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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Sierra

 

Developer

Tilted Mill

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

September 26, 2006

 

 

- Gameplay is remarkably deep and well-conceived

- The level of detail is remarkable

-  Game modes offer a variety of options

 

 

- Most of the unique features:  day-and-night effects, expanded military and trade, are disappointments

- System requirements for best graphic options are very high

- The gameís competitors may have beaten it to the punch

 

 

Review: CivCity: Rome (PC)

Review: Civilization IV (PC)

Review: Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War (PC)

 

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Caesar IV

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

Caesar IV, Tilted Millís new city-building simulation and the latest successor in a series of classic Ancient Roman titles, enters the arena faced with adversity.  Competitors like 2K Gamesí CivCity: Rome have beaten the mighty Caesar to the punch (ďE tu, 2k!Ē) with what would have been its most notable innovations:  a 3-D game world, character and building models rendered in state-of-the-art graphics, expanded trade and military systems.  Other titles like Haemamont Gamesís Glory of the Roman Empire have presented attractive and charming visions of Roman life that are hard to match aesthetically.  But the question becomes does Caesar IV do the important things well enough to rise from the fray and emerge as best of the Rome city building games?  The answer is yes Ė by default.  Caesar IV wins the contest if only because its flaws, though numerous, are less noticeable and less frustrating than those of its competitors.

 

caesar iv          caesar iv

 

Iíll begin with the flaws before getting to C4ís considerable qualities.  Unfortunately, many of the gameís most hyped innovations are also its biggest disappointments.  Though C4 delivers the state-of-the-art graphics that Tilted Mill promised, the system requirements are steep, especially considering whatís delivered -- character models that blur close up and buildings that possess less variety than it first appears.  At top graphics settings C4 barely ran on the same computer that had handled the equally pretty CivCity: Rome without a stutter.  The dynamic lighting, day-and-night effects are attractive and do add visual variety, but also, strangely enough, ruin immersion as dusks and dawns seem to happen over weeks.  (It feels like Rome above the arctic circle.) 

 

The much-hyped military options in C4, though superior to the laughable one-man-legion system of CivCity: Rome , are still limited with few possibilities for tactics or strategy as the player builds robotic hordes to face the enemyís 

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robotic horde.  I kept wondering why, in a simulation like this, something abstract wouldnít work just as well and be more entertaining.  Similarly, while C4ís trade system is more complex and more tied into a larger economy of the empire than in other Roman city builders, it doesnít compel or wow the gamer enough to reward the effort it requires to master.

 

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But onto the better stuff -- C4 is certainly deeper and arguably more fun than any of its competitors, with both immediate and lasting rewards for mastering the complexities of play.  Though the daisy-chained system of resources, production and services is just as byzantine as in CivCity: Rome , it actually makes logical sense here, with technology progressing in a coherent way.  Unlike CivCity: Rome (and like Monte CristoĎs CivLife), the game features three distinct social classes Ė plebs, equites and patricians -- all of which must be simultaneously accommodated, supplied (and kept comfortably separate) in order for a city to grow and thrive.  This adds yet another layer of depth (and brain-twisting complication) and requires some real strategic planning. 

 

Itís also very fun to watch the small details within this immense system, the potter shuffling his feet before he removes a finished pot from the kiln, wagons weaving through the streets towards their destinations.  And as with CivCity: Rome , C4ís citizens will freely voice their opinions if asked.  C4 delivers well the ant farm voyeuristic pleasures that any good god or city-building game should. 

 

The game interface, though bulky, is easier to use than CivCity: Rome and other competitorsí.  I found myself picking it up quickly and was only annoyed by small things like lingering pop-up commands that donít go away.  Especially welcome is the advisor screen, which provides a wealth of information in a practical, comprehensible format.

 

caesar iv          caesar iv

 

Caesar 4ís single player game options provide a fair variety of possibilities for a range of interests and attention spans, from individual scenarios to epic campaigns.  The Kingdom mode, which doubles as a tutorial, does a fairly good job of introducing the gameís main features and principles, albeit with a few frustrating omissions here and there, mainly in how to accomplish particular mission goals.  The tutorial tips also donít explain a lot of the subtleties involved in game play (ie. why exactly your good citizens arenít availing themselves of that service / resource youíve so thoughtfully provided) most of which must be learned through trial and (lots of) error.  The advanced campaigns, the Republic and unlockable Empire modes, are more fun, especially for the balancing act they demand between meeting local demands and placating distant authorities.  They also contain enough story to keep things moving. 

 

Unfortunately, Caesar IVís qualities, though they do make it surpass other Rome city builder games, donít prevent a certain amount of ďbeen there, done that.Ē  And in the end, Caesar IVís biggest problem may be its timing, coming late to the party when many gamers (including this reviewer) have already had their Rome city-building fix.  While itís a solid game, and probably superior in most ways to its competitors, Caesar IV doesnít do any one thing magnificently, and the sum of its qualities just donít elevate this classical game to classic status.

 

- John Tait

(November 13, 2006)

 

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