Amiga Power1st October 1993
Published in Amiga Power #30
Populous and Sim City were the stepping stones for god sims as we perceive them today, but where Populous has been surpassed so thoroughly by its spin-offs and its follow-up that these days a game on the original probably feels a little crude, the evolution of Sim City was not so successful. We tried Sim-ing the Earth, Ants and Life itself, but these games were both too ambitious and unrelated to our own perceptions, so we still liked Sim City best. Hungry enthusiasts were more likely to feed their megalomaniac brains with A-Train (or the previous similar Railroad Tycoon), seeking power through railyways, but there was no other choice than that - until Impressions' Roman variation, Caesar. But just how would you explain the appeal of a good god sim to aliens? The answer is, of course, you wouldn't - you'd run away shouting "Aarrrrgh - aliens!".
Only when you were safe in bed would you think maybe it's the power, maybe it's the creativity or, as I reckon, maybe it's the way the better you do, the more problems you create.
Here in Caesar Deluxe, for example, building a forum, linking in a water supply, sticking in a few roads, maybe a baths or two and encouraging some settlers is no problem. Thought must then go into improving conditions for your plebeians, introducing amenities, busnesses and entertainment. Watch where you put things - land values will rise if housing is placed next to a market or temple, but plebs will object to living near a factory (yet markets, factories and workshops must be in close proximity). City walls, tax collectors and barracks must also be introduced, not forgetting that taxes are automatically collected from houses near the forum and citizens will dislike living near the army. Searching for this sort of information, I'll bet, will be your first reason to consult the Big Boys' Instructions and bin the considerably thinner Tutorial pamphlet that you probably convinced yourself you'd be able to get away with reading instead.
"I always wished Sim City has more 'game' to it; Caesar has that!" quotes the back of the box to which I'd have to agree - but rather less enthusiastically, because the 'added game' seems to be a more-than-coincidental hint of Populous. The colour scheme? The little men who walk around to show activity? The city walls, towers and forts? It might just be me, but especially in the battle scenes, it does look very reminiscent of a kind of Populous 'from above'.
So what of it? Aside from a strangely wobbly cursor and fairly rudimentary graphics, there is little to fault in Caesar Deluxe - apart from criticising its very existence. We've established that, great as it was, Sim City was a bit of a dead end for nicking ideas from. You can't simulate anything more complicated than a city (it gets too complicated - or too boring), so simulating cities in other time zones seems the only option. And, in this case, those without a special fondness for the Roman Empire are likely to prefer the present day, which (insert vicious circle here) has already been done. Perhaps the fantasy approach of the mythical Populous or the futuristic Syndicate is the answer? Anyway, I always preferred the straight win-or-lose aspect of Populous and Mega-Lo-Mania to the play-until-you-give-up style of play found here.
Caesar Deluxe tries hard, but it is unlikely to win any prizes for its efforts 20 minutes later. You might also like to spend another £29.99 on Impressions' Cohort 2 to use in conjuction with Caesar to act out all the battles. This is interesting, if a little expensive, but probably isn't everybody's cup of tea.
The Bottom Line
Uppers: It's very easy to get into, it's very easy to play and, what with the prospect of promotion to take over new cities, there's (probably) quite some scope to it.
Downers: If you used to own a really nice suit, but then bought another one the same colour - even if it was made in a different decade and by a different company - it wouldn't be that different, would it? [What? - Ed]
As a Sim City clone, it does the job, and it plays better than the official follow-ups, but a Sim City clone it is and always will be.