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Imperium Romanum: Gold Edition

A couple thousand years earlier you might have thought times were simpler, but you’d be wrong. Turns out the Romans wanted more or less the same things you see people begging for these days; better schools, more jobs, a higher standard of living and even coliseums, to take in the occasional gladiator match. Despite Roman desires being very close to our own, it also turns out it was much easier back then to please the people, or at least that’s what Imperium Romanum would have you believe.

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As the Praetor overseeing dozens of settlements and cities across Imperium Romanum’s various scenarios and campaigns, your principal duty is keeping the people happy. If there is a riot over illiteracy you build a new school. If people’s homes are deteriorating, you build a new clay pit to produce the resources necessary for proper maintenance, and so on. Most dilemmas can be solved on a one to one basis, you have a specific need and you build the corresponding structure.

As the people’s concerns are met, your cities will expand, thus creating different needs and problems. In addition to the general maintenance served to your public, you’ll be given a series of tablets that each has an objective. The objectives give each scenario some basic direction and will often reward the player for successful completion. Tablet objectives can vary greatly from simply building a certain amount of a specific structure, raising a certain amount of Denarii or insuring a large percentage of your people are getting their proper wine intake. Many tablets can be completed quickly with easier building related objectives, but some can be a bit more difficult. An example of a more difficult tablet is getting a single family’s household worth over 1000 Denarii, or having a set percentage of the people happy. Since these conditions don’t have an immediately accessible solution it forces you, the Praetor, to find out what effects your actions have and which can help with the current objective. Strangely, some of the more difficult tablets allow you to discard the objective and move on. If they have the discard option then they aren’t crucial to achieving the ultimate goal of the scenario, but it also lets you advance without taking the hits and trying to understand what makes your people tick.

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As with the expansion of any empire, there will come a time when you’ll have to chop down things other than trees. When it’s time to go to war you’ll have a few different infantry types at your disposal, these include soldiers, archers and cavalrymen. After you’ve erected a barrack specific to an infantry type you’ll be free to deploy a squad of that type from the barrack. Once deployed each infantry type has a couple different formations, which can be switched on the fly. Other then the ability to change a squad’s formation there is actually very little to combat; you can order a squad to attack nearby enemy units or retreat. With only a few options for infantry type and squad formation there just isn’t a whole lot of excitement to battles. Squads will square off, hit each other for a while and one will emerge victorious. Unfortunately, any given barrack isn’t allowed to deploy more than a single squad at any time or even create new units to refill an existing beaten squad, severely hampering your ability to recoup after a defeat.

In between the riots and sieges of ancient Rome it’s important to take a step back and enjoy the day to day life of your people. Slaves will heave marble to your new stadium, while peasants go about their daily activities. All the while you might find yourself learning a bit about the culture you’re attempting to nurture, as many tablet objectives will be related to actual events in Roman history. In fact, over the course of multiple campaigns and a slew of standalone scenarios you’ll be introduced to centuries of Roman success and failure.

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Despite chronicling one of the greatest empires of mankind’s history, Imperium Romanum fails to really distinguish itself. It dips its feet into both the simulation and real-time strategy pools but ends up shallow to both. The civil objectives necessary for victory are mostly easy, while the limited infantry options leave the battles feeling underwhelming. Even when it does throw a more difficult objective your way, you could take it or leave it, much like the overall experience.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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