This game might contain that all-powerful three-letter “Civ” moniker in its title, but make no mistake: There’s almost nothing Civ-like about this game. CC Rome lacks the depth of the Civilization series of empire-building games. In fact, it lacks the depth of even SimCity 4 and Impression’s Caesar III, which remains the finest Roman city builder you can play, although it’s eight years old (an update, Caesar IV, is due this fall).
So, aside from a shameless attempt to leverage one of the PC’s most recognized brands, what does CC Rome offer? We’d like to say it brings cutting-edge 3D graphics to the table—its setup menu would like you to believe it does, sporting such buzzwords as “bloom, real-time shadows, multipass shaders, bump mapping, and enhanced water.” It certainly runs slowly enough on a high-end PC to make you believe it’s cutting-edge. However, with a maximum resolution of 1280x1024, the game really does little to impress the eyes. (And a graphics bug appears at any resolution above 1024x768, making it nearly impossible to select anything with the cursor. A patch is forthcoming.)
It might not be beautiful, but CC Rome does sport a truly impressive level of animation. Cities feel alive with hustle and bustle, and if you zoom in on any structure, you’ll likely be surprised with what you see: children playing in the streets and gardens, gladiators fighting to the death in arenas, chariot races taking place at the circus, citizens exercising in their homes, mills grinding wheat into flour, workers harvesting crops and loading and unloading ships at the docks, merchants ferrying goods to their stores, etc.
Fortunately, CC Rome does just enough to be addictive. It’s the kind of game that could have you burning the midnight oil, often—the one element it has in common with Civilization. There’s a wide variety of buildings and upgrades that not only give your cities visual diversity, but will also have the civic planner in you scratching your head to figure out exactly the best way to keep the citizenry happy. Do you have ample goat farms to provide your city with meat? Is it time to start a goose farm to satisfy the more sophisticated palette of your (hopefully) growing upper-class populace? Do you produce enough grapes to make wine, wheat to make bread, olives to make oil, and flax to make cloth? Get the proportions right and your city will blossom, which is great fun to see. Be prepared for lots of trial-and-error discovery, though: The game’s built-in tutorial and manual do little to actually help you learn how to play.
The single-player campaign is a mixed bag. It lets you choose between missions with either military or peaceful goals, which is a good thing. The military missions are ludicrously dumbed-down. Other than forming armies and telling them where to go on the map, you have very little control over their actions. And the AI has some issues—your armies will stand by and watch an enemy ransack your city unless you actually tell it to attack the enemy. Thankfully, the peaceful missions make up for the military deficiency with a variety of options and an alluring sandbox feel.
We would have liked to see a bit more depth to the game, such as the ability to set taxation levels ourselves (instead they’re automatically tied to city growth), and perhaps set prices on the costs of goods both in city commerce and in trades with neighboring cities. And built-in city advisors, similar to the ones in Civilization IV, would be welcome as well.
As it stands, CC Rome manages to be fun despite its limitations, but it just doesn’t bring enough innovation to the table to recommend it highly.
Month Reviewed: November 2006 + TOGA PARTY: Tons of animation, nice diversity of buildings to place and upgrade, interesting campaign. - TUPPERWARE PARTY: Not much to look at, overly simplistic, bugs, and AI issues. Verdict: 6 URL:www.2kgames.com/civcityrome/civcity.html