CivCity: Rome Review

CivCity: Rome’s title would have you believe that it is a Civilization game and therefore a Sid Meier and Firaxis production. Well, that’s not the case at all here. The game has more in common with the Caesar series of city-building games than it does with the Civilization series. In fact, what few Civ-like aspects there are in the game feel like they were tacked on in an effort to provide some sort of link between CivCity and Civilization. This would not be that much of an issue if the game were great, but CivCity: Rome is far closer to mediocrity than it is to greatness.

The glory of Rome.
CivCity: Rome is centered on a campaign game that places you in the role of a Roman governor, although your role will more closely resemble that of a city planner or ancient management consultant. You’ll be moved from one city to the next and tasked with solving its issues and bringing it up to speed as a productive member of the Roman Empire before you’re moved on to the next problem city. You won’t have too much trouble with most of the issues facing the cities under your control as your goals are always pretty simple ones along the lines of “produce x number of resource y”.

The primary focus of the game is to get your resource-producing supply chain up and running. This involves building farms and resource-gathering work camps, processing workshops to create goods, and warehouses and shops to collect and distribute the final products. Once you have this chain up and running, goods will begin to stockpile to appease Rome’s demands for goods and your citizens’ homes will work their way up the upgrade chain from simple hovel to palatial villa.

So far this sounds like the same thing that is at the heart of every city-building game out there, but CivCity’s simulation doesn’t really extend much beyond this. All that the game cares about is the number of goods being produced. Sound city planning and aesthetic design principles don’t figure into the equation. The upper crust of society don’t seem to care if you plop down a goat farm right next to their new villa and a hovel near a rock quarry has as much of a chance of being upgraded as one next to a park. The game only seems to care about the total number of aesthetic items such as trees and gardens in your city rather than where they are located, so you can keep the people happy by adding shrubbery to the far side of the map and save yourself valuable real estate in the center of town. Even when you are careful to lay things out well for your citizens they may not appreciate it. I had citizens complain that their home had no access to a temple even though there clearly was one nearby.