Reviewed by Ursus
CivCity: Rome sucks. Really, there is no polite way of expressing it otherwise. Even if there were I am in no mood to couch my terms in diplomacy. It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to totally denigrate a product without reservation, and for that I have recourse to thank the people at Firefly and Firaxis for this wanting product.
CivCity: Rome is one of many entries in the city-building simulation industry, where one constructs a community from the ground up. One has to place residential, industrial, agricultural and government service centers in the right places and in the right ratios. If not, one's citizens will become unhappy and flee one's slovenly constructed hell hole, or one's city might also expire from starvation or military conquest. When done right, this genre of game is challenging but entertaining. Who among us has not wanted to play god (or at least architect) and design one's own grand metropolis?
The problem with CivCity: Rome is that it neither tries to improve on a bloated genre, nor does it even adequately execute the standard elements of the genre.
The basic lay of the simulation game is repeated without any invigorating inspiration. You build huts for grubby peasants. As you continue to add products and services, these houses improve themselves into better residences, with wealthier citizens and a larger taxpaying revenue. The goal, then, is to progress up this "technology tree" as it is called, until one reaches the pinnacle of luxuries and attracts the wealthiest citizens. CivCity tries to adapt this scheme to a Roman paradigm, but really doesn't go beyond it, and at the end of the day it's just another city building game with a few togas here and there.
But even that might still be enjoyable were it not for the game's many bugs. There is an increasing trend these days in computer games to rush products to the market before they are completely refined or tested. CivCity: Rome is a perfect example. There is really no logic to some of the internal artifical intelligence. You can have half your citizens living on the streets, but they are happy as long as they see housing somewhere in the vicinity; or conversely you can construct new housing for your vagrants with all the amenities, only to find they don't move in. On top of this, add a complicated game play where if you try to click on a building to view it, you may very well get the building right next to it instead. After about four days of this I called it quits.
I've tried playing on easy levels, and still can't finish most of the campaigns. There is either not enough food, or not enough culture and entertainment, or not enough street sweepers (did Rome have street sweepers?). There seems to be something askew, as the various factors you're trying to juggle can never really mesh effectively with the resources you have. I would have had more fun playing at barbarian and slaughtering these whiny Roman colonists, burning their gods-forsaken cities to the ground.
The real source of amusement in this game is completely unintentional. Every once in a while, you get a special message from a famous historical figure concerning a historical event. Cleopatra announces she will free Egypt. Vercingetorix announces he will incite the Gauls to rebellion. A Senator announces the Carthaginians have invaded. Unfortunately most of the time these figures or events appear centuries before or after their actual timeframe.
CivCity:Rome is nearly 3 years old, which in gaming terms is almost a dinosaur. But given its age, one can find it very cheaply. Don't bother: it is not worth $10.