Grand Ages: Rome

   30/01/2009 at 08:37       Phil May       6 COMMENTS.
Rome wasn't built in a day...

Or so the old cliche would have you believe. Fear not, it won't take you that long to get into the swing of things with Haemimont Games / Kalypso Media's upcoming sequel to the sublime Imperium Romanum (which we rather liked, as you can see from our review).

The team have taken the heady mix of strategy, combat and resource management to dizzying new heights with Grand Ages: Rome, so if you're the sort of person who gets a buzz out of seeing your living breathing historical metropolis slowly take shape before your eyes, then read on.

Toga, Toga, TOGA!

[THUMB2]Grand Ages: Rome begins with a tutorial that takes you through the basics of turning the lush verdant countryside into a thriving centre of Roman culture and industry. First you begin by giving your eager little plebs somewhere to dwell and scratch out a living from the land. Once they're happy and their bellies are full, you can put them to work gathering the resources you'll need to begin building your vast empire.

Industrious folk will begin working in your sawmills, stone quarries and farms, collecting and producing raw materials to stockpile for later use.

The tutorial prompts you with objective briefings, and helpfully highlights the parts of your ever-growing city that you need to concentrate on. If you worked your way through Imperium Romanum you'll be on very familiar ground, but fear not - the game is as approachable and easy to pick up and play as before, so newcomers won't feel snowed under.

Providing materials is only one part of kick-starting your empire. You must also ensure your civilians have water to drink, are fed and are entertained. Various building options are unlocked as the tutorial progresses, allowing you to construct the vital components of your Roman idyll. Schools will allow you to concentrate your efforts into research in key areas (architecture, extending your allocation of building types, agriculture to ensure you get the most out of your land and military to make sure your backside is covered if anyone gets aggressive and tries to invade your city).

Caesar Salad

[THUMB3]Grand Ages: Rome is nicely scalable, running beautifully even on a medium spec PC rig like mine (in fact, at a stretch it even ran quite nicely on my laptop). Haemimont Games have done a very good job of polishing the already highly buffed graphics from the original Imperium Romanum games up to a high sheen, ensuring that all the fine little details and machinations of your ever-growing city are nicely rendered with no glitchiness or frame-dropping.

Sound is put to good use too, with soothing tinkling music (which I will admit I turned off - not because it was irritating but because it acted a bit like a lullaby and could've had me quite contently curling up under my desk for an afternoon snooze). Atmospheric sounds are nicely done too, and the dialogue isn't too far down the line of being cheesy or plummy for the English Language version.

[THUMB1]Once you're done with the tutorial section, you can start playing the full campaign. As before with Imperium Romanum, Grand Ages: Rome positively batters the player with a plethora of objectives to complete. There are over 40 missions but there's a lot of depth and plenty to get your teeth into in the game's non-linear structure. You will visit various historical locations, spreading your empire throughout the ancient lands of Gaul, Britannia, Egypt and beyond, taming barbarians and forging alliances with historical figures from Caesar to Cleopatra.

Naturally your empire building comes at the cost of defending your borders. Combat has been massively improved in Grand Ages: Rome with a massive variety of different units at your command. Foot troops, naval units and cavalry are all available and later on you can also enlist the help of your allies, hiring mercenaries and specialist combat units from foreign armies.

Massive battles are a sight to behold, with units wading into the thick of things and kicking ass. If you've ever spent hour after hour playing or watching a game like Rome: Total War, the skirmishes here are really going to float your boat.

Grand Ages: Rome will be released in the UK on March 6th 2009. We'll take the full version for a spin and bring you a full review nearer the time but from the first forays into Ancient Rome, we can tell you're going to be hooked.

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