Managing the Roman Empire is no easy task, but somebody's got to do it. And in Caesar IV that somebody is you. After an eight year hiatus, the classic city-building franchise is back, in all of its micro-managing glory.
Limitations on city size and esthetic requirements are the two biggest obstacles (outside of the economy) that any budding governor is going to face. Just as in real life, real estate in Caesar IV is a limited resource and how well you plan out your city can easily make or break a mission.
There's nothing more annoying than having to tear down a section and rebuild it simply because it wasn't an efficient use of space the first time around. Aesthetics are important because no one wants to live in an industrial park, not even the lowly plebs. Segregating the housing from the working parts of the city is a necessity if you want to attract citizens.
The economic model is Caesar IV's strongest point, as the game offers a multi-layered system with an impressive amount of depth. Each bit of the economy relies on the one below it, forcing players to build a city organically rather than simply pausing time, constructing a masterpiece and expecting the citizens to flow in. Miscalculating production on a basic resource can bring the whole thing to a grinding halt.
Combat isn't nearly as impressive and feels more like an afterthought than a fully integrated part of the game. Instead of battling it out, conflict is more of a numbers game. Toss a bunch of troops at the enemy and chances are you'll win.
Helping you keep tabs on everything are the advisors, which break down key information into bite sized chunks. Their comments may get repetitive, but a quick drill down can easily identify which section of your city needs work.
Unfortunately, Caesar IV lacks a bit of technical polish which keeps the game from really shining. At the top of the list is the annoyingly tweakish mouse and camera control. When every little bit of space counts, accurately placing buildings and roads is key. Caesar IV suffers a bit of "mouse delay" which can result in an offset building or unwanted camera movement.
In-game menus offer quick access to the tools you need, but they also take up nearly half of your screen. Combine this with the camera issues, tack on a few random lockups and it's easy to go from economic elation to total frustration. Thankfully an autosave feature prevents a game crash from becoming a total loss.
If you can deal with its quirks, Caesar IV offers a stunning economic model that is sure to challenge even the best money managers while providing hours of play.