Note: To see the screenshots properly you have to enlarge the whole page. Free WordPress doesn’t allow enlarging images separately, unfortunately.
Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom (2002) is the last game in the city building series made by Impressions Games and BreakAway Games (Apparently BreakAway Games were also involved in developing the addon Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile for the game Pharaoh), and published by Sierra Entertainment. Emperor lets us build cities in the setting of Ancient China.
A fair criticism of this game would be to say that there is barely anything new in this game if you compare it to other games in the series, excluding aesthetics. If we are to consider the series as an accumulation of mechanics that keep getting reshuffled every game, then Emperor brings to the table exactly 2 new things. Okay, let’s be generous and say 2,5.
As the continuation of my previous post about Pharaoh let’s first examine the main core of the game: satisfying the needs of the population. And I’m happy to tell that Emperor might be the game where some sort of balance is found in the department of people’s needs.
So, what’s new is in the game? Let’s start with the 0,5 “innovation”: interactive deities. That’s right folks! If ever you wanted to boss around a divine being – now is your chance. So what does that mean? It means that the gods we had in Zeus are back and now are intractable and can follow your command, rather than being random walkers. And this now makes exactly 2 entities that this game lets you control directly (the other one being your army units). The real impact of you being able to control gods is one: controlled blessings where before you had to hope that a god passes by a blessable building. Now you just tell them to go and bless the damned things. Get it? Blessing the damned, hurhurhur… Also, the gods can participate in the war, give certain economic bonuses, function as particular walkers and catch animals. Speaking of the animals, this is a new thing in the game, but it has no real impact on the game, so it’s the part of 0,5.
Another attempt at adding more interaction with the city are the spies. Spies are basically in the cities to attempt a sabotage. But the interesting thing about them is that you can prevent sabotage by actively inspecting the walkers in your city. I admit that there is something amusing and entertaining in spotting a walker that is walking where he/she clearly doesn’t belong. And while spies are extremely clumsy and easy to counter, they add more to the feeling of the city being alive.
But the real diamond in all of these Asian curly rooftops is the feng shui system. No more copy-pasting the same district template everywhere! Where before the player just had to keep in mind that a district needs X squares for the services and then place the buildings anywhere, the player is now made to consider the placement of the intended buildings. The landscape (trees, stones and hill slopes, water etc.) now influences the placement of the buildings. Every building belongs to one of the 5 feng shui elements. To skip the details – placing too many building inconsiderably makes your city riot. This way I find myself much more invested into the architecture of the layout of the city than I was in the previous games.
All in all, I find Emperor to be a nice conclusion to this series of games. Hope you enjoyed screenshots! And check out the bird’s view of my cities here.