There have been a handful of games of the strategy genre that have been released since arguably the best studio for strategy games shut its doors; few of which could be determined using the word “quality”. It is a pretty rare occurrence that a strategy game comes out that has tremendous potential to be great, and follow the lead of games that released well into a decade ago.
On May 15, 2014 one of those rare games fully released: Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar. This game in particular has sucked me in from the get-go, and it refuses to let me leave it. I have become incredibly immersed into a world I had long forgotten because other games of the genre have been a disappointment. It brought me back to my hardcore gaming days of playing on the internet multiplayer service known as MSN Zone on a game that is the epitome of the genre: Age of Empires. Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar brought me back to my glory days of being enthralled in a game, to the point where I do not want to put it down. Literally since getting the game for this review I have had the hardest time stepping away from it.
Let’s start off the review by saying a simple thing: this game is challenging. I do not mean challenging as in picking a difficulty type of challenging, but where you want to pull your hair out type of challenging. At least it was for me, even the very beginning levels I found to be incredibly difficult. That was up until I found out – and had the ability to do so – how to manage my money, food and resources. Unlike other strategy games this one is not about who has the bigger army, but instead who has the better army. It was a difficult task to find that out, as in the beginning I was building my army up a ton only to be shattered like nothing, up until I had the Phalanx – which goes by a different name. Again though it is about quality rather than quantity, which you should really be paying attention to what types of units you will encounter and then prepare for that by using one of my favorite features: pause.
The pause feature is quite different from what we all know the name to imply, you can still do things, but the world itself is frozen. For instance you can quickly pause the game when you want to gather yourself before a landmark attack on an enemy outpost. Let’s clarify this first though, your units are unable to move during pause sequence, but you can still plan your attack, upgrades, or how you want to handle a situation without getting into the fray too quickly. Trust me when I say, if you are a new player, you will more than likely need to make heavy use of this feature, and that is ok; it is there for a reason. I personally used it heavily to plot out the map, see where I had to go and how I could get there without encountering a ton of resistance. This is key when travelling around the massive zones, because it is usually vital you make a trip.
Combat is one of the better things in Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar as it is optional; yes I said optional. There are a couple ways to defeat your enemies and by far my favorite way is to starve them. This is something unique to this game, where you can ultimately cut off their supply lines for food, and starve them; giving you the option of a quick-and-painless death or an all-out torture. While I cannot confirm that they will die from starvation, I find it important to cut their food out of the equation as it seems it makes enemy units easier to defeat when you need it to be easy. Don’t get me wrong though, even while they are starving, and their morale is low sometimes enemy units can be a real pain to defeat, especially when dealing with a fort. Before I learned how to manage, I sent dozens of units to take a fort, for some reason I lost more than half of them. Again, management is key to this game, and you would do well to mind it. If you can figure out how to properly manage your resources early on in the game, the rest should become vastly easier!
Honestly one of the brightest points I could make about Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar is the landscape and map system. The map itself is a very large area at just around 1,000,000 square kilometers (or 386,102 square miles), which is beyond insane for a game. I have yet to explore the entire gameplay regions, but I am hoping to do it the next time I get into the game as I want to see everything that is offered. While the landscape is massive, it does not mean that quality has been sacrificed in order to give the player a huge world, in fact quality if superb. Really the textures surprised me the most, as I was expecting a lot of textures popping and low-res ones as well, but again they are superb. One thing that most should be impressed with is the mountain ranges and how detailed they really are, sure at times they made look like a finger trying to come through a wet cloth, but outside of that they are beautiful. It surely is one of the finer qualities about Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar.
If you have been a fan of strategy games for long, you will know that a free-forming camera is a somewhat new development. It is really a welcomed one as well, as in this game it is almost necessary to be able to move the camera as you see fit including: rotation, elevation and positioning. I want to put emphasis on that it is sometimes vital, specifically when you are in the mountain ranges, as it allows you to get a bigger grasp at what you are dealing with. It also allows you to see more, such as farms or mines and the like when you don’t move it. Knowing your terrain is vitally important in any genre of games, and strategy is really no different. Get used to your terrain; inspect every element with every angle because you might be surprised.
The story of Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar is exactly what you would expect out of a history centered game; you basically act as him and act out his entire legacy. I don’t want to say that the voice acting was bad when you heard it but it could have been better as it did sound a bit forced. However, this is also a good thing as it shows that more work went into gameplay – which is noticed – instead of voice work. I commend Longbow Games for that one.
Overall Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar is a strategy game to play, one that every fan should own, and new players should focus in on. If you are like me and enjoy pure gameplay with a twist of nostalgia then I highly suggest it, as it is a pretty long game with plenty of elements for you to explore, learn and enjoy the replayability is pretty high. Go and get it, as you will not regret this purchase.