Caesar IV Review

There are plenty of well-known city simulators out there. The folks at Tilted Mill Entertainment are behind one of the longest lasting historical city building franchises, Caesar. The first Caesar title debuted in 1993; fast forward 13 years and we’ve got Caesar IV. It grows leaps and bounds visually, yet still manages to captures the classic city building feel of its predecessors. However, there are some lingering issues that could have been polished. Nonetheless, Caesar IV performs adequately.

The basis of the game is to create your own city. The first few levels act as a tutorial, and they perform well for any newcomers to the franchise. I remember being totally oblivious on the water system when the demo was released, but that was immediately cleared up with one of the tutorial scenarios. A majority of the maps start out empty except for a path, and it’s your job to build the city up. Ranging from homes and farms to sanitation buildings and fountains, you’ll be quite impressed with the range of structures you can create. Build some olive farms, and you’ll be treated to fields of vines and farmers hacking away to get the crop ready for market. Goals range from the simple "maintain XX number of XX stat" to "ship XX materials to Rome by XX date." Scenarios are aplenty, and are bound to keep gamers focused for a while. The game also comes with a scenario editor, further extending its lifespan.

Managing your city is half the fun; the other half is just making it look great. In terms of aesthetic appeal, citizens won’t move into areas that look like garbage. Nobles definitely don’t want to associate themselves with the poor working plebs. Creating hedgerows or statues will please their eyes, and draw them in. In terms of visual appeal, the game’s engine definitely creates the holy feel of the empire; turn on the bloom effect and you’ll be treated to beautiful sunrises, with the sun shining off the stone buildings. Water reflections are very nice as well, but shadows tend to bog down the game’s performance. I’ve read on some sites that they’ve experienced freezing with the game, but I didn’t experience anything like that. Pan out, and you can really see that you can create some beautiful cities.

The audio is also very well done in the game. The sounds of your city are really enhanced, and add a lot to the atmosphere. Run your camera over to the timber workers, and you’ll hear the steady "clop" of trees getting chopped down. Peer over towards your basic markets, and you’ll hear products being advertised and items being sold. There are also full voice-overs, including the instructions and your council.

Speaking of the council, their advice is very helpful. Managing your city includes examining pages of data, but your council briefly summarizes what should be done when you click on them. Click on over to the economy information screen, and you’ll be treated on how much you’re spending, the amount of taxes currently being used and how much you can trade away or use for future investments.

City animations are nice and add to the immersion, but if you look closely, most of the animations are just repeated over and over. For example, when you build a clay pottery barn you can see a worker using a wheel to shape a clay pot, and another opening an oven. Not only does he burn his hand on a hot pot, but the door swings back around and clocks him on the head. Funny at first, but dumb when it just repeats over and over.

Citizens who wander the streets just clip right through each other, and carts will just run right through people without a second thought. Still, the city animations are well done overall. Build some timber or clay pits and you’ll see workers run from pit to pit or tree to tree, and wagons and carts will shuffle around. Build the different houses, and you’ll see different types of immigrants move in; build a simple small insula and folks with their luggage on their backs will move in while if you build a small villa, you’ll see a helpless slave wheel in a rich folk on a chariot.

The mouse controlling in the game is a bit sluggish, which can cause improper placement of buildings or just general disdain of trying to scroll to wherever you want to go in your city. Another annoying aspect in regards to control is the cumbersome menu. When you click on the building button (or any other button), another set of buttons appears so you can choose what buildings to create. After clicking on a building, that extra menu doesn’t disappear – it just stays on the screen so that it can easily get in your way when you’re trying to build up your city. Only after building can you right click to remove the extra menu.

Another small criticism of Caesar IV is the combat system. You can create your own armies or defenses to keep any foreign invaders out, but how the combat plays out is overly generic. You can create some barracks or forts to get some soldiers or hire out legionnaires from other areas, but the combat is as straight forward as clicking on the opposing army and they’ll fight. Sure, the military is just another aspect of the game like health or water, but throughout the history of the franchise the military has just been bland – it would have been nice to see it improved.

One of the biggest draws for this new title isa multiplayer aspect that hasn’t really been touched on with the previous games. The game has a ranking system where players can continuously battle other players for the glory of the high score. You won’t be able to build cities with other people, but you can build your own city to battle someone else’s. You can also go through online scenarios and challenges, and compare your score with other people. You can also create your own set of cities and upload them online to compare to others.

Fans of the franchise or new fans will be pleased with Caesar IV; it’s a solid historic city building game with plenty to do. Create your bustling gardens of flowers and herbs in front of your villas, or build your vast markets to hawk goods to your citizens. Despite a few kinks here and there, Caesar IV delivers on what it promises.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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