Hegemony Rome: The Rise of Caesar
is both a solid, fun game and a serious contender for the best 'Rome-based' RTS game in the last few years. Like the majority of others I consider the Total War: Rome
franchise to be the benchmark for this genre, and despite the bugs and gameplay issues Rome II had, it got better after patching. The original Total War: Rome
was fantastic regardless. It may not be fair to compare the two games considering this is technically an indie release, but I figure even newcomers to the RTS genre have heard of or played a Total War title and it's the most logical (and easiest) comparison.
That said, the devs here didn't try to mimick Total War by redesigning or borrowing its good parts. In fact this game is nothing like Total War. Rather, Longbow Game Studios
changed the focus entirely by making historical accuracy and in-depth resource management the two biggest components of Hegemony, and it works very well on top of the standard RTS framework. Hegemony is also far less daunting than Rome and Rome II. Players new to strategy games can jump into the campaign mode and start playing immediately*, but there's also enough substance to keep veteran RTS gamers engaged. The graphics are passable and run smoothly on the highest settings, and the cutscenes are just that - static scenes drawn with a "comic book" style to them. It's a nice break from the bombardment of massively rendered 3D action scenes that end up cheesy and unrealistic because of bad anti-aliasing and direction. The comic book art is also very mature, and there is plenty of violence and blood, which is a nice touch as well.
That asterisk up there? It's for the biggest flaw in this game and (ironically) part of why this game is so easy to jump into: the tutorial system is lacking. You can jump right into this game as a new player and the tutorial will guide you, but you are going to have to learn a lot of the minute details by banging your head against the wall losing captured cities and dying often during the first couple hours. Even veteran RTS players will have to figure out some of the details by trial and error. The most glaring is the lack of explanation about hostages and captured city morale. After you understand it, it makes sense, but you will have to experiment a lot first. (Hint: move your hostages to far away cities. The game fails to mention that part.)
Overall, this is a good game. Is it worth $30? Yeah, but probably only for Roman history fans and RTS fanboys in general. If you are brand new to RTS games you might want to wait until this goes on sale.