Ave Caesar!

Sierra's update of the classic city simulation will have you hooked.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Uhhh...but what do the Romans do?

The answer to that question lies in the towering turrets and bustling marketplaces of Caesar III, Sierra's update of the classic city simulation Caesar II. With some interesting new gameplay features and options, Caesar III is ideal for those of you who spent hours playing SimCity and Sid Meier's Civilization when those games were first released.

The basic premise of Caesar III is simple: you start out as the lord and master of a small Roman town, and need to utilize scarce resources to grow your town into a bustling city, complete with power, health and other amenities. You also need to negotiate trade contracts with your neighbours, and begin exporting items in return for cash; you can then use this cash to import necessary items, and to pay for your military and civic infrastructure.

Naturally, you're not alone in this mammoth undertaking - there are a number of "advisors" who will hold your hand and provide you with advice on the best course of action to take in a specific set of circumstances. At the end of the day, however, the buck stops with you - and whether or not Caesar is pleased with you depends entirely on how successful your city is, how happy your citizens are, and how much you're contributing to the national coffers.

The interface should come as no surprise to those of you coming from a SimCity background - like SimCity, there are tools which allow you to demolish patches of land, lay down roads, and build various types of structures. As in SimCity, the various structures - health, fire, utilities - have a specific sphere of control, indicated by the patrol route taken by units from that structure. Additionally, Caesar III allows you to view the entire city layout and easily identify trouble spots - for example, areas where crime is rampant, or where there is a power or water problem - and then take measures to rectify the problem. Once your city is built, it becomes necessary to begin exporting goods to neighbouring regions, and also begin making an investment in your military arm.

There are two main gameplay modes - the scenario mode, in which you have a specific mission/target to accomplish, and the campaign mode, which is essentially a series of missions played out in a linear order. There are a number of different scenarios available, from building a city from scratch to taking over an ill-managed existing city and fixing its problems, and these add to the replay value of the simulation.

Graphics and sound effects are both good, and the interface is intuitive - I particularly liked the ability to zoom in on specific citizens and find out how (un)happy they are with your city and its planning. The various missions are also well-designed, and some of them are devilishly difficult to beat. If you like city simulations, you'll probably enjoy this one - just don't expect to finish it over a single weekend!

This article was first published on11 Jan 2001.