Grand Ages: ROME Preview (PC)

Haemimont Games brings their latest Imperial city builder to life with Grand Ages: Rome, which sees not only fancy new marble architecture but some bulging military biceps too.

The Roman Empire is one of the few true marvels of human civilization for the amazing feats it achieved and even mastered. It was an age of bringing civilization to the great unwashed hordes around the world, whether they wanted it or not didn’t matter to Rome. Grand Age: Rome is the sequel to Haemimont’s Imperium Romanum, which in turn was the successor to their Glory of the Roman Empire game – I think you can begin to see an emerging pattern here.

Behold the world, circa 79 B.C.
Research enters the fray and can’t be ignored for long.

The difference between each game is apparent the moment you step into each with Grand Ages feeling truly the champion in Haemimont’s arena so far. If you’ve played the previous games then a lot of the core basics will feel incredibly similar in terms of UI, but this animal has some new tricks. Firstly, you can now select what family you want to use for your campaigns and you reap the benefits as you continue to complete more missions. On the campaign map you can select and play through scenarios in a non-linear fashion, so if you get a little sick of playing on smaller islands then you might like to build some cities on huge chunks of land. Of course you can always opt to ignore the campaign and select to just build a city free from objective restraints. The general motivation for any of the houses you select to play as will be to secure your families rightful place in Rome by gaining favour with the masses. You’ll even be rubbing elbows with some of the most known historical figures at the time as you, the new rising political star of Rome, will decide what path to take along the way.

When it comes to city building itself Haemimont prove again that they’ve done their homework and know what fans did and didn't like when it comes to governing. A major change you’ll notice straight away is the ability to wedge buildings next to one another, which can offer bonus productivity and aesthetically help gamers build more unique appearing cities. For example the simple house for plebeians come in just two varieties, but by letting you switch between them, rotate and connect them how you please, suddenly your emerging urban zones look more natural and keep away that cloned and sterile look. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn you can now place buildings that you think deserve a little more luxury upon raised platforms, which also let you construct over uneven ground.

The streets are much more alive with citizens of Rome.
Surveying your lands can be majestic, especially when fully ‘civilised’.

The radial effects of buildings have also changed to with buildings that produce resources immediately having their product added to the cities stockpile. Buildings no longer need resources carried to them as structures are worked on straight away. Instead emphasis now is on balancing what your industries produce and how much the city needs to consume on maintenance. This by no means makes things unchallenging though as you still need to balance food variety, religion and entertainment for your citizens which now each have their own designated housing. The visuals prove to be stunning at times and once you manage to sprawl out your Imperial colony you can zoom right out and get an overview of your planning prowess in all its glory.

You no longer have slaves by default doing all the hard work for the city, and neither do you get a fancy main structure to start off with. Instead you begin with a warehouse like building that lets you build around it but if you want to keep extending throughout the map you’ll need to build more of them. Slaves are still in the game but will need to be assigned manually to structures replacing their paid citizens once you’ve got the market to buy them. Buildings now can also be upgraded once certain research has been completed through a school. The schools have three areas in which to help further the people and covers architecture, technology and the warfare. Farming has changed too so that now you can only construct farms specifically near designated fertile plots of land and watch as they are assigned to that particular building. Constructing houses isn’t enough to inject able bodies into the workplace as the needed type of citizen must be within reach of the building.

While the military played a heavier role in Imperium Romanum, Grand Ages decides to kick it up a notch and further the integration and for trade purposes they can become essential in keeping Rome’s enemies from choking off your contact with the wider Mediterranean. You get a nice selection of units to recruit from basic infantry to cavalry and even barbarians or gladiators. When your units are marching to battle and causing a ruckus you can order them to train. Training the troops will cost some money but will also mean you need to leave them alone until they reached the next level; play fights without real battle experience can only achieve some much though. The action is far more akin to traditional real-time strategy games with focus on squad-level commands to keep the war machine reined in better by the player.

Legions are much easier to command in the field, and subjugate settlements.
Your can jump in the campaign or go out on your own in free build.

As this was a preview build of Grand Ages: Rome, in fact officially labelled as a November 2008 beta, there were some hiccups along the way with minor frame rate stutters and the rare occasion of a crash to desktop.

Aside from the expectant graphical upgrade, the music was certainly more alive too with almost a rock ‘n’ roll vibe to it that complimented well the livelier hustle and bustle of the citizens going about their day. I also noticed over time that buildings get little trinkets, potted plants, crates and other miscellaneous crap building outside them to make the place feel more lived in. A forum can also be plopped down in the city to help you keep track of your provinces achievements. From everything I’ve witnessed so far it’s shaping up to be a true successor in Haemimont Games own Roman legacy.

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By ScubaDiver (I just got here) on Feb 18, 2009
This game was released to Spain and Italy last November 2008 as Imperium Civitas III.
By JamieSI (SI Core) on Feb 18, 2009
Are you sure you don't mean Imperium Romanum?
By assen (I just got here) on Feb 18, 2009
No, Imperium Romanum (aka Imperivm Civitas II in Spain and Italy) was released one year before that.

Also, the Spanish version (aka Imperivm Civitas III) doesn't have multiplayer - it will be patched into it shortly after Grand Ages: Rome is released everywhere else. It's not a conspiracy, it simply wasn't ready :-)
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Feb 20, 2009
I played the demo and i loved it :) And i'm sure its not still released any where...100% misunderstanding :) The release is on march
By Nicolas19 (SI Core Veteran) on Feb 23, 2009
Damn that my machine is being repaired for almost three weeks now, otherwise, I'd e playing the demo already.
By ironmike71 (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 27, 2009
played the demo. i'm pretty hard on games. most are fails as far as i'm concerned. but i recommend this one. it's very, very well done. I'm looking forward to seeing how Anno 1401 measures up to this one. i don't think it can compete with this.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Mar 10, 2009
i played the demo quite nice tough i still need to master my city infrastructure butthants just training :) gonna put that on my buy list hehehe :p
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Mar 11, 2009
I don't know about SPQR. Doesn't attract me that much. :|
By crawlroman (SI Core) on Mar 12, 2009
This game is great=D
By lichlord (SI Core) on Mar 12, 2009
SPQR isn't that the senate and people of the Republic Rome os somethign like that
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Mar 18, 2009
This is one I am gonna have to get. Just can't pass on a City Builder with good tactical battles included: Hail Haemimont!
By twking (SI Veteran Newbie) on Mar 28, 2009
Nice game here, gunna get it sometime.