Imperium Romanum PC Review - 29/04/2008

On the surface, Imperium Romanum doesn't seem to do much differently to other historical empire-builders. It's something that's been done in the past, so you'll be forgiven for not getting too excited about what is also essentially a follow up to Glory of the Roman Empire. But is that feeling in fact justified?

Imperium Romanum allows you to do most of the things you would expect in such a game. You have to manage resources by building mines, farms and workshops; build up an army with barracks, archery ranges and stables; defend your cities with walls and towers; and keep your citizens happy with cultural features like altars. It's all there, and as you'd expect with all the examples before it, much is borrowed from the best to give Romanum a boost of its own.

It certainly brings a lot of innovation however, and should not be dismissed as just another on the pile of empire-building strategy games. Whether this innovation works however, is very much debatable.

Firstly, the game uses scenarios to convey the storyline. This is the only way to play, but takes you through a number of historical events set in real places to reach certain targets. While this is not wholly unusual in itself, the game allows you to pick out objectives in the scenarios as you want or need them. You can draw up to three at once using a card system, but can only draw them sequentially, no jumping down to a later objective. This allows you to complete an objective, then sufficiently recover your province before undertaking the next one. It also lets you control the difficulty of the game in the same way. Playing with three objectives at once may be the quickest way to play, but it can be equally hectic.

It's one of the better looking historical RTS games out there.

You can end up with one objective left that was giving you particular trouble, or miss out one that sets you up for a future obstacle, such as building up sufficient defences to repel an attack. It makes each scenario replayable, but not in the way that it might have been if you were allowed to jump around the stack of objectives a bit more.

The main enemy in the game are barbarians. This instantly poses a problem in that barbarians tend to use wooden sticks and animal hide shields, whereas the Roman army use iron swords and animal-hide-piercing arrows. Clever as they are, they tend to camp within a few minutes walk of your sprawling settlement, allowing you to stroll out and dispatch them with relative ease. A problem is posed however in the way your own army is managed. It's perhaps the most realistic method in such a game to date, but not one that makes for incredibly exciting gameplay.

For each group of units you desire, you need one barracks, stable or archery range. When you order the building to train units, they produce a large group, of around 30. You can only produce one group from each building however, so if you're pushed for time or space in your province, be prepared to have a minimalistic army too. Once your units have been built (it should be mentioned that there's very little variety on offer here), you can order them to attack, move, hold, or retreat. If you order them to attack from inside your walls, they'll just walk out and fight the nearest barbarian camp. There's no active participation from the player to pick out enemies, instead you have to move your men into position, close enough to the enemy, then order the attack..

The military sections are innovative, but ultimately lacking

It somewhat detaches you from all the combat, and the fact that the deepest it gets is with a pair of alternate formations tells you all you really need to know. You really feel as though there is very little control on your part over your army.

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Southpeak Int.
Haemimont Games