Caesar IV Review

In terms of PC gaming, the Caesar series is proving to be as enduring as Rome itself. Not many game series are good enough to eventually have a ďVIĒ after their name, but it also means that the latest incarnation of the game has a lot to live up to. Is it one for the ages or the collapse of an empire?

Before I get into answering that question, I should mention the basics of the game for those of you new to the Caesar games (and considering how long itís been since Caesar III came out, there are probably a lot of you). Caesar IV casts you in the role of a Roman official placed in charge of building and growing a new city for the betterment of Rome. The empire is quite demanding when it comes to taxes, tribute, and manufactured goods, and if your city doesnít meet these demands you could quickly find yourself demoted to lion chow. To build a thriving city youíll need to balance the needs of your citizens with those of the empire. Youíll need to create supply and manufacturing chains that take raw resources, process them, and then turn them into finished goods, but at the same time youíll need to provide your people with a comfortable living and make sure that their needs are met lest they move out of your city.

Caesar IVís strong point is its economic engine, which is a good thing because a good economic model is at the heart of a good city simulator. There are numerous raw materials available and once they are processed youíll need to manage how they are used. Do you send the wood to your arms factory to make more weapons or to the furniture factory to produce goods for you people? And thereís also the matter of making sure that you can effectively store, move, and sell all the goods that you are producing. This is the stuff that sim fans live for.

While the economic aspect of the game is implemented well, the military component is not. Fielding military units requires the same sort of supply line you need to get your products to market. You need recruitment facilities, mess halls, and forts in which to quarter your troops. So far so good, but the process loses its fun when you must actually use your military. The game will occasionally throw marauding bands of barbarians at your city who will entertain themselves by killing your citizens and trying to burn things down. To stop them you must dispatch military squads from your forts and then click on the barbarians to attack them. Since your military can get a little confused by the layout of your streets, youíll generally need to guide them along before you can give the final attack order. Once the battle is finally joined there is nothing for you to do but watch as the troops fight and the side with more soldiers wins. Itís all tedious and unexciting, and the game would have been better off either totally abstracting the combat or just tossing the military aspect out all together.

Another aspect of the game that doesnít really work well is the religious component. Your citizens will want access to various shrines and temples and providing them will help your structures to evolve. This is all fine and good but the problem is that if you donít have enough shrines youíll suffer from more than non-evolving structures and unhappy people. The gods themselves will grow angry if you donít have enough religious structures in your city and you may be on the receiving end of some lightning bolts from the heavens that take out some of your buildings. This comes off as a silly annoyance in the game. It should either take the approach that the Roman gods were real and fully integrate mythology into the game or dispense with the notion entirely and treat religious structures as the same sort of placebo for the masses as theaters.