As depictions of ancient Rome in video games go, most will often go with something involving gladiators, centurions, Caesar, or even the pantheon of gods, and usually involving combat. However, the developers at Realore have taken a different tact with their newest strategy game for Android.
When in Rome places you in the role of Flavius, a retired Roman warrior who has been forced to retire and, without any wealth of his own, is now forced to carve out a new life for himself. Fortunately, the Roman Empire just so happens to be thriving at this point in time, and the Emperor has charged Flavius with the task of training others to build new settlements and take care of farmlands in the name of expanding the empire.
There are 41 levels in all, spread across the map of Rome. The first six are free to play, for those who aren’t sure about leaving their gold with Googlificus the Mighty (wait, that’s Greek…), but you must pony up in order to access the rest. And for a small, singular region of Europe, there is a fair bit of variety in this Roman Empire, from forests to deserts and even a snowy valley.
The gameplay is relatively simple, but involving. Each new level starts you out with one helper, who you’ll send to basically run errands for you across the playing field: Busting rocks, gathering wood, harvesting wheat and cabbage, and so forth. By acquiring a bit of gold, you can soon have two helpers to perform twice as many tasks. The only downside here is that you can’t assign both of them to perform the same task at the same time, which in some instances can lead to a bit of waiting for one minion to finish with the cabbage patch before sending in another.
Things get progressively more complicated as you advance, but not overwhelmingly so– it’s a matter of performing one task as necessary to be able to continue with another task. For instance, you’ll eventually need to make some pies. But to make pies, you’ll need flour. But to get flour, you’ll need to harvest wheat. Plus, for the pie kitchen and windmill for the pies and the flour, respectively, you’ll need a sufficient amount of logs and gold. And in some areas, you’ll need to sell what goods you do have on hand to a merchant in order to get the wood or gold (or other materials, depending on the level).
One other notable factor which comes into play are the natural disasters. In some stages, they’ll come through and sometimes tear down certain structures you’ve built, forcing you to break away from whatever you were doing and gather the materials necessary to rebuild. Taken as a matter of course– a normal part of the proceedings, if you will– it isn’t too bad. But unfortunately, they often seem to have this irritating knack of hitting right after you’ve constructed a new area, and have only managed to produce one item from it.
Still, as you play, you develop a certain rhythm of assigning your helpers to perform tasks as necessary. The further you advance, the more the whole thing begins to resemble some sort of economic Rube Goldberg machine. It’s rather involving, and you can play it to relax a bit in the easy mode, or if you’re up for more of a challenge, you can kick in the normal or hard modes to add a time limit to reach each stage’s designated goals.
The When in Rome gameplay experience isn’t especially unique, but it is pretty solid, immersive, and a bit of fun to lose yourself in for spans of time. Unfortunately, as a mobile game– emphasis on mobile– it doesn’t really do the bite-size bits of gameplay thing very well. Levels can take a bit of time to complete– not hours, or anything, but certainly much longer than a level of Angry Birds or something along those lines. You can’t save in mid-level, meaning that exiting will cost you your progress, and leaving it running is likely to suck the juice out of your device (it gets fairly warm when playing, too). So while it’s not exactly pick-up-and-play, it’s still a fun romp for when you have more time to invest.