Imperial Rome was, no matter what you think of it, one of the most influential governments humankind ever established for itself on the face of this planet. Fixtures created by it still remain in such disparate locations like the sun drenched ground of Italy, to the more temperate climates in the north of England. Part of the continuing tribute to Ancient Rome are a variety of computer games that take the player back into an simulacrum of Roman life. One of these, and the one we will be talking about today, is titled Imperial Romanum and was developed by Southpeak Games.
One of the most complex challenges encountered by players of these sorts of games is managing resources and population. It is gratifying, therefore, that Imperial Romanum features a control scheme that makes keeping an eye on your flourishing city a good deal easier than what you might find in similar titles. The basic construction unit of any city you build in Imperial Romanumn is, of course, the slave which is always housed in the Forum structure until you start a building project. At such times the slaves will exit the building, deliver goods and materials to the site, and build the structure before popping off to head home. The automation of this particular facet of the gameplay is refreshing as you simply have to place the structure on the site you wish to build and they will take care of the rest.
The real challenge, however, comes after you have begun to establish your flourishing berg. One thing that Imperial Romanum seeks to remind the gamer is that a city is not just a collection of buildings, it is a living thing that requires constant maintenance and attention. This watchfulness that is needed in any city manifests itself in terms of the upkeep system where each structure has a specific number and type of resources necessary for it’s continued maintenance. Let us take, for example, the structure of the Barracks in which you train your heavy infantry unit the Hastati: they are the fellows with those large shields and short swords that decorate countless movies and TV shows about the Roman Empire.
When you have your barracks complete, however, it is not just a matter of maintaining the structure itself but of also ensuring that the troops inside it have what they need to continue fighting. Specifically the Barracks structure needs a continuing supply of cloth for uniforms and weapons for fighting in order to function and, if it lacks these necessities, then the building will do nothing. Therefore, when you plan to start raising your army, it is necessary to consider what the building constantly needs. Cloth is required for the Barracks, you say? Then let us go and construct a Tailor’s shop so that our soldiers will be the best dressed in all the Empire! What’s that you say? Weapons? Oh, very well… we’ll have a blacksmith too.
The importance of smaller structures that help to maintain the larger is also part of the necessity of city planning. Building a neighborhood is not just a matter of plonking a few houses down and then leaving them to their own devices. They, like the rest of the city, have to be maintained and attended to as they grow and as their needs grow with it. There are four levels of citizens that range from Novice to Master, and at each level a new set of needs will be required to maintain the happiness of the citizens. Your novice citizen, for example, will not need much beyond flour, a choice of meat or fish, a well to take a refreshing drink from, and a well to give thanks at afterward. The next level of citizen, however, is a little less easily satisfied. Where the novice asked for meat, your Apprentice citizen wants sausage. Where the novice citizen was content to take the flour and make it into bread themselves the Apprentice wants the bread already made. And they want cloth too! Picky picky picky.
A city is more then just maintaining the status quo, however, as the infrastructure has to be constantly improved in order for the town to flourish. A specific example of this need for upward mobility is most simply explained in the construction and development of neighborhoods. The quality of the houses will change(or not!) depending on the kind of the structures in the vicinity. A neighborhood surrounded by farms is less liable to improve as opposed to communities surrounded by gardens, schools, and the like. This level of building, like the rest of the game, sounds intricate but is made easier by the presence of the construction wheel. By right clicking the mouse a wheel will appear granting you access to a number of structures set all around the ring allowing you to select and then place the structure anywhere you choose.
Now that the level of monitoring that you’ll have to do in Imperial Romanum is becoming clear, the question of how you will keep an eye on all aspects of your empire arises. This is not as complicated a process as you might think though, as the game will alert you when a citizen is disgruntled and, upon clicking on the citizen in question, he or she will tell you the reasons for their frustration and you can take quick steps to rectify it. However, that is just one citizen, and you are in charge of a city packed full of ’em. Fear not, however, for there is way that you can be made aware of the collective desires of your citizens via the presence of a tavern. These structures are invaluable to you because not only do they serve as a place where food and drink will be distributed to your citizens, they also function as a information center on the needs of the people in the neighborhood the tavern serves. Each need will be ranked according to the number of people that want it: so many want a temple, so many want sausage, etc thereby allowing you prefixed priorities that you need addressing all in one handy building.
It also has to be said that Imperium Romanum is a beautiful graphical experience. The lands you will be building cities in will be filled with water flowing down rocks, waving fields of grasses, flocks of birds traveling to and fro, and of course the human population of the city which will feature adults walking to and from work, children playing, or laborers delivering necessary supplies to the various structures in the city. You can even observe the soldiers going through training motions if you start developing a military infrastructure. To sum up, Imperium Romanum is a high quality example of the world building strategy game which has the additional flavor of historical recreation thrown in for spice.