, Great Invasions: The Darkages 350-1066 AD, No Man's Land, FireFly Studios' Stronghold 2
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