Glory of the Roman Empire


posted 10/25/2006 by Lydia Graslie
other articles by Lydia Graslie
Platforms: PC
When you think of Romans, you usually think of a lot of guys in leather skirts and metal breastplates with ridiculous helmets living in old stone buildings. While ridiculous helmets are awesome, this certainly isn't the end of their achievements. The Romans did a lot of crazy things for their time, like figure out how water could be transported from one place to the next, invent a style of government that was the loose basis for the US Constitution, and eat half-rotten food as a delicacy. However most people know the Romans for the fact that they conquered a crap ton of land. At the height of the Empire their territory spanned 2,300,000 miles. Even today the image of Romans as perpetual soldiers and conquerers is the one that most comes to mind, not moving-water-over-that-hill-ers.
It is precisely this overlooked, day-to-day process that Glory of the Roman Empire focuses on. You start out as an up and coming governor in the middle of the Empire, who is given a village to govern in order to prove your mettle. You buy slaves, build buildings, farm pigs and wheat, oversee trading shipments, tend to your people's spiritual needs, and so forth in order to foster the growth of the township you are governing. Its sort of like a cross between Sim City (x) and Black and White, except you can only play the Romans, mostly your neighbors are left alone, and there are no giant turtle gods. The big emphasis here is not squashing the bejeebus out of your enemies, but planning ahead to build a working infrastructure that will continue to support your township as it grows and becomes more complex.
Content-wise everything is pretty historically accurate, although some things (like herbalists) have been made far more effective than their ancient counterparts would have been. The voiceovers are even spoken with a Roman accent, which sounds like a mix between Italian and French. Slaves are the meat and potatoes of the work force, as they would have been in Roman times.
Graphics wise everything is serviceable, but not stunning. Frankly most of the time it looks like you're manipulating an architect's model of ancient Rome. I was too busy manipulating my Romans much to look very hard at what they lived in.
The ambient music is actually quite pleasant, certainly better than a lot of background music that I've listened to. Its mostly pleasant orchestral and wind pieces, nothing too agressive. I didn't ever feel aggravated listening to it, which is no small feat in itself.
Thinking ahead proved to be my biggest challenge with this game. It seemed no sooner did I advance my proud little village to 25 people than they all began dying of the plague(a constant problem with all the nearby pig farms; this is why its unwise to play in poop). After I built enough herbalists to stop them dying of the plague, they started going hungry. After I built more farms to stop them from going hungry, there weren't enough people to work the farms. Then things started catching on fire. And so on. It seemed that the only way to solve a problem was to create a new one.
There really isn't much thats new to be excited about in Glory of the Roman Empire. All of its core play mechanics have been executed better and more efficiently in games like the Sim City series, Sid Meier's civilization, Black and White, and so forth. Playing Glory of the Roman empire is like playing the bastard child of all these games rolled into one. I have to say I didn't really feel much empathy towards my villagers, especially after they all refused to stop getting the plague; and there is no function in this game that allows you to deliberately kill villagers in order to vent your frustration.

Not great, but okay. There's nothing really new or exciting in this game, unless you want a gift for your major-history-buff dad. Other than that, this is probably a title best left to all the hard-core strategy gamers out there.

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