In Romopolis, a new game by developer Lonely Troops, the challenge to construct various cities in Roman style is up to you. The differences between this new installment and Lonely Troops’ previous game, Townopolis, are as negligible as those between the names. The important question is, whether Romopolis still suffers from tedious and frustrating gameplay or if it has finally grown into a decent game.
The game features a 24 level campaign, as well as a sandbox mode. In each level of the campaign you have three main goals that you have to fulfill in a specific time limit to progress. There is also an additional trophy which you can try to obtain, but this is not necessary to win the level. In the sandbox mode you can create scenarios yourself with the 24 maps of the campaign, so it is basically the same, except for that you can set the goals and the deadline on your own.
Your basic task is to construct various buildings, from different types of houses, like apartments or mansions, to public buildings like a hospital, a market or a library. To be able to build anything you need stones, wood and workers. Every building requires a different amount of workers and resources, and neither the first nor the latter are for free. Your only source of income is rent from houses, the more expensive they are, the more residents and the higher the income is. The public buildings do not generate any income, but they indirectly affect how much the residents pay.
The income is the core element of the game, and it is influenced and can be increased by various factors. To earn the average income a type of house can provide, you have to construct every public building its inhabitants demand. While the residents of a small house are rather humble and can be satisfied by just one shrine, the tenants of majestic mansions call for all eight available public buildings to just pay the normal rent. But there are also some possibilities to increase the rent, such as constructing gardens near houses, because, as the game states itself, "people like living near gardens." (Well, as long as they don’t have to care for them, it seems.)
Another feature brought forward from Townopolis is the so-called concessions, formerly known as licenses. These include trade routes, paved roads or sewers, thus fitting very
well into the ancient Rome timeline. These concessions are required to upgrade houses with luxury furniture, toilets or entrance gates, to make them even more comfortable and expensive.
Every new upgrade increases the rent of a house by twenty percent, hence you are able to double incomes by implementing all five possible upgrades. However, concessions do not remain in your portfolio, meaning that you have to purchase each concession again if they are needed in later levels. It is also strange that these upgrades, in contrast to gardens, do not increase the happiness of houses. If I had to choose between a toilet and a garden, I definitely know what my decision would be.
In the beginning of the campaign you are very restricted in which buildings you can construct, but the further you progress, the more blueprints you acquire, thereby creating more diversified cities. The goals and trophies for each level vary strongly. Sometimes you will have to reach a certain number of residents or your monthly income has to exceed a specific amount of money. Another time you might have to upgrade twelve houses with toilets, reach a total happiness of fifteen or build a forum.
The fact that you have to fulfill three goals at the same time really requires some strategic thinking and precise calculations. Just as one example, if a certain map only offers twenty plots on which you can build and you have to reach both 1,300 residents and a total happiness of 15, you really have to plan ahead which houses you need and where to build them.
It is a pity that Romopolis still suffers from the same flaw as its predecessor: tedious gameplay. Although the rent is collected much quicker than it was in Townopolis, the first half of each level is still very lame, because you are simply very restricted in what you are able to do. This is mainly due to the fact that the strongest feature of games like Build-A-Lot is missing, namely the ability to acquire and sell houses. Of course, this would not be bad if Romopolis scored in other features, but simply put it still is Build-a-Lot minus its most addicting aspect.
The level editor is a nice addition, but it is questionable if anyone still enjoys the game after the campaign enough to play around with it. The variety of buildings is also a plus; this holds true for the upgrades as well, but especially the public buildings have even lost some importance, because they do not offer any advantages out of themselves – they solely affect the income of houses. Moreover, the graphics cannot keep up with other representatives either – those of Build-a-Lot are more polished, those of Be Rich! are more lively.
To tell flat out the truth, knowing that Romopolis surely will find an audience, I would recommend this game only to really avid strategy game fans or those of you who already liked Townopolis. Romopolis definitely does not stand out in the crowd of average casual game titles, though it would have the potential to be a good game. Perhaps we’ll see something more enjoyable, more individual and less frustrating in the future. Spacepolis, anyone?