Personally, I have dabbled in the Civilization
series, but can hardly be called an expert in nation building titles. In fact, I think they can be a tad befuddling at times, managing complex economics, military and social structures all at once. Thankfully, CivCity: Rome
is a scaled down version of the aforementioned title, perfect for the more casual or new gamer to this genre. The meat of this game is building up your city, not managing a deadly army, or trading with foreign powers.
You can play single missions with focused objectives, or take on the grand scale campaign. Either way, it is solid city construction fun. There is also a robust editor for many more hours of customized gameplay. As the governor of a local province, your little hamlet will eventually grow into a bustling city befitting kings and visiting nobles alike. A wide array of building types are available from warehouses, butcher shops, temples, amphitheatres, workshops and many, many more -- over 100 in all.
Beyond placing the structures, you also have to pay close attention to your citizens, meeting their needs for food, housing, jobs, education and entertainment. The balance between leisure and work is also critical. Too much free time and production rates will plummet, leading to some unhappy folks. And working them into an early grave is also not too smart, either. As resources are collected and distributed among the people, their structures will upgrade, and may even include a stable of slaves to help with the tasks at hand. For example, harvested wheat gets turned into flour and sent to a bakery, which in turn heads out to the citizen’s mouths. Apply the same logistics to wood, olives and more, and you start to get the interconnected nature of Roman society. And while vastly more complicated, not much has really changed today in that regard. You can view reports on all these aspects such as production, tax rates and more, so endlessly clicking on various locations isn’t necessary to keep up on the details.
With a healthy populace comes security and bonuses, allowing for further construction and special projects, called Wonders. These include such amazing edifices like the Pantheon, Circus Maximus, and the Great Library, and while visually stunning, they don’t offer much to the experience besides increasing your overall prestige.
Fans of action may be mildly disappointed with the bare bones military aspects of CivCity: Rome. You basically just build forts and armories and the troops fall into line. From time to time, enemy incursions will make your once placid home a bit more hectic, as well as a few adventurous treks to invade other territories, but this isn’t where the gameplay shines, and it shows. The troop types are rather limited, the lack of formations and advanced tactics are also strikingly absent. The overall level of this mode is just too simplistic for this ‘ol wargamer. But after all, this game is about being the best governor one can be, so the focus is on domestic issues like housing, production and so forth, not plundering the known world.
Research also plays an important factor in the continuing goal of improving the daily life of your citizens, as well as the overall grandeur of your fine city. Some paths lead to better avenues for trade, or production increases, while others allow for better combat prowess and so forth. Being able to key in on what is needed is a great way to keep you in the game, and plotting the best course for your populace. Lastly, the Civliopedia offers a wealth of historical information on the ancient Romans and their ways. Who says all videogames are bad for kids, eh? (In fact the recent book “Everything Bad is Good for You” talks about just that.)