Cities in Caesar III try to accurately reflect the life of Roman citizens- the lowest plebs live in tents and shacks, while the richest patricians live in villas. Staple foods include wheat, fruits, vegetables, and pork, and wine is required for some festivals and houses. Citizens wander the streets in their various garbs and can tell the player their name and how they feel about the city.
The city is viewed in a two dimensional isometric view with a fixed magnification level, and can be rotated ninety degrees.
Access to services such as market goods, entertainment, hygiene, education, and taxation are represented by "walkers," which are people sent out from their buildings to patrol the streets. Any house that is passed by a walker is considered to have access to the services of the walker's building. All movements of goods and coverage of walkers are accurately reflected by citizens walking the streets: a player can watch a farm's crop progress, and when it's ready a worker will push a full cart from the farm to a nearby warehouse or granary; then return with an empty cart.
Battles are fought by instructing a legion to march to the enemy, then arrange themselves in a particular formation. After this the soldiers take over and fight the battle.
There is no terrain editing, other than permanently removing trees to clear land for building.
Short video clips are played for significant events, such as city milestones or messages from the Roman Emperor.
A manual accompanies Caesar III, though there are minor discrepancies from the game in some editions.
Compared to other strategy games set in Antiquity, Caesar III focuses more on city-building than fighting, though invaders will sometimes attack the player's city. There are two ways to play the game: Mission Mode, which is tantamount to typical "campaign" modes of other strategy games, and Builder Mode, in which the player plays one scenario from scratch.
In Mission mode the player starts with a rank of Citizen, and each time the objectives set by the emperor are reached, the player rises a rank, until finally becoming emperor and winning the game. After the first two missions, the player chooses between two cities to build: one more focused on military, or one which requires more developing.
|Rank||Peaceful assignment||Military assignment|
Citizen and Clerk provide a gentle introduction to the game and are tutorial in nature. For every mission after Citizen, the emperor will set objectives in five categories: Population, Prosperity, Culture, Peace, and Favor. These increase with each rank, and peaceful missions have higher standards than military.
Population is the number of inhabitants in the city. Immigrants will come to live in the city if there is enough housing and work, the province is secure, the people are in a good mood, and other factors. High unemployment is one reason the population can be in a poor mood, and citizens will start to leave (and even riot) if unemployment is high for too long.
Prosperity is the hardest criterion to achieve in the game. It reflects the wealth of the citizens and is measured by the quality of their housing, and the city's ability to turn a profit.
Culture measures the level of literacy, entertainment, and temples available to the player's citizens. To make it rise as many citizens as possible need access to schools, libraries, academies, temples and theatres.
Peace rises every year there is no damage to the city from enemy soldiers, and no rioting.
Favor is the esteem the emperor has for the player. By default it falls every year, and will fall considerably when the player is in debt, under-performs, or pays themselves a salary higher than the current rank. The rating rises when the emperor's occasional tasks are accomplished, and when he's sent presents bought with the player's personal salary.
The advisors make suggestions to help achieve these ratings.
City Construction Kit
In the Caesar III: City Construction Kit mode, there are no specific objectives; the player simply chooses a city and develops it for as long as desired. Some of the cities available include Narbo, Toletum, Corinthus, as well as alternate versions of Mediolanum and Caesarea. In some of them the player will still face invaders, such as the Iberians.
Houses are the buildings in which the citizens live. First the player designates plots for the future houses. If conditions in the city are reasonably desirable, immigrants will move in and pitch a tent on the plot.
There are two types of housing: plebeian housing and patrician housing. Plebeians (or plebs) work while patricians do not. When an immigrant pitches his tent, he becomes a plebeian and starts working at places like farms, prefectures, markets, schools, libraries, clinics, etc.
The first service that must be provided to housing is water. Once given water (from a well or fountain), a small tent will evolve to a large tent, which has a higher value. Soon they will ask for food, religion, entertainment, education, pottery, etc., and evolve into higher levels of housing. The grand insulae is the highest level of plebeian housing. If provided with even more goods and services, it will evolve into patrician housing, whose inhabitants don't work (but contribute more than plebes to the city's tax revenue). The final level of housing is a luxury palace, but it is difficult to achieve as it has exacting requirements.
The general progression of housing is as follows:
Tents: Basic housing, very prone to fires. Large tents need a water supply.
Shacks: Shacks require food provided from a market.
Hovels: Hovels require basic temple access.
Casas: Small casas are 'bread and butter' housing, requiring only food, basic education, fountain access and basic entertainment. Large casas require pottery and bathhouse access.
Insulae: Medium insulae require furniture, and Large insulae, oil. Large insulae require at least a 2x2 plot of land, and will expand if necessary to do so. Grand Insulae will require access to a library, school, barber, doctor, two food types and 'some access' to entertainment venues (e.g. theatre + amphitheatre + 2 shows + average overall city entertainment coverage.) Grand insulae are the most developed form of plebian housing.
Villas and Palaces: Small villas require wine and access to temples to 2 different Gods. Large villas will expand to 3x3 plots. Grand Villas will require access to a hospital, academy, and temples to 3 different Gods. Small palaces will require a second source of wine (imported if the city's primary source of wine is local, or vice-versa.) Large palaces will expand to 4x4 plots. Steadily increasing entertainment values are the main requirement for patrician housing to develop, and those for a Luxury Palace are near-perfect.
Desirability can prevent a house from evolving. In order to evolve, a house also must have a certain desirability in addition to more services. Desirability is calculated from the nearby buildings. For example, a reservoir is an undesirable neighbour while a temple is rather desirable. A house requires more desirability as it evolves.
Prosperity is largely based on the overall quality of houses- a city with a large population of tents and shacks is considered less prosperous than one of equal size with more luxurious housing.
The game focuses more on city-building than military, but there will still be some fighting, even in some of the "peaceful" missions. The enemies in Mission Mode, from weakest to strongest, are:
- Etruscans: Tarentum and Valentia
- Greeks: Syracusae and Miletus
- Pergamum soldiers: Tarsus
- Egyptians: Damascus
- Numids: Tingis and Caesarea
- Gauls: Lutetia and Massilia
- Goths: Sarmizegetusa
- Celts: Londinium and Lindum
- Carthaginians: Mediolanum and Carthago
- Caesar: All (He can attack you if you make him mad by not paying back your bills) The first attack will be 2 legions of legionaries, which are very strong. If you kill them, another attack of about 6-8 legions of the same legionaries will follow. The attack will keep coming until you die (they also seem to stop if you get your favor over 35).
(Brundisium, Capua, Tarraco and Lugdunum will never be invaded.)
Sometimes popular insurrections will occur. The insurgents are easier to kill, but there's no warning before the event happens.
To defend a city the player can build walls, ballista towers, and forts, which house Roman legion soldiers. The soldiers in a fort can be trained as legionaries, or auxiliaries including javelins, or cavalry.
There are five Roman gods which need to be satisfied by building temples, building oracles, or having festivals in honor of a specific god. They are Mars, god of war; Venus, goddess of love; Mercury, god of commerce; Ceres, goddess of agriculture; and Neptune, god of the sea.
These gods will be displeased if not enough temples are devoted to them or if they do not receive equal treatment with the other gods. If a particular god is satisfied, the city may receive a blessing (i.e. Ceres' blessing causes all crops to grow at a faster rate for a short period of time), but if they should become displeased, the player should be prepared for a penalty (likewise, Ceres' wrath causes all crops to cease growing for a brief period of time). However, the player has the option to turn god effects off. With god effects off, the gods do not bless or penalize your town. This can be considered to be good or bad to do, depending on the general favor of the gods.
In addition to benefiting citizens, goods are a valuable source of income and trade routes can be established with neighbouring cities either by land or sea. The resources available depend on the location and are wheat, vegetables, fruits, grapes (used for wine only), olives, meat, fish, timber, clay, iron, and marble. Workshops can be built to process grapes into wine, olives into oil, timber into furniture, clay into pottery, and iron into weapons. Selling manufactured products is often more profitable than raw materials (aside from marble), but they take longer to produce.
As the city becomes more prosperous, the citizens will demand entertainment. It can be in the form of theater, amphitheater, colosseum, or hippodrome. Actor colonies, gladiator schools, lion houses, and chariot makers will provide the trained entertainer personnel.
There are several challenges in the game, failing to meet which would result in delays in attaining the goal of winning the game or even in outright defeat:
- Inefficient infrastructure: One of the main challenges in the game is the design and layout of an effective road network and proper placement of warehouses, granaries, services and industries necessary to support housing and maintain buildings (this problem can be particularly acute on larger maps with an awkward layout of terrain and associated resources.) Much of the difficulty presented results from the semi-random behaviour of your citizens, who cannot be directly controlled and are prone to make wrong turns when faced with branches in a road network. In consequence, many players deliberately constrain their road network to arrangements of simple loops and circuits, using gatehouses or gardens to bridge any gaps and permit shortcuts for walkers with more urgent destinations. This aims to force walkers to adhere to a set patrol route and prevents intermittent lapses in services. Regular patrols of prefects and engineers are essential for most buildings, conversely, nearly all buildings require nearby housing access for employment via citizen worker patrols.
- Failure to balance the budget: A game of Caesar III involves expenditure on the part of the player, to pay the workforce, construct new buildings, pay for imports and damages, holding festivals to appease Gods and mobs alike, and sundry expenses, such as covering thefts, or flattering the Emperor. Income generally comes from two main sources: Trade receipts, and taxation. Taxation is initially unimportant, but larger settlements with evolved housing (especially from villas and other patrician dwellings) may see the bulk of their income in tax receipts. Paradoxically, housing can potentially pay more than the cost of its own residents' wages in taxation. Trade income, by contrast, is derived from developing industries to export raw or finished goods to other cities of the empire. Trade is essential during the early game to cover outlays and expenses on construction, and remains important throughout play. In the later game, a city will almost certainly require imports of some form or another to support higher housing levels. Naturally, finished goods such as pottery, weapons and oil fetch higher prices than raw materials or bulk commodities such as olives or wheat (marble being the notable exception) so players generally attempt to export goods in their 'finished' form, but import in their 'raw' form, using local industry to complete manufacture. For example, a player might export furniture from local industries at a high price, but import cheaper clay and olives to manufacture pottery and oil for local consumption. Initial funds are specified by scenario, along with 'bailout loans' supplied by Caesar at a slight cost to Favour. The player can go into debt (up to 5000 denarii) but remaining in debt for long periods will inevitably incur Caesar's wrath, and is the single easiest way to lose the game.
- Inability to defend the borders: Although Caesar III's military aspects are minimal, many scenarios will feature heavy invasions from several directions and require the prudent establishment of walls, towers, forts and trained legions to deal with potential threats. Enemy armies have no interest in either bribery or occupation and raze buildings indiscriminately when given the chance. Aqueducts, granaries and warehouses are particularly vulnerable, and their loss can be devastating even if the invasion is repelled. In practice, allowing enemies to enter the city proper swiftly results in loss of the game. Different enemies with diverse troops compositions call for different tactics on the field, and a skilled general can greatly reduce losses through proper response to a given raiding party. Slow, heavily armed enemies such as the Carthaginians can be decimated by hit and run tactics with javelin auxiliaries, while ranged opponents such as the Numidians can be tied up with cavalry while your slower legionaries close for battle.
- Inattention to citizen mood: Citizens in the game make many demands on the player, which have to be satisfied to attract immigrants and prevent civil unrest. Low unemployment, adequate food supplies, reasonable taxation and regular festivals improve citizen mood, while the converse can lead to theft, emigration, or, most dangerously, outright rioting. Even in a city which is generally contented, individual 'slum' neighbourhoods can become hotbeds of unrest and disobedience if their general standard of living is poor when compared with affluent neighbours. Content citizens encourage immigrants to settle in your city and allow the player to establish higher levels of taxation without ill effect.
- Incorrect prioritisation: The industries receive labour from the workforce according to a prioritisation setting set by the player. Usually, this prioritisation is dynamic, depending on the problems facing the city at that particular point in time which the player is trying to fight. As an example, when Caesar makes an urgent request for oil, it is necessary to halt oil trade and focus the workforce on olive farming and the oil pressing industry, denuding the entertainment industry temporarily if necessary. An incorrectly deployed workforce could result in, as an example of a dangerous scenario, fully stocked warehouses but no docks to export the goods (having all collapsed due to an insufficient numbers of engineers). Some basic priorities, like firemen and engineers take priority over everyone else in most scenarios, as a lack of their essential services would result in the whole city falling down in ruins.
- Wrath of the gods: Although a minor aspect of the game and usually simple to satisfy, failing to appease the various Deities the player's people worship can be devastating. Normally, temples and oracles can offset any major divine disaffection. However, it should be noted that blessings from the Gods result only when a given deity has been 'displeased' before becoming 'exalted', so some players deliberately cultivate divine wrath in order to 'milk' blessings through a glut of temple-building and festivals.
- Health concerns: Again, though easily addressed via provision of clinics, baths, and occasionally hospitals, poor citizen health can lead to outbreaks of plague that ravage your workforce and eliminate housing.
- Natives: In the cities of Lugdunum, Carthago, Damascus, and Sarmizegetusa, the player will encounter natives. By building mission posts in their villages they can be convinced to ally with the player and even trade. But if some of them are still hostile towards the player, building something in their territory will provoke an insurrection.
- Wolves: Some maps have animals living in the wild. They can be sheep, zebras, or wolves. Of these animals, only wolves pose a threat to your city. A wolf may attack citizens or immigrants, affecting the size of the city's population, and in some cases preventing almost all immigrants from settling in your city. Military defenses can protect citizens from wolves, however a sufficient workforce is often needed to train and sustain an army of soldiers or wall guards.
- Everything is connected: Many problems in the game have knock-on effects that can greatly magnify their impact if not swiftly redressed. For example, labour shortages can cause lapses in essentials services, such as prefect patrols, which cause fires to break out, which destroys housing, which triggers a further labour shortage - a vicious circle best corrected early. If you choose to mothball industries to free up labourers, trade income will suffer, or housing may devolve as needed goods become scarce. If you raise taxes to compensate for reduced trade, your citizens' mood may sour, and riots could destroy a vital aqueduct, but cutting back on expenses may force you to skip festivals, thus incurring the wrath of the Gods. Cutting back on imports may leave you without access to weapons to furnish your legions or accommodate requests from Caesar. The great challenge in the game is that most of the problems you encounter will ultimately be of your own devising.
A few years 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 download from GameSpot, and was also distributed with later releases of the game.