The RTSC Games List

Age of... Historical WW2 Modern Near Future Sci-Fi Spaceships Fantasy City Builders God Games MMORTS

Sim Management
a.k.a. "City Builders"
Strategy and tactics take a back seat to economic management. In the City Builder genre, everything is indirect. You play the part of a manager, making decisions that flow on to your city as your citizens do all the work..

Caesar III (1998)

See Great Empires Collection II. Back

Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom (2002)

The latest installment of the Ancient City building series established originally by Impressions, which included games like Caesar III and Pharaoh. (See Great Empires Collection II). This installment was developed by Breakaway Games. Finally moving away from the Mediterranean, this game transplants itself into Ancient China. The Middle Kingdom was the name the Chinese gave to their great country itself. As they saw it all those years ago, China was the beacon of culture and civilization in a sea of barbarism - a parochial view which probably wasn't that far of the mark, all things considered. China comes across as monolithic to outsiders, simply because it went through the process of national consolidation and cultural unification thousands of years before anyone else. This game starts in 2100BC to progress through several thousand years of history before coming to a stop when the Mongols, led by Genghis Khan, effectively ended it 1211. There's seven separate campaigns which take your single player experience right through this long period of history. Apart from the usual economics and infrastructure, you also have to accommodate Feng Shui, the Chinese Zodiac (e.g. Year of the Monkey, the Rat, etc.), Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. Of course, you also get to build the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Army and a host of other great works.Back

Glory of the Roman Empire (2007)

This is a spin-off, I think, from Bulgarian developers Haemimont Games' historical strategy game series called Celtic Kings. Celtic Kings mixed elements of roleplaying games with real time strategy gaming in a historical context, and eventually leaned more and more to focus on the Roman Empire under the Imperivm name. Glory of the Roman Empire takes that focus and fixates solely on the Romans and no one else. It's a pure and straightforward city simulator, using a perfectly serviceable 3D engine and some rather nice, if not simple (and a little bland) game elements.

Glory is like a version of The Settlers without the daffiness, or the need to wipe out of opponents, unless you count generic barbarians conjured out of nowhere. Like all good city sims, settlements are managed indirectly by building the right buildings, and making sure the right resources are available.

While all the sims in the game has a name, an occupation, and a few opinions they're more than willing to pass on to you when selected, population numbers are very small. Even sizeable towns may not have much more than a few hundred souls in them. Each Domus (i.e. house) you build becomes a growing household, complete with scampering children and pottering geriatrics. Domuses automatically upgrade into finer residences as the quality of the neighbourhood improves, and the upward mobility of your Roman sims drives the demand for a more sophisticated and growing economy.

Nevertheless, the cities are still atomised in nature. Individual characters don't engage in groups, usually walk past any burning buildings with supreme indifference, and live their simple, simulated lives with the community spirit of a group of autistics. Each building operates within a radius of influence, and can only make use of whatever falls within that radius. There's no cohesive sense of an actual city state, and effectively, all those radii turn any large city you build into a cluster of small independent neighbourhoods. Positioning buildings is tricky too, since space very quickly runs out.

Glory makes no bones about the Roman use of slavery as the driving engine of its economy and power, and manacled figures in drab clothing do most of the grunt work around town, hauling materials and toiling in the fields. Apart from being a major chunk of historical Roman society, Slaves were effectively the Roman equivalent of fossil fuels, and much of Rome's empire building was based around trying to secure more slaves. Here, they're nothing more than your standard RTS work gang based entirely from your headquarters, and the whole slavery based economy and social angle is glossed over.

Its a casual sort of game, with lush presentation with a very simple and straightforward approach. Its simple and easy to get into, and quite engaging, but may not provide much replay value down the track. Its certainly has a lovely art style, but I wonder just how sophisticated this thing really is under that pretty veneer. Certainly, anyone looking for a "challenge" is going to find it lacking. The military angle is downplayed, and apart from building a Prefecture in the demo (which had Roman soldier types running around with buckets of water to put out fires) you only get passing generic barbarians to provide any security issues in the full game. The demo doesn't even show any combat, which is very unusual, so presumably that's just as point and click too. Glory could easily keep you interested for a while, and then completely disappear out of sight and mind. So, It's okay, but not that amazing.

The only thing this game will suffer from is being overshadowed by its own sequel, Imperivm Romanvm.Back

Great Empires Collection II (2002)

This is a long series of loosely connected city building sims set in Ancient times, sometimes referred to as the Impressions' Ancient City series, all bundled together in a single collection. Impressions seems to have vanished off the face of the earth, or rather, been acquired, absorbed and then dissolved by corporate publishers. In fact, you can only get this strategy compilation package from either Sierra or VUGames; the original games themselves no longer have any real official Internet presence anymore it seems, and any attempt to trace Impressions simply redirects you back to these megapublishers' front doors with the additional note that they have no idea what you're talking about.

The emphasis of all these games is the building and developing of a string of city states, with combat taking a back seat to some serious economic management and civil engineering. These SimCity variants lovingly cover the minutiae of historical details, emphasising economic management and civil engineering over military combat. Missions and campaigns centre around building or managing your cities around different restrictions and obstacles. Some of the earlier games citizen AI's can be a bit rudimentary, but the series has evolved some considerable depth and detail over time. The collection includes:

Caesar III (1998)
The last in the Caesar series, a trilogy based on the heyday of the Roman Empire. Caesar III was more of an update its predecessors, Caesar (1993) and Caesar II (1996) - which aren't included, incidentally - as they pretty much cover the same ground. You are commissioned by Caesar to build a provincial city worthy of Rome. Back then, issues such as water supply, sewerage, fire prevention, grain spoilage, hygiene and keeping all those Gods happy were serious issues. Keeping your population happy and the barbarians out are ongoing headaches for a fledgling Administrator. You connect a number of small villages together and build up a small province to become a new city. Once you have a completed metropolis you can see if it can withstand invasion or become the new centre of the world, and then its on to a harder province to repeat the whole process again.

Pharaoh (1999)
This time you're developing a settlement into a major city for your Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. The mighty river delta of the nile provides you with surplus agriculture to build a great civilization of monumental works. Its expansion, Cleopatra extends the game by adding more buildings, industries, units, enemies, and difficulties, and places the game in the Roman Age, where there's more interaction between the two great empires. Along with building the Valley of the Kings, you also have to keep the grave robbers at bay.

Zeus: Master of Olympus (2000)
In the same vein as Pharaoh. and Caesar III, except this time we're in Ancient Greece. Zeus continues the evolution of city building developed in its earlier titles. As you grow you city, you attract famous heroes of the day to vanquish the odd monster, defend the city from its rivals and even draw down the odd Olympian God to lend a hand. You'll have to keep your temples, trading and infrastructure in good order though! The package includes the Poseidon expansion.

Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom (2002)
The latest entry in the series, is a separate, standalone game and moves the city building eastwards to Ancient China. More details.Back

Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile (2004)

Impressions' leading light in the City Building department has gone and established a new studio called Tilted Mill Entertainment, with the ambition of making some serious City Building, roleplaying and strategy games. Their first outing sounds like the start of a new city building series: and Children of the Nile kicks off by updating the historical city building genre and propels it into an immersive 3D environment. At last, not only can you build your city up from nothing, you can stroll around with the virtual citizens late in the afternoon and watch the sun set over your palaces and fields.Back

Imperivm Romanvm (2008)

This is the sequel to Glory of the Roman Empire, by the same developer Haemimont Games. Read that RTSC entry first, then come back here. Imperivm Romanvm is pretty the same game except with a graphic upgrade and a few little extras tossed in to spice up the pot.

This time, there seems to be a little more time and effort spent on the military. While the demo spent a lot of time building up archers and swordsman, actual combat was surprisingly simplistic: pretty much just point'n'go. The opposition was once again your generic barbarians, and there were some token gestures to squad based combat a la the Total War series. But its all very simplistic, and while the city building is detailed, combat feels half baked and the battle animation half there. Wiping out the barbarians felt a little unsettling, to be honest. I always find it a little disconcerting watching an army wipe out civilians, even in a fictional or historical context, and airbrushing out the actual gory details just makes it even creepier. I'd rather see the consequences of my actions, thank you very much. It also masks the appreciation of how destructive the Roman Empire could be.

But that's really only the weakest part of the game. Imperivm Romanvm is really all about city building and management. In that regard, its a step up from its predecessor, with a greater sense of scale, realism and far sharper sense of historical context. Most of the missions are taken from a historical timeline, where you can assume control of actual historical cities (although not necessarily accurately mapped ones) and mess around with them. The game spends a lot of time throwing in historical tidbits, trivia and general knowledge of the period, making it feel more educational than its predecessor. You can complete the missions as they come or noodle around with them afterwards.

Like Glory of the Roman Empire, this is easily accessible for a general audience and not too challenging for most strategy gamers. Its alright, if not a little bland. If you had to choose between the two games, you'd probably go for this version.Back

Majesty (2000)

CyberLore's fantasy kingdom simulator, where you function as King in a world of stereotypically Tolkine heroes, monsters, elven magic, and the usual gang of suspects. Like many sims, you don't control units directly so much as commission missions and buildings, setting appropriate rewards to achieve your goals. Heroes then sally forth and complete these quests for you. The more you develop your kingdom (building taverns and markets, say) the more likely you'll attract better bonuses and keep better characters. Its imperative to keep your kingdom running efficiently in order to be able to complete the missions, but you might find the game's Sean Connery impersonations a bit much.

Northern Expansion (2001)
The only expansion adding the usual extras and missions.

Majesty Gold Edition (2002)
Bundled the original game and its expansion in one package.

Majesty Legends
The sequel that was worked on but never realized.

Majesty 2 - The Fantasy Kingdom Simulator
Majesty's intellectual property was bought by Swedish strategy developers, Paradox Interactive , who may (or may not) be bringing the series back to life. Back

Medieval Lords: Build, Defend, Expand (2004)

Click for full image

Not to be confused with the old 1991 SSI game of the same name, Monte Cristo's Medieval Lords is a city builder set in the Middle Ages that, for once, frees itself of the shackles of a square grid board and produces a genuinely organic looking settlement, albeit a rather primitive looking one. Its not too bad I suppose, but it lacks polish and it looks dated and horribly rudimentary now. It certainly has that lumpy, low-rent Nineties gaming look going for it, when developers were migrating to 3D environments for the first time, without really knowing how to fill in the small details and make their worlds look convincing.

If I recall correctly, laying out the townships and managing your settlements wasn't too bad. But game mechanics are shallow, the enemy AI's pretty stupid, and it suffers from many small programming quirks, such as boats passing through bridges like ghosts, units travelling like robots in straight lines between waypoints, and so on. You'd be better off checking out some of the other city builders listed here.Back

Pharaoh (1999)

See Great Empires Collection II. Back

Railroad Tycoon series (2003)

Railway Tycoon 3

A Civilization style railroad builder game that runs in slow real time, by those masters of sim management, PopTop Software. Recreate great historical railway projects and carve out your epic transportation empire across some famous landscapes: western USA, Spain, Eastern China and others. At the heart of this series is a sophisticated market economy and stock market that your train system becomes an integral part of. There's dozens of train types from different ears, 150 different buildings, 35 odd types of cargo to haul and your huge railway empire must not only complete the scenario at hand but also fend off or acquire your rivals. You get to build tunnels, bridges and other mighty projects, and this particular edition is giving into the same 3D lark as every other game these days, allowing for birds eye views or lovingly detailed close-ups of all those classic engines in play.

Railroad Tycoon 3 is the sequel to Railroad Tycoon 2 (1998) which comes in all kinds of editions, the best one probably being the Platinum edition released in 2001.

And naturally, Railway Tycoon 2 is the upgrade of the original 1990 classic, Railway Tycoon. PopTop has seen through the development of all these games.Back

Settlers, The (series)

A venerable series of economic sims from German developers Blue Byte. The Settlers could easily be classified as a "German style game" in computer form. It combines many of the conventions of the simulation and the God Game. There's a fully fledged economy with supply and demand, dozens different types of building (shared between several races) and over thirty occupations driving it. You plonk down new building positions and change global settings, and a population of professional munchkins buckles down to work while you plan the groundwork for a military economy that will sweep the opposition off the map.

The most notable thing in any Settlers game is how the economy works and just how deep it is. In many real time strategy games resources are stashed at your HQ or Town Hall like money in a bank. When a worker builds or repairs, those banked resources are magicked out of thin air regardless of their position on the map. But in The Settlers economy transportation is everything. All goods have to be carried by porters and delivered before anything can happen: distance, topography and building placement is critical. At every step in the economic ladder, materials and goods have to be delivered and removed on foot for everything to run smoothly. Smelters should be close to mines; lumber yards should be close to loggers. Its all too easy to have your economy stall because of only one building or resource being absent or taking too long to arrive when its urgently needed. It takes time for the repercussions of any command decision to become visible; you're not likely to notice anything wrong until the queues get too long and the evidence of your throttled economy becomes glaring. Any fixes to your stalled economy take time to unkink as freshly minted goods are trucked around. Its the antithesis of many fast and furious game designs.

While many games have only one type of worker and dozens of types of armed units, the Settlers has dozens of different workers, but only three or four military units. In Settlers III, there are only Swordsman, Spearman and Bowmen, each rank countering the other. In Settlers IV, you get Swordsmen Archers and a special unit unique to the ancient civilisation you play. Each race has its own special heavy weapon, Cannons for the Chinese, Roman Catapults and so on, but these contraptions require special buildings, a special resource and stores of ammunition that you have to manufacture, and of course, truck out to the weapon on the field.

To actually produce troops, you need to build weapons, which is the ultimate aim for the Settler's layered economy. Elaborate lines of food production must be established to feed your miners, who in turn make available ores that are smelted into ingots; the ingots in turn form the raw material for making tools and weapons. You'll need to make sure there's enough coal to keep all this industry running, enough food to keep the miners happy, and enough stone and wood to keep the building industry sufficiently stocked so that it can build all the necessary infrastructure when you need it.

To actually build anything, you need to keep your building industry working efficiently at all times. Woodcutters chop down trees, Lumber Yards turn the wood into lumber, Stonemasons carve out blocks of Stone from outcrops of rock, and teams of "levelers" (guys with shovels that prepare building foundations) and builders actually construct all the necessary buildings to make all this madness work. You can over cut your forests, so in wonderfully green fashion you need to maintain your forest resources with Rangers! Sustainability is built in.

To expand your territory watch towers and other fortifications have to be built and manned. As you build military structures, your territory is expanded, represented by a line of colour coded markers. Settlers is interesting in that no civilians are ever involved in actual fighting, unless one of the specialized occupations strays into enemy territory. Military actions are waged entirely against military units and towers only. As you take each one, the boundary between you and the enemy changes; any civilian buildings caught outside a border change are automatically destroyed.

Earlier versions of the game were more "pure", in that the player had to discover a lot of the gameplay as they played, fixing holes in their economics as they went. Certainly, in multiplayer games, most of the time could be spent building settlements before one side abruptly flooded the map with troops and quickly won the day. Later versions of the game tended towards a more trigger driven, player directed experience (more WarCraft III-like, if you prefer) which tended to undermine the simple-but-complex premise of the originals.

The games:

The Settlers (1993)
We played this on the Amiga and were instantly hooked. Months later we came up for air. The Settlers revolutionized what a "simulation" could be at the time, with thousands of little generic cartoon munchkins working on your settlement in pixelly lowres. With little or no text anywhere, the entire interface was icon and graphic driven. The game economy could be fine tuned to an amazing extent, allocating percentages of resources to different buildings, prioritising transporation of goods over others and allocating tool production to create new occupations. It was a slow going affair. The game, while isometric, sat on a 3D hex grid. Buildings could only have a downward facing entrance; roads were single tracks between flags planted on the hex corners; and each road segment could be filled with only one or two Settlers. The slow moving settlers got even slower walking up steep hills, so part of your game strategy involved building a good road network that didn't strangle itself at the drop of a hat. It took forever for buildings to be constructed, and there wasIt also used a strange mousing mechanic, where holding the right mouse button whilst clicking the left activated special menus, overlays and deleting buildings. Overall though, it laid the foundations for one of the best sim series in existence.

The Settlers 2 (1996)
Expanding on the initial concept and speeding it up, this version pretty much defined the whole series. So much so, a 10th Anniversay remake came out for it in 2006. The Settlers II adopted a more Roman flavour, if I recall. I didn't think much of it at the time: it seemed starker and less cuter than the original, although in hindsight its a far superior game.

The Settlers III (1998)
A number of Classic races are introduced, the Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese, but road building is dropped. However, losing one of the series' main game mechanics streamlined the title for competitive play at a time when the RTS genre was going ballistic in the PC gaming world. It also introduced a religious element with Priests (with their own economy of course!) and magic spells for players to wield. There was an expansion: Quest of the Amazons (1999). You'd want to check out the Gold Edition (2000) which bundles both together.

The Settlers IV (2001)
Another big seller for the series, this one refining a lot of the features in III and offering the Romans, Mayans and Vikings to the mix. It also introduced an evil, anti-Settlers race; the Dark Tribe. The Dark Tribe terraforms the verdant countryside to a sullen, dim, fungus ridden wasteland. In response, a new Gardening occupation is used to restore the land and to defeat the villains. There was also a mission CD add-on as well, all of which was bundled into another Gold Edition in 2002.

Blue Byte releases a 10th anniversay Platinum Pack (2003), bundling the entire series at the point into a single package.

The Settlers: Heritage of Kings (2004)
The Settlers starts to lose much of its old simulation feel as it tries to go down the RTS route. It felt more like an anonymous WarCraft III clone (i.e. smaller and smaller scale, undue simplification, and leading players by the nose via scripted triggers).

The Settlers 2: Anniversary Edition (2006)
A remake of Settlers II, using all the best and brightest tech in the new century. It rocks! It did so well they released an Vikings expansion for it in 2007.

The Settlers: Rise of an Empire (2007)
Another major move for the series, deploying a lot of game tech seen in rival city builders, like Imperivm Romanvm. The game adopts a more organic, city grid system; you can lay out medieval towns, city walls and rolling fields easily. This game finally introduces female Settlers - and a marriage mechanic. Buildings can be upgraded so you can build those wonderfully rickety Medieval walled cities of yore. Unfortunately, like Heritage of Kings, a lot of the smaller details are conspicuously absent: there are no transporters or builders of any kinds (Settlers cart their own stuff and build their own buildings)

The Settlers 7 (
Holy moly, they just keep coming...

Settlers III

Settlers III (1998)

Settles down at last, September 2003.
Always had a soft spot for Settlers III & IV, every since I discovered the very first Settlers on the Amiga very early in the Nineties. I never did get the Settlers section finished, and even had plans to upgrade it to a Settlers IV page. Still drag it out occasionally and still muse over a Settlers IV section...

SimCity Series

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If Populous was the original game that spawned the God Game, then the original SimCity all but created the simulation genre as we know it long ago at the end of the Eighties... good God, some of you reading this weren't even BORN then! This is simulated worlds, not car racing or flight simulators. Since then its developer, Maxis, went on to make a whole swag of sim games: SimEarth, SimAnt, SimLife, SimFarm, SimTower, SimIsle, SimGolf (agh!), SimTown, SimSafari, SimCopter... until eventually, the developers produced finally produced The Sims themselves, who after all those years of simming about as abstract data finally got their own show and became the biggest game series ever on the PC at that time. As for the series, there was:

SimCity (1989)
These days you can play it in your browser.

SimCity 2000 (1995)
This included a "Network Edition" in 1996 (I'm not quite sure how multiplayer SimCity would work, except as a meditatively themed chat session)

SimCity 3000 (1999), SimCity 3000 Unlimited

SimCity 4 (2003)
The current game (picture), that came with an expansion, SimCity 4: Rush Hour (2003). Both packages are bundled together as SimCity 4 Deluxe.

The Sim- games are building and management games, not real time strategy as such. A simulated world plays before you and you get to poke it with a stick and edit a few things just to see what happens. The player is an outside influence that alters and changes the conditions of this world for their own amusement. There's no conquering or conflict, and basically, no real end to any scenario you start. SimCity involved building and watching the evolution of a small town growing into a large metropolis, and players could spend forever tinkering and adjusting city policy and then sitting back to watch the wheels spin. If they got too bored, they could always see how they city coped by dropping in a plane crash, tornado or even Godzilla! This is entertainment that only a computer can provide, and the sort of interesting thing you might expect an insanely sophisticated instrument like a computer to be capable and worthy of doing. Any of the SimCity titles is highly recommended. See also, Populous series.Back

Startopia (2001)

Tired of blowing shit up? Try galactic reconstruction instead. As Station Administrator, its your job to renovate the Station, opening new segments and providing services, entertainments, spiritual guidance, a bit of Love, and recreating the lost habitats of the planets destroyed in a terrible galactic war. Graphically splendiferous, very droll and quite funny, this is the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy and 2001: A Space Odyssey all rolled into one. Its great! Grab a cocoa and some cheese on toast and start sandboxing your Station today...Back

Tropico (2001)

Slightly tongue in cheek island simulation by PopTop Software. This is a Glorious Peoples' Building game with a strong dash of Latin American political intrigue. You are the recently installed dictator of a Caribbean island during the height of the Cold War. Whether you are funded by the CIA or supported covertly by the KGB, its up to you to develop and sustain your revolution in spite of counter-revolutionary rebels, Generals who get a little too big for their boots, and the hardship of trying to get your island economy and the Soccer team off the ground. The economy goes as far as modeling the lives of your people as they grow up, go to school, get a job and eventually retire. This is detailed and challenging sim management in the same vein of PopTop's other big title, Railway Tycoon.

Tropico: Paradise Island (2002) An expansion by a different developer, Breakaway Games, when your dictatorial good self tries to attract more tourists, and maybe get to impose new features, like Martial Law! You can buy all this bundled into the Mucho Macho Edition (2002), which adds a few extra scenarios to play with.

Tropico 2: Pirates Cove (2003) another sequel. by yet another developer, Frog City, drops backwards in time to the 17th Century where you become a Pirate King. Instead of tourism, you're plundering the high seas, kidnapping people and keeping an eye on those scurvy ridden buccaneers of yours. And breeding those all important parrots, of course.Back

Utopia (1981)

One of the earliest simulation games ever (outside of the big mainframes of old) can be found on the ancient Intellivision TV game cartridge system. It wasn't a stupid shoot-'em'up or some daft puzzle game for the kids: Two rulers on rival islands try to outscore each other on points by managing their island the best. Scoring took into account every aspect of your rule, and like most sim management, you had the option of managing a number of different ways, taking into account economic management, welfare, natural disasters and possible island revolution.Back

Zeus: Master of Olympus (2000)

See Great Empires Collection II. Back

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Last modified Fri, Apr 29 2011 by Lindsay Fleay