While the first instalment in the Caesar series has not aged well, it is still an interesting civilisation-building game that can be admired for its humble beginnings, despite that there are no real reasons to play it nowadays. Luckily, a sequel was made, providing it with the potential of learning from its predecessor’s strengths and shortcomings. I am already looking forward to seeing how my next urban society will do!
The importance of a good plan
Just before starting this entry, I am pleased to be presented with the option of a tutorial. This is such a handy aspect by letting you study what constructions do and create a minor metropolis of your own at your desired pace. When you are ready to begin your true journey, you are able to choose between city mode or taking on the full experience. I will come back to the latter of the two later in this review, but both will regardless demand you to develop a town to be proud of.
After you have selected one of four starting spots, each coming with various positives and negatives, you will be tasked to build a town of your own. The improvements continue onwards, as there is a satisfactory interface implemented in Caesar 2. A big portion of the screen is dedicated to showing the land you are focused on, with the map of the whole area and buttons for making facilities, visiting the forum, and getting support being on the right. Everything is neatly laid out, with technical options like saving your progress being located on the top. This iteration even lets you zoom and rotate the world, making it easy to get a complete overview of your creation.
Similar to the previous entry, your goal is to make your urban society gain sufficient ratings in empire, peace, culture, and prosperity. By constructing schools, temples, prefectures, workshops and much more, you will be able to turn your city into a glorious community, as long as you can finance this. However, you must also take into consideration where you place each establishment! For instance, markets might cause disturbance and lower the price for a residential zone, yet you must also put it close enough to let the inhabitants conduct purchases.
Every aspect of your metropolis’s crime, value, who pays taxes, and similar, can be shown on the map by using colour-coded overlays to determine how positive or negative each is, making everything clearly laid out and assisting you in planning out any detail. You also get warnings if things become dire, which is great for notifying you of what you should fix yet still leaving the decisions on the next step to you.
Water is once again the source of energy. Similar to the predecessor, you still need to make reservoirs and can only make aqueducts in one direction with no forks. Although, as long as you are near the source of H20, you will be able to make fountains for covering more ground, avoiding the need for channels everywhere. This is fantastic for making your town more visually appealing and creative. Should trenches still be required, they can even go over roads without causing any trouble, with wells returning as a decent help until you can afford better installations.
The cursor is also responsive and precise, making creating streets and walls comfortable. You can furthermore drag homes or lined constructions for producing more of them, but you are not forced to commit to anything until you let go of the mouse button. This makes it quite straightforward and satisfying to build, to the point that I am surprised that you can use the keyboard alone, as it is clearly a worse alternative.
Despite that, you will see your urban society become beautiful and strong if you use the overlays and strategic planning, you will also have to check its status. By clicking at the forum option located under the map, you can change the taxes for inhabitants and industries, alter the amount plebs dispatched to maintain various factors of your city, see how your products for marketing are doing, donate to Rome, adjust the income to your soldiers, study your ratings, and more.
All of this can seem intimidating at first, though is easy to get the hang of due to the tutorial simplifying each aspect to make them understandable. I love this form of micromanagement as it gives you the task to balance everything out, but in a comprehensible manner. Should you become too greedy or ignore this screen, your empire can quickly fall and it is then obviously your fault. Every single expense must be taken into regard alongside people’s state of happiness and wealth, forcing you to be careful.
Yet, this is not all. If you decide to go for the full experience and not just the city mode, you will have the outside area as well to consider. This is the only way to increase your empire ratings too, making it undoubtedly a significant part of the game. Here, you have different primary industries for acquiring raw materials such as docks for fish, farms for wool or wheat, mines for minerals like copper, and so on. What you can obtain will depend on the land nearby, which will need an appropriate facility similar to the ones mentioned, and additionally a warehouse, a work camp, and a trading post. Even ports for sending goods over the sea can be made, which is also beneficial.
By gathering trinkets, using them to make commodities, and selling them to your inhabitants and other villages, you will both get more income and develop profitable relationships with other leaders. However, all is not peaceful in 300 BC. Barbarians and nearby occupations can create uproars and even declare war against you. Due to this, soldiers and barracks will be important to create, as well as placing military bases and walls for defending your home.
Should an army try to invade, you can send out troops to fight either automatically or manually control them. Managing your combatants is the way to go as you can make them take on specific formations, aim, charge, hold position, move, and more with your warriors being diverse to make each type count. The battles might not be anything grand, but has enough depth to make them engaging. It is somewhat strange that the aspects outside of your settlement are not featured in the tutorial mode, but the help option will give you all the information you need, so there is no real loss.
Giving so many outstanding choices on what to focus on, but still demanding balanced leadership, provides a strong difficulty curve that you are allowed to take at your own pace. If that was not enough, after you reached your goal in ratings and earned a promotion, you can decide whether to continue expanding your town or go to another location for new events to tackle. If you choose the latter, you can continue until every zone is conquered and you become the new ruler of Rome.
Additionally, this offers you the choice of how long your playtime will be. Creating one metropolis can be anything from two to eight hours depending on your skills as a governor, and going beyond will provide days of entertainment that do not become stale due to the share amount of options you are provided with. My sole complaint is that you cannot rotate buildings, which forces you to spin the entire map instead in order to preferably place down one of the few rectangular houses. It can be a hassle, though does not hold back from what a fantastic experience managing your own city in Caesar 2 is through great planning and challenge, with enough support that all downfalls will definitely be on you.
Gameplay Score: 9/10
Rome in all its glory
It is remarkable how much was improved from the last entry in just two years. Ancient Rome is presented through strong and diverse colours, with each construction being authentically made with appropriate materials such as travertine. Every single detail is to marvel at, with a favourite being the tiny humans walking around with distinct clothing depending on their profession or status, providing beautiful immersion. The amount of work extends to more minor elements, such as how the interface is made out of marble or the establishments conveying animations like flags waving in the wind or water splashing from the fountains.
Events are told through short CG cutscenes and inscriptions, with all of them still holding up due to their amazing craftmanship and camera work, properly highlighting dangers or triumphant. The forum and other stat screens are also charming thanks to the bunch of different people and illustrations being used to creatively showcase each factor. In fact, this is a splendid way to make sure newcomers can easily jump in and not become overwhelmed by the plethora of numbers needing to be examined because of the appealing presentation.
Although, the naturalistic portion of your urban society will usually contain minimal varieties of lakes, trees, and not much more. However, the outside zone can possess rugged mountains, grounds for farming or even the ocean all around if you decided to govern an island. Because of this, you are provided with landscapes that are diverse and unique, making sure any playthrough does not become close to underwhelming.
On top of the visuals is the magnificent music. It consists of powerful trumpets for giving you grand introductions, strings and drums for calming your mind when planning your town’s layout, and the occasional cues for crucial events. All of the compositions include replicants of older instruments such as cithara or cornu, giving the game an authentic tone. Furthermore, each melody is also memorable due to varied notes and rhythm, offering a terrific atmosphere to the already wonderful graphics. The audio is complemented onwards by the substantial voice acting for cutscenes and guides, as well as the ambient sounds of children playing or the echoes from the bathhouses just to name a few. It is all aesthetically immersive and artistically pleasing.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Unexplored lands with opportunities
There are tons of options for letting you make a preferred campaign, as you can even neglect outside areas altogether if you are mainly into city management as mentioned. While I did find controlling my army and making materials for trades engaging, it is a nice choice if you want a lighter experience. The difficulty modes and alternatives for different startups will ensure that every run will offer something unique due to varied benefits and dangers, making it intriguing to try out new playstyles. Additionally, because of how you will promote, each run can be as diverse as you wish them to be.
Extra Score: 9/10
I am legitimately surprised. This is not just a fantastic sequel; this is one of the best titles in its genre. Caesar 2 takes the complex aspects of being a governor in Ancient Rome through civilisation building and expansion to other regions, but simplifies everything to make the tasks digestible. Simultaneously, it offers a great and customizable challenge that will never become dull with tons of replay value. Alongside its gorgeously faithful visuals and audio, this is an important game that no one should be without. Newcomers or veterans alike.