Caesar III Review
By Mitsuo Takemoto |
Impression Software's Caesar III is the latest installment of sequels that have basically spent the last few years refining and perfecting the same idea. As the supreme commander of a Roman city, the task set before you is to expand your city, keep your population happy, and protect it from any invaders who might be impressed with the work you're doing. Although the first two games had their share of problems, it seems like Impressions finally managed to implement everything that they wanted to do in this third installment. Let's take a look at why.
As with the first two games, Caesar III takes place in ancient Rome with you cast as a young citizen looking to rise up through the ranks. In the early levels of the game, all you will need to do is build a small city, provide it with the most basic of facilities, and keep it from burning down. As you progress, new challenges (as well as new buildings) will be added and you'll find your time taken up by such diverse problems as appeasing angry gods, sending Caesar gifts and tribute, and stopping citizen revolts. Doing this is never easy, and towards the later levels in the game, it can get to be down right difficult.
One of the biggest changes between Caesar II and the new title is the sheer number of difficulties you have to contend with. Even on the earliest levels, you'll learn that feeding your people is much more of a chore than in the past. People eat, grain, vegetables, and meat. In order to get it to them, you'll have to build farms (which come in grain, vegetable, and pig farm varieties) and make sure that they have enough workers to produce their crop. Next you'll have to build a granary to store the food and make sure that it is equipped with enough workers to unload the food. Don't get comfortable, there's still the matter of making sure you have enough workers to take that food to your city's many markets, and then insuring that there are workers in those markets to sell the food to your population. If that all sounds like a lot of different workers, it is. Almost every city I built was horribly understaffed from the get go.
The obvious answer seems to build more housing units, or improve the housing units that you already have. Unfortunately, this brings its own set of problems. For every fountain you build, temple you open, or doctor you place, you'll need a staff to make it work. Run out of workers in the hospital? Better get ready for a plague that'll wipe out half your town. No peons to take up water services? Look for your fountains to cut off and your populous to start looking for a better city. Not enough men for the local theatre? Look for your bored population to seek other cities that might offer more distraction from their ho-hum lives.
The biggest mistake of all is to neglect your temples. The game's five different deities, Ceres, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Neptune, demand constant attention. Keep your temples well staffed, and you'll receive blessings from the blessed god. Ceres will make your crops grow faster, Mercury will help you with your industry, Venus will keep your populace happy, and Mars will place you city under his protection. Piss them off, and you're in for a load of problems that even the finest management won't be able to sort out. Ceres makes your fields wither and die leaving you with a starving populous. Mars will incite nearby neighbors into attacking your village while Venus puts all of your citizens in a bad mood. Mercury shows off his patronage of thieves by stealing items from your warehouses and granaries. Worst of all is Neptune, whose anger will bring storms that sink the ships that trade with your city.
Although Caesar III is a game that demands constant attention to just about everything, trade is really the key factor in maintaining a functional city. As you start the game with a limited amount of money, you'll need to find some way to generate money to replace that which you are spending on new construction. While it's not entirely a live or die situation to start with (loose your initial funds and you'll receive more from Rome with an accompanying slap on the wrist), eventually Caesar will get fed up with your high-priced shenanigans and send his troops in to level your town and send you to the galleys. To open trade routes, you'll need to look at your large map and find other cities that are willing to import the goods that you have for sale (examples include pottery, weapons, olive oil, marble, and grain). As with everything else in the game, all of this requires a lot more people than you might think. The dock will require workers to take goods from a warehouse and put them on the ship, the warehouse will require workers to move objects from their production centers to the storage area, and production centers will require workers to actual make the items in question. Oh, and don't forget that it'll take raw goods to manufacture those items in the first place, so you'll need iron miners, clay diggers, and marble cutters to handle that. All of these people must live fairly close to the jobs in question, or they'll find other places to work. What this usually ends up meaning is that you towns will start off as small areas that are separated from each other that slow grow into a united whole.
Fortunately, all of this is made extremely entertaining by Caesar III's amazing attention to detail. All of the buildings are portrayed with amazing artistic talent, and every person on the street has a job to do that you can watch them accomplish. Buildings also works as they are supposed to. You can watch the lions pace in the training area, the actors orate in the theatres, and even see the gladiators fight in the amphitheaters. All of this is really good pay-off when you've finally managed to build a large enough city to see it. As you progress through the game, you'll also get a chance to see several different landscape types, each with their own inherent problems to face (it's not only hard to grow wheat in the savanna, it's also really hard to keep citizens happy when they continue to get stampeded by zebras).
Combat in the game is still relatively simplistic, but a lot of new options have been added. Depending on what type of training centers you build, you can create sword wielding soldiers, javelin throwers, and several other types of soldiers, and you can also give them basic formation orders to follow in battle. Although it can sometimes be pretty difficult to get your troops to engage the enemy when they're attacking your city, for the most part combat is pretty intuitive. In the end though, Caesar III is definitely a game of strategy and resource management, not warfare.
There's a lot of things that I simply don't have time to cover (in fact, I'm sure that most of you have already nodded off by now), but let me leave it at this Caesar III is a fantastic strategy game that offers enough different challenges and rewards that almost anyone who has the patience to learn how the game works will eventually come to enjoy. Although it's not without its problems (before you get soldiers, you can't build a structure anywhere a sheep has decided to lie down) the game is well thought out, expertly designed, and artistically pleasing. A must buy for any hard core strategy fan who likes thought more than action.
-- Trent C. Ward