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ups: challenging, good graphics
downs: old scenarios, performance hog, micromanaging could turn players off

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Caesar IV Review
game: Caesar IV Review
three star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Vivendi Games
developer: Tilted Mill Entertainment
date posted: 01:16 PM Tue Oct 31st, 2006
last revision: 09:47 PM Wed Nov 1st, 2006

Click to read.Have you ever been sitting on your couch watching one of those documentaries about ancient Rome on the history channel (or the more entertaining option of Gladiator) and wishing you could be just like Caesar? Without the whole assassination thing, that is. I thought so. Well now you can! Again! The folks over at Tilted Mill have dished out the latest edition in the Caesar series, Caesar IV, to satisfy all of you ancient city-building needs.

The first thing you will notice about this Caesar is that he is far and away the best looking to ever sit on the throne. The large variety of buildings are brightly colored and animated, and your city has an active, lively feel. Other features such as day/night shadowing and weather systems really make Caesar IV come alive. Unfortunately, Caesar IV can be a real performance hog and unless you have a substantial amount of juice in your PC you are going to pay dearly in terms of frame rate if you want your city to look this good.

While spinning wheels or steam coming out of the bathhouse may make your city look active, the true liveliness comes from your citizens, who constantly hustle and bustle through the streets performing their various tasks. As plebs push carts or patricians walk to the theater to catch a play, not only can you watch them to see how they do their job, you can also click on them to hear what they are thinking. Feedback such as a worker complaining that they are hungry can give you hints to problems, while other lines such as a wealthy person complaining that they have so much money they don\'t know how to spend it simply provides character and makes them feel less like animated sprites and more like actual inhabitants of your creation.

And just like you would expect these inhabitants to do, they are always demanding one product or another and it is your job to make sure that they stay happy. And herein lies the backbone of Caesar IV\'s gameplay; there is always a workshop or warehouse that needs tweaking to make sure that your city is as prosperous as possible. For some players, the fairly deep economic gameplay and micromanaging is what will keep them coming back. Others will be left cursing the Gods. The good news here is that your advisers offer up a good deal of information and tweaking tools to help you make your city run like a well oiled machine.

This isn\'t to say that your only challenge will be managing warehouse inventories. Far from it. Your first and perhaps most crucial challenge for any scenario is getting a good idea of what your city will look like before you even begin. This is because in many levels real estate is very limited, and if you don\'t think carefully about the layout of your city you may work yourself into a corner and have no choice but to start razing parts of your city to smooth out the infrastructure and get more production.

It would be silly to put Rome in the hands of an inexperienced governor, thus the single-player campaign of Caesar IV is all about you proving your worth as you work up from being the unknown leader of a tiny Roman outpost to be the man sitting on the big chair. And, while the scenarios provide a very satisfying challenge, they can come off feeling a bit uninspired. Achieving a certain rating and population with a variable or two thrown in (supply timber to Rome, for example), while simple and fun, can only last so long. Instead a lot of the challenge comes back to making the most of the land you are given and maximizing efficiency.

Speaking of challenges, another one of the biggest you will face while playing Caesar IV will be fighting the user interface. For starters, the UI is ridiculously huge and takes up way more than its fair share of screen space. The selection menu for buildings doesn\'t disappear after you pick whatever it is you want to build. This leaves you with an annoyingly small view to work with and can be downright frustrating when trying to lay large items such as walls or roads. Some buildings such as libraries or theaters also have a certain radius in which they are effective. The problem here is that you cannot preview this radius when placing the building to make sure you are placing it in the optimal location. Your only option is to place the building, check the radius, then use the \"undo\" tool if you don\'t like it; and just to make things worse, sometimes the undo function simply doesn\'t work.

And once you have your city built you are going to want to defend it. Unfortunately this is one area in which Caesar IV falls flat on its face. You can build a number of defensive structures such as walls and towers, but they are a pain to build and often require you to tear apart sections of your city trying to squeeze them in. Instead it is far easier to simply build a fort and recruit a legion of soldiers whenever you need to repel the occasional barbarian attack.

It\'s these annoyances that keep Caesar IV from being a really good city builder. The campaign and scenarios provide a satisfying challenge and, while there is no actual sandbox mode, it is possible to create one using the powerful but slightly unwieldy scenario editor. Ultimately, it is the economic micromanaging that will make or break this game for the player. For those of you city building fanatics who appreciate making your city as efficient as possible, Caesar IV will provide you with plenty of entertainment. Others may come up frustrated with the awkward UI, less than original challenges, and emphasis on the hands-on economy.

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