Blatant, but well-designed spin on My Kingdom for the Princess
In Realore’s Roads of Rome you experience a story set in ancient Rome with a blend of building sim and click management gameplay. A tale of unfulfilled love and power struggles, to call Roads of Rome a mere alteration of My Kingdom for the Princess would be putting it mildly. In fact, it’s an entertaining, though blatant copy of the latter title, sharing similarities in story, power-ups, graphics, and game design.
In Roads of Rome the player follows the story of a warrior who has fallen for the daughter of Rome’s mighty leader Caesar, who is not exactly happy about this turn of events. Thus he sends you on various missions to expand Rome’s important road system into unknown and dangerous areas.
All in all the game features four different episodes in widely varying landscapes, each episode consisting of nine regular levels and a mini-game at the end. You can plan on spending around four hours with playing until seeing the final pictures of the story, which is without a doubt a decent length, but not so much considering the average duration of other building simulations and particularly My Kingdom for the Princess, the obvious role model for Roads of Rome.
Your basic level goals mostly consist of building a road through an initially wild and undiscovered region, thereby collecting runes, crystals, building a fort to protect this area prospectively, or collecting certain amounts of resources such as gold, food, or stone. But to do so is more challenging than you would think. Each action costs you one or two types of resources. Constructing buildings certainly requires wood, building a part of road costs food and stone/wood, removing large boulders will reduce your amount of gold and food, and so on. There are several ways to gain those resources. You can either direct your workers to construct and upgrade buildings like a sawmill, a farm, a gold mine, and a quarry. Or you can harvest berry bushes, exploit piles of stone and gold or cut down trees.
The number of obstacles increases as you progress in Roads of Rome. Some parts of later levels can only be reached by boat or balloon, which requires you to construct the providing buildings. Animals such as lions or bears will scare your workers and have to be “clicked away” so that you can continue your current quest.
Various power-ups suddenly appear and have to be collected to be activated, offering temporary support in your quest. Those power-ups work for several seconds and might speed up your workers, increase the amount of collected resources, or fasten certain actions such as construction or removals of obstacles.
Some levels confront you with more complicated situations, for example relying solely on natural sources for food because you are not able to build a farm or a fisherman’s hut. The gameplay is definitely varied, and it is a lot of fun to plan a strategy ahead to finish a level in time. Which building have to be constructed first to collect the more important resources quickly? When do I have to train a new worker to keep up with the growing number of tasks? How can I reach this little island quickly? All those questions will pop up in your mind and keep you on your toes. Random occurrences such as earthquakes, animals, or power-ups assure that you can never be too sure about your success.
The graphics and animations of Roads of Rome are wonderful, and the pace of the game is well done, although it feels a bit too easy at times. We only had to replay three levels to finish in expert time, and once you’ve got the hang of the appropriate strategy there will rarely be problems to succeed, although the game feels quite fast-paced even then.
Apart from the already mentioned extreme similarities to My Kingdom for the Princess that affect every aspect of the game there are a few other disappointments. The mini-game at the end of each episode can become annoying quickly, since it is surprisingly difficult and not really necessary. Furthermore Roads of Rome even acquired one of the negative points of its obvious role model, namely the inability to chain actions. Finally, some of the later levels feel and look quite similar, at one point I was absolutely sure that I had already played one level and had to check the map repeatedly to convince myself that I was wrong.
All in all though, Roads of Rome is a decent and entertaining game, whose features such as earthquakes and power-ups blend together very well, in a still fresh sub-genre of the building simulation and click management. However, Roads of Rome is a bit too similar to My Kingdom for the Princess, so the praise tastes a bit sour in the end. Fans of the latter one will definitely enjoy this new release, either because of the strong similarities, or in spite of them.