|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, Mac OS|
|Release||September, 1997 (PC)|
Caesar III is a video game that was released on September 30, 1997, developed by Impressions Games and published by Sierra On-Line. It is the third installment of the Caesar series of games and is part of Sierra's City Building Series. Players take on the role of a Roman governor, tasked with building up a grand Roman city, in which they must ensure their citizens have their needs met, that their city is safe and profitable, while meeting various goals set for them and dealing with various disasters, angry gods and hostile enemies.
The game is played through a two dimensional isometric perspective, set to a fixed magnification level that can be rotated, but only by ninety degrees either clockwise or counter-clockwise. Players use an interface system to design a city, including buttons for different aspects of building such as Housing, Religion and Security, amongst others; for some, an additional menu is provided of buildings available to the player. While some construction work, like building a road, simply require the left mouse button being held down and then released when the layout is right, most structures are of a fixed size and simply need to be put down where space is available; some obstacles (man-made or natural) can be cleared away, but others cannot except in the game's editor (see "Editor" below). Additional buttons for viewing messages (recent or old), undoing recent building work, and moving to any trouble spots that have begun to occur (such as an invasion), are also provided, while the interface also includes a mini-map of the current region being built in. Various options, including being able to tune how fast the game is going and what difficulty it can be played at, are also accessible in drop-down menus.
To assist further with city building, players have access to an "Empire Map", which can be used to set up trade with other Roman cities and keep tabs on incoming invasions. Players are also provided with a series of advisers who can help with them with various aspects of city life, including a general overview adviser who can give a quick summary of each aspects, with any problems needing attention highlighted in red text (i.e. How much unemployment there is). In-game overlays can be accessed that can highlight various elements, such as access to a service or problems, while messages about any issues or matters are provided, with important ones opened automatically, whilst some significant events, such as city milestones or messages from the Roman Emperor, receive a short video clip to them. The game's background music notably changes according to the situation of the city's size, or if an invasion is happening. All aspects of city life featured in Caesar III, from homes to religion, to trade and to warfare, are designed carefully to closely reflect that of actual Roman cities, in terms of the goods and services available during their time as well as the way of life that Roman citizens had.
The game is divided into two separate modes for single player: Caesar 3's Main Campaign, and a Free Build mode (known in-game as "City Construction Kit"). In both modes, players have to handle the construction of a city in regards to the climate it is in, what resources they have and the terrain of the land; a city built in a desert climate for example, may lack farmland and have a far greater risk of fires breaking out, than a city built in a region such as Gaul or Britannia.
For the Campaign mode, players work as a governor of the Empire, whose career begins at the rank of "Citizen". By building a city and completing objectives set out for them, defined as ratings, they can receive promotion to a higher rank, with the ultimate aim of becoming Emperor of the entire Roman Empire towards the end. While the first two missions of this mode are simple tutorials, designed to ease the player into constructing a city, every other missions after that has a choice between two paths: "Peace" and "Military". While the "Military" path focuses on building a city while combating against Rome's enemies, the "Peace" path focuses purely upon city building, though in a number of missions on this path, the threat of combat is present but minimal at best. The objectives set out on both paths slowly increase in difficulty the further a player progresses in the campaign, with peaceful missions usually having higher rating requirements than military missions. If a player completes a mission on one of these paths, they can choose to accept a promotion or continue governing their city for another 2 or 5 years, although they can still lose if they chose either of these options. For both paths, players must reach set requirements in each of the following five ratings:
- Population - The number of citizens living in the city; attracting more means ensuring taxes are fair, city mood is good, plenty of food is available and that there are jobs available.
- Prosperity - The wealth of the citizens and the quality of their housing as a result, alongside the city's ability to turn a profit; a city with a large population of tents and shacks is considered less prosperous than one of equal size with more luxurious housing.
- Culture - The level of literacy, entertainment, and religion available to citizens.
- Peace - The region's level of safety; by default, it rises each year if no damage is caused by invasions, rioting, insurrections or theft.
- Favor - The player's effort to impress the Roman Emperor. An important rating to maintain, as by default, it falls slightly every year, falling more if the city goes deep into debt, requests are missed, or a player is under-performing or drawing a salary from a rank higher than currently are at. Increasing it means meeting requests for goods or soldiers, and/or sending out gifts. Extremely low favor can result in Caesar attacking the player's city until they restore favor with him.
Unlike the campaign, the Free Build mode does not adhere to any goals at all. Players simply build a city for as long as they desire, from one of several different regions available, all while facing a variety of different challenges; in some of them, the threat of invasion and attack can still be faced. Some of the regions and the subsequent cities that can be built, include Narbo, Toletum, Corinthus, as well as alternate versions of Mediolanum and Caesarea than those featured in the campaign.
Citizens cannot live in a city until plots are designated for them that lie next to a road; a warning prompt informs if a plot is too far away. Once a plot is established, immigrants arrive and pitch up tents to begin with, beginning life in a city as plebeians. By meeting their needs, starting with the basics of work, food and water, and then later providing an assortment of different foods and goods, giving access to various services - temples, different venues of entertainment, good healthcare and various forms of education - and providing desirable surroundings to live in, a home's occupants will eventually evolve their house to a higher level, changing them into shacks, then hovels, casas, and finally insulae, with each new housing level providing more space for citizens; future immigrants will either take up residence in new plots, or move into evolved housing. Failing to continually provide them what they need or letting their surroundings become poor will cause their houses to devolve to lower levels, displacing any citizens that can't be held and making them homeless, who are forced to either seek somewhere else in the city to live or leave for another city. By maintaining what is needed and continuing to supply enough to make their lives as luxurious and comfortable as possible, plebeians eventually become patricians, who provide higher taxes than their counterparts and live within villas and then grand palaces. To achieve the highest level of housing, luxury palaces, requires maintaining several difficult, major requirements for its occupants as a result.
As desirability is an important factor with housing, players must plan a neighbourhood carefully. A neighbouring structure that is dirty and noisy, such as a workshop or a fort, will not be wanted by higher levels of housing, while clean, beautiful surroundings from places, such as statues, gardens and temples, are nicer neighbours to have. If desirability improves, players can spot noticeable changes, such as dirt roads becoming paved, amongst other cosmetic changes.
Infrastructure and work
Caesar 3 features a behavioural system in regards to a city's infrastructure of roads, known as "Walkers" - individuals who are sent out by buildings (except forts, reservoirs, fountains, and aesthetic structures) either as Patrolling or Destination Walkers, and whose behaviour is determined by the layout of roads and what they can access. While Destination Walkers need access to their destination and take the shortest route they can find (i.e. an actor heading for a theatre), Patrolling Walkers simply meander along a road, either providing access to a service structure (i.e. a temple) or ensuring a structure has access to labor, with any intersections they encounter causing them to decide on which way they go; the fewer intersections they encounter, the more control a player has in regards to where they want them to go. Along with setting out the road layout, some maps may or will require bridges to be built, with two kinds to choose from - cheap, Low Bridges, which can obstruct shipping, or elegant Ship Bridges, which can allow boats to pass under but are a little more expensive.
Almost every structure of a city requires workers to function, such as prefectures for example, and so require road access to housing, from which labor is drawn from any unemployed plebeians in the city; while villas can provide access, patricians do not add to the workforce. Workers are always drawn from the unemployed; a lack of jobs and high unemployment can sour the mood of a city's citizens. On the other hand, a worker shortage can leave buildings suffering, thus causing them to run less efficiently as a result. In times of worker shortages, players can instruct their Labor Advisor to prioritize which branches of labor are kept working efficiently; an example of this is giving food production main priority on labor, while giving fire protection secondary priority, thus ensuring both get as close to the required number of workers they need, while distributing what remaining workforce is available to other structures. Effective prioritization is essential; leaving prefectures without a full complement of workers, for example, could leave the city at risk from a fire breaking out, while having no docks manned can effectively prevent overseas trading from happening. Another way that players can reduce the effect of a worker shortage is to instruct the Commerce Advisor to "mothball" any active industries that they can do without, until the shortage is over and the industries can be used again. Unfortunately, mothballing an industry affects all instances of that industry in the city (for example, if you mothball pottery production, all pottery workshops in the site stop work). Since most resource acquisition locations (timber yard, clay pit, iron mine) can support multiple workshops, and workshops are relatively inexpensive to build, a quick way to ease a worker shortage is to destroy selected workshops. This frees up these workers to work elsewhere. Once the worker shortage is over, the workshops can be rebuilt.
Industry and distribution
A city can be provided with wide variety of different food types - wheat, vegetables, fruits, fish and meat - harvest various different resources - vines, olives, timber, clay, iron and marble - and process various manufactured goods - clay into pottery, timber into furniture, olives into oil, vines into wine and iron into weapons - based upon some of those that the Romans were exposed to. In the game, however, what can be provided is restricted by what they can be acquired locally from a city's region and what they can import from other cities, thus restricting what industrial buildings they have access to; a city that can't produce olives can still produce oil if there is a trade partner who can supply the raw material. Whatever food and raw materials can be harvested locally require specific structures built on or close to certain terrain - farms need to be placed on farmland (marked by yellow tufts of grass), quarries and mines need to be placed next to rocks, timber yards need to be placed next to woodland, and clay pits need to be close to a body of water. Fishing, while requiring a wharf be placed on a stretch of straight coastline, also requires a shipyard to supply it with a fishing boat, with a single wharf capable of only handling one boat. Goods that can be made locally require a workshop to produce them, and a supply of its required material from either a local or imported source; players have to import goods from somewhere else if they have no access to raw materials, although wine is an exception in terms of patricians, since they require both a home-grown product and an imported brand to reach the highest levels of housing.
Any food, goods and raw materials made locally or imported can be stored in a warehouse, which can usually hold 32 units of any mixture of commodities, with a unit being about 100 of a commodity; when close to full, a warehouse accept only goods it currently has stored. Players can control what a warehouse stores by giving it orders to what commodities to accept delivery of, which to refuse, and which to seek out from another warehouse. While warehouses can distribute raw materials to workshops that need them, markets will visit them to get what goods they need for housing, except Marble and Weapons (see "Religion" and "Military" below, for more information). However, any food stored in a warehouse is not taken by markets, as they instead go to granaries for supplies of food, which, like warehouses, can hold any variety of food type the city has access to, and can be given orders on what to take, to refuse and to seek out. Further control on the storage and distribution of food, materials and goods can be made through the Commerce Advisor, who can be ordered to stockpile certain items, which can be useful if Caesar makes a request for a commodity; any request for commodities will be taken from warehouses, but not granaries.
For a city to sustain itself, both financially and with any commodities it can't acquire locally, trade with other cities of the Roman Empire is often important and usually an essential requirement in the growth of a new settlement. To establish a trade route with another city, players must use the Empire Map to find a suitable partner marked out by flags and city icons - the player's own bears a black and gold flag, cities that can trade have a red flag, and cities that can't either have blue or gold flags - and then pay a small fee for trade to begin trading. Cities that can be traded with usually provide information on what imports they can provide and what exports they will take, as well as the amount they will handle for each year; the latter can change at times, allowing either more or less to be transferred between them and a player's city.
Once a route is established, players must inform the Trade Advisor of which goods to import and which to export, otherwise traders that arrive won't do any business. With the export of a commodity, players can set an amount the city must hold for itself, meaning that any surplus over this amount can be sold in trade; this can be useful if a city has begun to start using a commodity it needs, thus ensuring enough is available to fulfil demand. While a warehouse is required in order to for trade to occur, traders will usually take exports and place imports to the one that is designated as the trade centre before trying other warehouses; for imports, there must be a warehouse that is both accepting a commodity and that has space for it. In addition, a working dock is also required in order to trade overseas, with trading ships able to carry more than land-based traders. While exporting excess commodities is a good way of making a strong financial base for a city, importing commodities that it needs can be a less efficient way of sustaining it as traders will only take food, materials and goods to a warehouse and not their intended target; a trader, for example, won't take imports of wheat to a granary or a market, only to a warehouse that has space for it, meaning that it has to be transferred to a granary once the trader offloads it.
Each time a new city is started, players are given a set amount of funds to use in building what they need, with the amount given determined by the difficulty setting being played at. Construction is often a serious expense for a city, depending on what is to be built if the city must grow; while clearing land, marking out housing plots, building walls and aqueducts, and laying down roads is charged on the size of what is marked out by the player, each structure built for the city has a fixed cost that varies depending on what the structures purpose is, with forts and military academies being the most expensive to be built.
Apart from construction, cities also occur running costs with them. Wages are one such expense, which is determined by both the number of workers in the city and the wage rate that the city's Labor Advisor has been told to use; the in-game calculation of this, is the number of workers multiplied by 1/10th of the rate. While players can change the wage rate, it can effect the city's mood, with higher wages improving it and vice versa. Another expense is that of tribute, which is determined by both the city's size and the profit it has made, with a minimum amount having to be paid along with a quarter of the profit it made in a year; a city doesn't pay tribute if either it made a loss and is small, or is in debt. Importing goods are also costly, depending on what is being brought in; as a general rule, manufactured goods are more costly than raw materials and food. Although players only need to hold a festival every once in a while, the price of setting one up adds expense depending on the size of the festival itself. If the city falls into debt and receives no bailout, then it has to pay interest at about 10% of the deficit it is in. Finally, players draw a salary from the city funds depending on the rank they are at; while players can increase the rank to earn a higher salary at the risk of losing favor with Caesar, lowing it can reduce this cost to the city. If a player decides to continue running a city when they are offered a promotion, they no longer draw a salary.
In order to offset these costs and ensure that a healthy budget is available to work with, the city needs to make an income from both trade and taxes. Any excess goods can be sold to another city, earning cash depending on the type of commodity being sold and how much is sold per year. To earn taxes, a Senate or a Forum must be built, which send out a tax collector who must pass by a house and register it each year. The amount that a house provides is dependent on the housing level it is at, with a shack contributing less taxes than a villa. The in-game calculations on tax are determined by the level of housing in the city, the difficulty setting being played at, the population of the city and the tax rate being used; while a player can change the tax rate through their Finance Advisor, the effect of the change is the same as with wages, in that a higher tax rate can lower moods and vice versa. If players have enough in-game savings, they can donate these to the city either at a varying amount or with all of what they got, which can sometimes be a good way to avoid debt if players are trying to establish an avenue of income for their city.
While players need to provide access to temples for housing to develop, religion has a more profound impact on a city if players chose to let "God Effects" be active, as each of the five Roman gods that are featured in the game - Mars (God of War), Venus (Goddess of Love), Mercury (God of Commerce), Ceres (Goddess of Agriculture) and Neptune (God of the Sea) - need to be kept appeased by ensuring enough temples are provided in correlation to the city's population along with holding a festival for them; the more lavish a festival, the more appeased a god is, if only for a temporary while. While each god requires either a small or large temple dedicated to them, with the size determining how much of the population it covers, an oracle can be built to provide worship to all five gods, although they do not provide priests. In addition, both large temples and oracles require a shipment of marble, either provided locally or imported from another city.
A god's mood with the city can be checked out by visiting the Religion Advisor; any god who is angry with a city for lack of worship to them will display lightning bolts next to their current mood to show how close they are to bestowing a penalty to the city, while those who have been Exalted with a city for period of time will confer a blessing. What blessing/penalty is given, depends on what the god represents:
- Mars - His blessing can either boost troop morale or bestow a guardian spirit who will kill all/half of an invading army, while his penalty can either lower morale, cause a legion to be lost, incite a civilian insurrection or an attack by natives (except in "never invaded" scenarios)
- Venus - Her blessing can boost a city's mood, while her penalty can lower it.
- Mercury - His blessing can leave extra items in a warehouse/ granary, while his penalty can either spirit some commodities away or set fire to them.
- Ceres - Her blessing can crops to grow at a faster rate for a short period of time, while her penalty can either farms unable to grow crops for a period of time.
- Neptune - His blessing can grant safe passage to ships and thus increase sea trade income for the rest of the current year, while his penalty can cause storms that sink both fishing boats and trading ships.
While the game focuses more on city-building than military activity, most of the cities that can be built in the game require the player to defend it from various hostile forces, which can either be a local uprising of natives, or from one of the civilisations that were faced by the Roman Empire during its expansion into new territories: Etruscans, Greeks, Egyptians, Numidians, Gauls, Dacians, Celts and Carthaginians.
A city's primary defence against an invading army is to have an army trained and stationed within its province. Creating an army requires both the construction of a barracks, and a fort to house the troops that are trained. Only six forts can be built in a city at any one time, with each one consisting of a single Roman legion of around sixteen soldiers, trained to be either auxiliaries with javelins, cavalry auxiliaries or Legionnaires; while auxiliaries can be trained without issue, barracks must be supplied with weapons (either sourced locally or imported) before they can train Legionnaire. Troops can be trained further with the optional construction of a military academy, which can make them more efficient and give Legionnaires an additional formation to use in battle. Cities can be defended further though the constructions of walls and towers, though as a general rule, gatehouses are required in order to allow the smooth passage of traders and citizens wishing to enter or leave the city. For towers to function they must have road access to labor and be supplied with sentries from a barrack, who not only patrol the wall and throw javelins at invading armies, but also man a strong ballista weapon on the tower that can be lethal to enemies.
Except for local uprisings, an incoming invasion is monitored via a three-stage warning system of messages, which keep the player informed of how close an invading army is to attacking their city; progress can be monitored on the Empire Map, through looking out for an icon of crossed swords. When the third message arrives, the player has an in-game year to be prepared for an attack. The size of an invasion can vary depending on who the player is facing, while each province that has hostile forces in it having varying numbers and positions of entry points for an invading army. When fighting occurs, players must makes use of their city's defences while moving their legions to engage with enemy soldiers, utilizing various formations. When a legion is engaged with an enemy, both its health and morale need to be monitored carefully, with low morale likely to cause the legion to flee back to the relative safety of their fort; as a rule, their morale begins dropping the moment they leave their fort. Victory is achieved by driving back the invading forces or killing them all, which can be further ensured by appeasing Mars, who confer a blessing that can boost the morale of troops and even send a guardian spirit to wipe out all or some of the invading army.
On some maps, players may be asked to send some of their legions to help a city that was defenceless and needs aid. Although this could weaken the player's own city, as troops can be away for a few in-game years, doing so has some benefit in that if enough troops are sent who then succeed in protecting the city in need, the Emperor will personally allow the player to construct a Triumphal Arch, free of charge, which can be a great boon to desirability for nearby houses.
Disasters and problems
While building a city, players must deal with a variety of disasters that can occur in their city. The most common disasters that can strike include Fires, Collapse, Crime and Epidemic; the latter two affect only housing, while Fires do not occur with all structures (i.e. Walls & Towers), and are more prevalent in desert climates than northern climates. When a new structure is built, it slowly begins to deteriorate and age and thus requires regular patrols of Engineers and Prefects, from their respective structures, to walk by them and reduce the risk of them suffering from Fire and Collapse. If a building is not visited by an Engineer, it will eventually collapse into a rubble, but if a Prefect fails to visit a building, then it will catch fire and spread into other buildings until it is put out or burns out. While Prefects can deal with Fires, they can also deter and combat Crime, which can occur when citizens are living in poor, squalid conditions and are unable to improve them through getting what they need, eventually causing them to either become criminals, who will steal from a city's tax collectors, and/or rioters, who can start fires, both of whom need to be dealt with. Apart from Crime, housing is also at risk of having an Epidemic break out if good healthcare is not being provided, which can result in houses being burned down by Prefects to combat disease if there aren't any doctors patrolling around houses and/or there aren't enough hospitals to cope with the situation.
Besides these main issues, other problems can be faced with each city, including:
- Natives: Some maps may have a native tribe in the area who will need to be pacified before anything can be built on the land they claim as their own. Using Missionaries sent out by Mission Posts can achieve this, to the point that the Natives eventually begin trading for any resources in a warehouse that they like to buy.
- Wild animals: Some maps have wild animals who can obstruct construction. While most are harmless, only wolves present a major threat; animals can be prevented from moving around a map by boxing them in with walls or aqueducts, should the player desire to do so.
- Earthquake: Another disaster that, upon happening, creates cracks in the ground that spread out, destroying any structures in their path. When an earthquake is finished, the cracks left behind cannot be built over, cut off some sections of land, and are undesirable for housing to be next to.
- Emigration: If a city's mood is low for a long enough time without being improved by the player, emigration can occur, in which citizens will leave the city to find somewhere else to live. This can happen if citizens can find no job, wages are lower than Rome pays, taxes are too high, or there is no food available in the city. The resulting effect of Emigration could lead to massive worker shortages, unless the situation is rectified quickly.
A few weeks after the game was released, Sierra made an Editor available on their website. The editor allows players to produce their own scenarios from over twenty city locations, as well as choosing the identity of invaders (with new inclusions such as the Huns, Seleucids, Macedonians and Jews), the available buildings, and everything that would appear on the map itself. The Caesar III page on Sierra's website is now down, but the Editor is still available for free download from GameSpot and the HeavenGames fan site, and was also distributed with later releases of the game.
Caesar III was a commercial success. In its first month of release, it shipped 150,000 copies and was on track to top the sales of Caesar II. The game's global sales had surpassed 400,000 copies by January 1999; by early February, PC Data reported sales of above 93,000 units in the United States. That April, Sierra's Jim Veevaert announced that the overall Caesar series, including Caesar III, had sold "well over one million units" globally. According to designer David Lester, around 2.5 million copies of Caesar III were ultimately sold worldwide.
The game received mixed to good reception. IGN rated it 8.7/10. GameSpot commented: "Despite the small problems, building a thriving city in Caesar 3 is fun".
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences nominated Caesar III for its 1998 "Strategy Game of the Year" award, although the game lost to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. Caesar III was a runner-up for Computer Games Strategy Plus's 1998 "Strategy Game of the Year" award, which ultimately went to Railroad Tycoon II. The editors wrote that Caesar III "was well received by gamers and critics alike". The editors of PC Gamer US nominated Caesar III as the best real-time strategy game of 1998, although it lost to StarCraft. They wrote that Caesar III "did a terrific job of immersing the player in a richly detailed world of empire-building, commerce and micro-management." Caesar III also won Macworld's 1999 "Best World-Building Simulation" award, and the magazine's Christopher Breen called it "delightfully entertaining".
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