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Sunday | December 11, 2016
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Grand Ages: Rome (PC)

Grand Ages: Rome (PC)

 

Grand Ages: Rome is the followup to Glory Of The Roman Empire and Imperium Romanium from developer Kalypso Media. Both of these were pretty much run of the mill city building titles so we will find out today if the new game is going to be a more appealing investment.

Grand Ages: Rome attempts to change public perception of the franchise but ultimately fails to deliver anything remotely new or invigorating. This is basically another predictable city builder, which apart from some visual enhancements will not hold any surprises or ground breaking mechanics to anyone who is remotely experienced with the genre in general. If you have yet to play a city builder then the game might hold some appeal but if have played Emperor or Zeus then this latest title will be sadly lacking in diversity.

The basic mechanic is simple. The player is placed in a position to create a functioning and self sustaining city by balancing the economy and structural layout. Houses provide workers who will devote their time to working at farms, these farms then send wheat to the mill which sends flour to the bakery which sends bread back to the houses to feed the populace. There are numerous chains in this manner which give structure and meaning to the mechanic and they can get rather complex. For example, to keep the peace you need prefectures which can only be staffed by members of the upper class who have even more complicated needs than the general mass populace. When you start to throw in other buildings for learning, hygiene, commerce and entertainment then it can quickly seem rather off-putting for an inexperienced player.

That is really until you begin to play it, because under the surface the game is relatively easy to manipulate and control. The AI has been vastly improved from before and citizens generally handle their own mundane affairs without needing manual intervention every few minutes. This means the player can concentrate on the more interesting tasks such as creating and placing buildings and balancing the resources. Resources instantly appear where they are needed and many of the buildings have an area of effect which means the concept of traffic flow is redundant. There are also no more gender specific jobs and you don’t have to worry about staffing the distaff industries. All of these are welcome changes because they remove the more frustrating elements of the previous titles in the series while keeping the more fun aspects still open for user interaction.

Grand Ages: Rome has also a more much open ended campaign than previous implementations because after completing the basic introductory mission players are let loose on a map of the Roman world and are free to choose from a variety of missions that highlight key locations and events during the first century BC.

Players can front the wars of the Triumvirates for example or even tackle Spartacus’ slave revolt scenario. The history and storyline of these missions is a little irrelevant in the scheme of things as far as the game play mechanic evolves but it does provide enough background history to keep the player entertained enough to use his or her imagination to fill in the blanks. Interestingly you can ally yourself with a particular faction which opens and closes new missions later as the campaign develops. As you successfully complete missions your character levels up and acquires new talents and resource bonuses that you can purchase with points earned during each level.

Gamers who want to experiment with competitive and cooperative city building can head online and try their best with other human players. To be honest I found this rather unsatisfying because it all revolves around a matter of production skill sets rather than military intelligence and strategy.

Previously the developers included a system of objective cards that the player would draw from throughout the course of a specific mission. Although they were a little flawed because they frequently had scripting issues they did offer a little in the way of a minor objective reward system, they have now been removed. This means that players now only have one or two objectives in each mission with a couple of optional objectives throw into the mix. It certainly kills the bug issues from before but it is slightly less exciting due to the linear implementation.

Negatives aside the interface has been improved substantially and was one of my major problems with the series. In previous titles players were required to hunt for information on the city’s overall performance but now there are a plethora of useful overlays that show buildings in danger and positions short of resources that need attention. This new feature also helps to place support buildings which is a welcome addition. Additionally the summary function of the forum has been removed and placed into the overall interface of the main game so you can easily and quickly access all the statistics you need to plan your development and progression.

Combat has also been overhauled and improved because the AI is much more adapative and aggressive. Combat is still quite straightforward and players have a limited group of basic unit types at hand and no real military maneuvers apart from move and attack. As with most pure city builders, this game has much less to do with a military onslaught but more based on effective development and creating a huge number of units for a massive one time onslaught. To be fair, if this is something that interests you then the game does accommodate combat missions to a greater extent this time around.

Once we get past the simplified combat there are a few other problems with Grand Ages: Rome. Firstly, meeting the demands for your citizens isn’t hard at all and because you have full access to the list of available buildings right from the outset there is no sense of expanding your abilities. You just end up building the same structures time and again without feeling as if you are progressing in anyway. The only variations come with the includsion of specific construction objectives and the presence of enemy barbarians to force certain progression methods. The lack of consequences due to traffic flow or the movement of goods really means that the positioning of buildings has nothing to do with strategy. As long as you keep everyone employed then you don’t really need to worry anymore about fires or riots or resource issues.

Graphically the game is quite impressive and the engine is solid. Every map has a lot of detail and plenty of atmosphere to draw upon. The architectural attention to detail deserves credit and the citizens all seemingly fit in with the marble columns and numerous trees and vegetation. Equally impressive is the array of live weather effects which range from rain to thunderstorms and stunning dusk vistas.

In the overall scheme of things Grand Ages: Rome has many redeeming features and it can be enjoyable if you devote the game play time. The only issue I forsee is that it is such a generalised and run of the mill game that nothing in it will be new or original to gamers with any experience under their belt. If you were a fan of previous titles then the changes and improvements might be enough to warrant another purchase but I cannot recommend this title without a caution.

 

Gameplay
73

Some parts are fun but the mechanic is a little simple. Combat is also very basic.
Graphics
85
A lovely engine and the graphics bear praise with a lot of attention to detail.
Sound
70
Nothing memorable.
Value
65
All the cities will look the same and the levels are all very similar as well.
Overall
74
Might appeal to the hard core city building fans, but overall appeal will be limited to the masses.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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