Each level in Grand Ages: Rome challenges you to complete a number of objectives. There is a tutorial for building and one for warfare, but anyone who has played a game in this genre before will find it very easy to pick up. The campaign map assigns you various cities to develop and you can choose which missions to do. Each one has a back story and there is an attempt to offer some character development. You can choose sides impacting on the missions that are available down the line. You are also rewarded for success with new traits and resource bonuses. Despite the effort, the stories add little to the experience and you never really feel like a character carving a path through history.
The building mechanic is similar to titles like Pharaoh. You place structures out and try to encourage your city to grow. Many of the buildings have clear interdependencies. You need food to attract people. You need people to work on gathering resources such as wood, bricks, and stone, which in turn allow you to build more structures. Pig farms feed butcher shops and the more quality food you produce, the more skilled people you attract. You can cater to religion, provide entertainment, and research improvements in your schools. It is relatively easy to balance your resources and keep everyone happy.
The gameplay is identical to city builders of old with a few important distinctions. All of your buildings are available from the start which seems great at first. There is a reason these kinds of games usually allow you to develop new buildings over time however, as it keeps you interested. The fact that you can try everything out in your first few levels leaves no surprises, and it means the cities feel boring quickly. The developers have also dispensed with the notion that goods travel, so as soon as you build the required pig farm, you can supply your butcher. And unlike Pharaoh, you aren’t waiting for a man to drag the goods through the streets.
Grand Ages: Rome falls down when it comes to the real-time combat. The city building aspect is solid with a decent interface. Perhaps it would have been better if they had focussed extra effort on that and just dispensed with the combat altogether. There is nothing tactical or particularly enjoyable about churning out units and clicking on a location for them to run to. The AI is rudimentary and there is no tactical depth here at all. This is real-time scrapping - it doesn’t deserve the strategy tag.