Maintaining their sinister three-year cycle, Impressions are currently in the closing stages of Caesar III, the latest instalment of their in-depth Roman resource 'em up. Their inaugural effort first saw the light of day way back in 1992, and compared to the games of today, it looks about as appealing as a pound of raw pork, with primitive graphics deterring all but the most committed would-be emperor.
The second effort was a vast improvement, proving revolutionary for the time and paving the way for the likes of Microsoft's universally acclaimed Age Of Empires. Intricate buildings were available, and elaborate cities could be fashioned as the player strove to ascend the ranks of the Roman government, with the ultimate goal of taking the position of Caesar himself. In principle, Caesar III doesn't differ drastically from its predecessor. Starting with nothing but shrubbery, the idea is to construct a majestic Roman city and ensure a harmonious existence for its citizens. The player begins as a lowly citizen and is set certain tasks in order to achieve promotion, be it increasing the population, gaining prosperity or currying favour with the emperor.
In the previous game, combat involved convening to a field and playing at war like backward children. In Caesar 111 it is more realistic, taking place within your city as you attempt to repel hostile pillagers. There will also be far more variety of gameplay, with new buildings and so forth brought in at regular stages. Furthermore, Caesar veterans will no longer be haunted by the irritating cry of More plebs needed! which was barked with tooth-grinding regularity, having been erroneously recorded too loud. Mercifully, it has now been dropped.
That's a start, at least.
Download Caesar 3
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
There's a scene in Monty Python's The Life Of Brian where members of the indigenous populace are railing against their Roman oppressors. Their contribution to society is examined in depth, and eventually it transpires that the supposedly malevolent Romans have provided the plebs with roads, aqueducts, irrigation, education, housing, sanitation, security, fire prevention, the walls, and of course peace.
So what? So this. Caesar III features all the above and more in a frighteningly detailed simulation of life in Roman times. Starting from scratch, with little more than shrubbery for company, the idea is to construct a majestic Roman city and ensure a harmonious existence for its citizens. To the layman, this could potentially sound like the dullest thing on earth. But it isn't, it's great. It's immensely addictive, proves ruinous to your body clock, and can steal entire days of your life.
There are essentially two ways to play, depending on your ambitions as a Roman Emperor. A career path is offered where you start out in charge of some godforsaken one-horse town and progress through larger urban sprawls until you eventually covet the position of Caesar himself. Alternatively, you can simply build a city and attempt to remain there for the rest of your natural life - something that isn't beyond the realms of possibility.
Make A Build
So what makes it so addictive? It all starts harmlessly enough: you need some people, so you clear some land for them to build homes on. They need feeding, so you knock up a couple of farms. Wheat needs to be stored, so you build some granaries. Food needs distributing, so you install some markets. Buildings can collapse, so you bring in engineers. Houses need water, so you build wells. Wells are shit, so you build fountains. People get sick, so you build hospitals. People need to bother gods, so you build temples. None of this comes cheap, so you set up trade routes. You need something to sell, so you set up industries. These new buildings require employees, so you sort out some more accommodation. The new employees require more food, so it's back to the farms...
Before you know it, thousands of people are dependent on you and you have a fully functioning city at your disposal, with all the problems that this entails. The citizens can clearly be seen going about their business, and indeed clicking on them reveals their state of mind and their current needs, their thoughts delivered in a comedy voice.
Every building created has a knock-on effect, and eventually disparate areas of town become apparent. For instance, it's possible to set up a small fishing community in a distant corner of the map, proving largely self-sufficient while constantly supplying the city with their wares. Other areas become more salubrious, with people living in villas, attending the theatre and dangling grapes into their gobs at the local baths.
The city takes on a life of its own, and distinct class statuses become evident, with naive notions of social responsibility soon eschewed in favour of harsh financial realism. Why waste money on lowly farm hands when you can furnish your more upmarket citizens with the bourgeois trinkets they yearn for? After all, those in the big houses pay the most tax. Let the proles eat pies and live in shacks, while the chattering classes lounge around discussing the merits of balsamic vinegar and watching lions tearing men apart in the name of sport. This vaguely fascist policy can work in the short term, although the denizens of more run-down areas may start rioting, in which case you can either tend to their needs or simply employ some heavies to give them a slap.
Once your city is in full effect, it may be at the mercy of barbarians who drop by for the odd urn of wine, not to mention wanton destruction on a mammoth scale. To this end, defences are required and troops must be trained. The combat in Caesar 3 is purely defensive and, in contrast to its predecessor, the skirmishing actually takes place within the confines of the city. The marauders can be a tenacious bunch, more than capable of wiping out entire armies, in which event the local populace has to steam in, attacking the invaders with sharp sticks. The damage to the city is often tangible, and it can take years to absorb the effects of a skirmish. In order to keep the bastards out, vast city walls can be constructed, and before you know it you're living in a vague approximation of Chester, albeit with fewer pubs and a better football team.
Ultimately, you effectively take on the role of a troubleshooter, constantly tending to the needs of various areas of the city. Caesar III is a latter-day incarnation of the old cabaret trick of spinning plates on sticks, and there's never a moment's rest. Your mind is constantly racing, to the exclusion of all else. Natural save points fail to present themselves, and hours merge into days. Food remains uneaten, cups of tea go cold, and cigarette ash tumbles to the floor under its own weight. Unless you are in prison, unemployed or a student, be warned: Caesar III will screw you up.
What we thought
"Caesar 3 is a latter-day incarnation of the old cabaret trick of spinning plates on sticks, and there's never a moment's rest. Your mind Is constantly racing, to the exclusion of all else."
What you think
- "Why does Caesar 3 warrant classic status? It could hardly be described as either original or innovative. Apart from the fact that it is part three in the Caesar series, it is one of hundreds of real-time strategy games available. Personally, the only compulsion I felt was to remove this hateful game from my hard drive as fast as possible. It has worse graphics and more tedious gameplay than Settlers II, which received the same score some two years previously. "How will the games industry ever move forwards if such tired old reworks are greeted with critical acclaim? Better games than this one are already available on budget."