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PC Reviews: Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom


Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom Screenshots

The Final Say!


Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom
 reviewed by Andrew B
Review Date: 22 September 2002
Review Score: 8.8/10 
Distributor: Vivendi Universal

"It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two."

Sun Tzu - The Art of War

From the publishers of Caesar III, Pharaoh and Zeus comes Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom. As Emperor, you must build vast prosperous cities and protect them from the barbarian hordes in order for the Chinese Kingdom to survive. The game itself spans over 3000 years of Chinese history that ranges from seven different Chinese dynasties. Unlike previous incarnations of city building games, Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom supports the following new features.

New Features

  • Online Multiplayer - allows up to eight players to compete or cooperate online
  • Enhanced graphics - over 25% percent more detail than previous games
  • Personalities - new citizen personalities
  • Combat - new combat interface that allows for more intense battles

The basic premise behind Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom is the creation and overall management of your city. By building a variety of buildings, you attract new citizens that will eventually start working for by becoming farmers, shop owners, artisans, soldiers etc. There are a variety of objectives that you must achieve per level such as a certain population quota, the production of certain goods or the construction of key buildings. Apart from these basics, you must control trade routes, taxes and create armies in order to protect your citizens.

Another new feature of the Impressions building city engine are the ancestors. These ancestors are basically priests that inspire your citizens in a different number of ways. The ancestors can increase your troops morale, bless houses, create food and give a plethora of other benefits. In order to get an ancestor to visit your city, you must basically worship them with material goods and if they find you worthy, they will visit your city. Be wary though, if you annoy or ignore the ancestors, they can also cause harm to your city too.

"When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common soldiers too weak, the result is collapse."

Sun Tzu - The Art of War


It's all about planning... that is the only way your city can prosper. Unlike previous building games such as Pharaoh and Caesar III, you can now organize your city into a utopia without the need to build houses near your workplaces. This does make gameplay much easier as you no longer have to worry about your citizens spreading diseases around because everyone can now live in a nicer looking area of your city. The industry of your city thrives on a variety of products that must be made and bought from other provinces such as pottery, silks and weapons. Once your city is making profit, you must also keep your citizens happy by creating them various forms of entertainment such as music schools or drama schools that will create performers.

The longevity of this game is outstanding and supports over 40 single player missions with a wide variety of difficulty levels. You also get to play seven accurate historical campaigns from ancient China that include the following Chinese dynasties; Xia, Sang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui/Tang, and Song/Jin. The game also supports an excellent multiplayer option that lets you play up to eight players at once that can either be cooperatively or competitive.

In this modern day and age where everyone and their dog has a powerful 3D card, Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom doesn't take advantage of this phenomenon. The engine of this game uses a standard 2D isometric view with high quality 2D models. Unlike a 3D engine, everything in the game is extremely detailed from the certain colour hats your citizens wear or the number of roof tiles on your temple. Once your city is fully built, you will soon notice that there is quite a bit of action going on your town, from your average citizens moving around your town, to the carts that carry goods between your buildings. Because the game uses a 2D isometric engine, the detail is quite simple amazing but in order to achieve this, the scrolling on maps is a little disappointing.

The soundtrack of Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom helps set a relaxed atmosphere in the game and is not too over the top to become too annoying. There are a variety of other background sounds in the game that are basically the sounds of your city. The voices do sound a little cheesy but it actually kind of suits the game with its Hong Kong action movie type acting. 

For those of you that enjoyed the other city building games from Impressions, then Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom would make an excellent addition to your gaming collection. The game is basically almost identical to previous games in the series but does have improved graphics and features that will make this title stand on its own... not to mention a real online multiplayer mode that will give you endless hours of world domination. If you are after a thinking mans game, then this is the one for you. Recommended!

- Andrew B


Copyright 2002 www.impulsegamer.com