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Thursday | August 16, 2018
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Imperium Romanum

Imperium Romanum

Imperium Romanum is a Roman themed strategy game based on 2006’s Glory Of The Roman Empire, a less than stellar title that most of you reading this will never have played. With good reason too, because it was rubbish.

Unfortunately the sequel is even more mundane than the original despite the improvements to the graphics via the updated engine. The game looks good, however under the hood the graphical finesse hides a title lacking in gameplay and with a woefully unsophisticated combat mechanic.

With no official campaigns available, you are forced to play through different scenarios across the timeline of the Roman Empire and their allied cities.

Everything about the game screams “run of the mill” and while there are some cool options and a factual basis to the plot, the overall end result is sadly lacking. It was nice to see the inclusion of monuments such as the Coliseum, however the background and documentation does nothing to educate the gamer as to their historical founding.

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Those of you hoping for a revolutionary interface will be sorely disappointed, players merely have to construct homes to attract workers and then you have to build temples, wells, schools or universities to educate and keep them fulfilled. Then by supplying your people with clothes, food and wine and a bunch of other amenities you can raise the tax bracket. This involves the usual balancing act of trying to extract as much as possible from the public while making sure they don’t leave your city for less oppressive conditions. Getting access to many of these aforementioned amenities requires the construction of more buildings, such as workshops and farms; once these are built you need to get volunteers from the nearby homes to become workers.

To be fair to the game, the interface is decent and relatively intuitive. It is very enjoyable creating a fully functioning city with a vibrant and productive populace. Placing and constructing buildings is extremely straightforward, however I would have liked to have felt more emphasis on the fact that the city is Roman, rather than a generic city building game (which is what it ends up feeling like).

The AI is not another of the games strong points and it is frustrating to have built a well beside a house, only to find the inhabitants unable to locate it and dying of thirst. Coding errors like this in such a game totally ruin it and are unacceptable. Couple this with the fact that no matter how well you play and no matter how happy the people apparently are, you will always find riots and fires appearing across the cityscape. If you lived in a perfectly constructed city with low taxes and an abundance of entertainment and educational buildings would you feel the need to set fire to it? This is another failing of the game, the lack of information given to explain exactly how to prevent or deal with situations like this.

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Summary screens are in abundance which detail all the statistics for your production, population and consumption, but it is impossible for instance to see at a glance which houses have access to specific resources such as a tavern.

The mission objectives are standard fodder, you will either have to reach a certain level within some particular building structure or complete a large and massively time consuming work project. Interestingly in the attempt to keep things moderately fresh, you have access to objective cards that you choose from a virtual deck, some of these will give an immediate cash or resource reward and others will ask you to complete a certain building to proceed. A maximum of three cards can be drawn at any one time and I replayed a few levels to try the cards again, and they were identically positioned which was a little disappointing as this lowers the replay value.

The combat system is very dull, you create units at three different buildings, one for infantry, one for cavalry and the last for archers. Amazingly you can only create one unit of that type in each building which means if you want to have two cavalry, two archers and two infantry you will need to build six buildings, as well as the corresponding resources they will need. Is this dumb? I think so! What makes this worse is that on the smaller maps you are losing valuable terrain ground to a whole plethora of unneeded buildings, just to support several units.

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Once you finally have the buildings ready and fuelled, the production of units is plain sailing. Leading them into combat is a mundane affair with basic, attack, move and retreat options available. This makes complex strategic moves impossible and you end up only being able to rush headlong into the enemy, like a group of suicidal lemmings. You can’t even manually replace the defeated soldiers during the heat of battle. The only option is to wait until they rout and return to their attached barracks, at this point you can reinforce them with fresh troops and send them back into the thick of it. Let’s not get into the fact that the AI is so bad that sometimes a routed army can get stuck in the terrain leaving the remaining forces to battle on with their numbers thinned. It sounds funny now, but try spending a few hours with this game to understand the hair loss I have experienced.

Imperium Romanium is also severely unbalanced as your opponents the barbarians are more like a bunch of pacifist librarians. They won’t attack you often and when they do, your Roman towers and defenses cut them into ribbons before you would ever need to call upon your forces. The only combat you really need to initiate is to attack a barbarian camp that is parked on a valuable resource you might need.

The sound throughout the game is excellent with a vast array of ambient crowd noises enhancing the mood. The problem is you only hear most of these if you are zoomed in close on the city. I am not sure the music fully fits the setting of the game but it is easily disabled.

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The graphics are an improvement on the predecessor with some gloriously detailed environments. There are a plethora of impressive  touches, smoke rising from the chimneys and sunflowers blowing in the wind. If you zoom in, the populace look a little like lego characters however as the game is impossible to play at this level of zoom it will not become an issue. There are also some lovely high resolution textures on the buildings which further enhance the feeling of being in control of a vibrant bustling cityscape. The only issue would be the similarity of the structures (they all have red clay roof tiles on top) which can mean telling the various structures apart is difficult.

The stability of the game is also an issue with various reports across the net regarding hard locks and crashing to the desktop. I experienced several during testing which caused even more frustration. I contacted the developer and was informed of a game patch, but the time frame was not confirmed.

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Imperium Romanium is another staid and lifeless RTS clone set in Rome. No one likes a good strategy game more than me, but the recent diluge of substandard and insanely boring clones is driving me mad. Why make another one of these games without even attempting to bring something fresh to the table? Initially the game looks like it might have some merit, however after extended time it becomes clear than this is just treading old ground, with a rather appealing engine. Spend the money on something great, like Supreme Commander instead.

More of the same, yawn.
Very nicely designed with a flair for attention to detail.
Great ambient noises however the music is a little out of place.
Very little, unless you are a strategy virgin.
(Not an Average)
Run of the mill, and a little buggy. It is a shame as the engine is nice too.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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