I came, I saw, I checked my supply lines…
Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar is the latest RTS title from Longbow Games and can currently be found in early access on Steam. Now, the very nature of early access means that the game is has its fair share of bugs, AI and UI problems and, for those who wish to jump on board and start their conquest at this early stage, is unfinished. When the game finally launches this year, it is hopeful that the majority of issues that are faced by players at the moment will be ironed out, and the game will have both more campaign chapters and a sandbox mode. However, none of these problems will prevent anyone who picks the game up now from seeing that there is real potential here.
As the title suggests, the game follows the exploits of Julius Caesar himself as he takes on all of Gaul. Those of you out there who may be expecting something along the lines of the Total War series would not be too far wrong, but Hegemony Rome seems to offer a lot more in the way of strategy and a much smoother experience.
The smoother experience comes down to one very simple mechanic, the ability to zoom out from the battlefield all the way to seeing a massive overhead view of the entire region, complete with markers showing units of troops or settlements. And the cool thing is that the game runs in real time, with the obvious pause button for those who need time to think, so those unit markers will still be moving along the path that you have chosen for them.
Zoom back in again and the details of the areas come into focus, showing farms and mines, camps and armies on the march. It really is a wonderful thing to see and almost gives the game a tabletop wargame feel. Obviously there is function to this zooming as the player will have to keep an eye on units that may be spread thin around the map, and it is in the zoomed out view that the player can set up the all-important supply lines.
The supply lines are another fun thing about Hegemony Rome. Marching your army across great distances into enemy territory will inevitably lead to provisions running out and your troops suffering the consequences of starvation. However, capturing farms and setting up outposts will allow the player to create supply lines that will keep the army fed. Capturing a city will also provide food for the army, providing that city has its supply lines set up. Other resources also need to come through the supply lines, making them vital for any campaign.
Which raises strategic options and problems. Capturing farms supplying an enemy town will cut them off completely, whilst the possibility of losing farms supplying your own towns to raiders is something to watch out for. Whilst the possibilities of these kind of strategies are not yet fully realised in the early access version, further down the line I am hoping to take full advantage in the sandbox mode.
Right now, the campaign does a good job of introducing all of the various mechanics of the game, such as recruiting troops or farm workers, and destroying bridges or building siege weapons. The game provides relatively simple objectives to keep moving things along in the right direction, making the campaign more than a little bit linear. Of course, the campaign is not yet finished, so we will have to wait and see how this pans out.
The same can be said for the UI. At the moment, things are a bit on the clunky side, with boxes popping up and filling far too much of the screen, obscuring the view of the game.
When it comes to the combat, again things feel unfinished at the moment. While tactical options appear a possibility, using the units strengths to your advantage, there is not much chance to actually use them at the moment. The enemy AI is also a little dim at the moment, but these are all known issues that are being worked on, as you would expect from an early access title.
My own strategy generally involves sending all of my units headlong into the enemy, and right now it seems to work. I do fear that my simplistic thinking will not get me very far once the game reaches launch state, but for the moment I am quite happy to watch what is effectively a massive bundle in the middle of a field.
Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar has along list of issues right now, but early access does suggest that the majority of these will be addressed before launch. But even with the issues, it is easy to see the games’ potential. It has a certain charm, is really enjoyable to play, and looks set to offer a deep tactical experience. While buying into the early access may only be recommended for the fans of the previous Hegemony games, who will have a solid knowledge of what is to come, Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar is certainly a game to keep watching for strategy fans.
Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar can currently be found here on Steam, in early access, for £19.98.