Rome: Caesar’s Will

2_1Let dead dogs (and emperors) lie.

The Republic is in turmoil after Caesar gets assassinated. One year has passed and powerful men still vie for control, seeking to unearth Caesar’s elusive will and discover who shall become his successor. Amidst this struggle a nobleman named Titinius is poisoned by his wife, Aurelia, who claims she is innocent. Aurelia summons you, Hercules (not that Hercules), a Roman decurion. You are charged with the task of proving Aurelia’s innocence and uncovering the conspiracy that is linked to the death of Caesar.

Thus you’re thrown headfirst into Rome: Caesar’s Will, an adventure game from Montparnasse Multimedia. The story revolves around sly politicians and their underlings. Although the plot tends to be predictable and a few parts are a bit awkward, the writing is decent overall and does an excellent job recreating the feel of the historic era. Most of it unfolds through conversations—you play an investigator who goes around talking to people and completing the occasional minor task. The delivery could be a little more believable—almost all of the key conversations come when Hercules is eavesdropping on a conversation from three feet away. Nobody seems to notice him. The conversations are interesting, at least, but that’s not quite good enough to make up for Rome’s major shortcomings.

Older games haven’t always had the most fluid control schemes, but some were better than others. Rome is unbearable in this regard, sporting some of the worst third-person movement controls ever seen. A good portion of the time, Hercules will walk the opposite direction of your intended path, often never reaching the destination. Moving from one room to the next is often a painful trial that can take several minutes. Most rooms have specific hotspots that you must click to exit, so while you can freely walk around the room (clumsily), it often feels like Hercules is trapped in a box.

13_1The inability to replay conversations is another major drawback. Once you exhaust the dialogue options for a character, he or she will no longer speak with you until the game state changes again. If that character possesses information that is critical to changing the game state (i.e. solving a puzzle) and you don’t remember what they said, you could be in trouble. There is a journal, but it only covers information pertinent to the plot—it’s not much help when it comes to tasks that people have asked you to complete. It all boils down to having auto-plot notes instead of a quest log.

For the most part you are free to go about and do things in the order you please. The opening allows you to travel to roughly a dozen locations in Rome, where you can talk to people and gather the information that you need for the investigation. Traveling consumes time, and there is a time limit, but it is not too restrictive. Eventually you come down to one event you must complete to advance to the next segment, but it still feels pretty non-linear and there are multiple solutions to most obstacles.

Aside from the plot, history, and non-linear gameplay, Rome doesn’t offer much to compensate for the hideous movement controls. This is another one of the countless titles that falls into the category “games that could have been fun.” Once in a while it entertains, but the movement is a constant hang-up. Dedicated adventure gamers and Roman history buffs may enjoy it.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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