By Al Giovetti, 04/29/97
S.P.Q.R.: The Empire's Darkest Hour
S.P.Q.R. which can be found on the identity staffs of any Roman army stands for the Senate and People of Rome.
Rome is Gripped by Fear. It is the month of Januarius in the year 205 A.D. and all of Rome is gripped by fear. The Oracle has predicted that an unkown scourge will plague the city by the end of the year. A seer known as Sibyl believes the scourge will be brought on by a stranger who is bent on bringing the city and the Empire to its knees. She has dubbed this stranger, "Calamitus".
You Must Save the City: Cornelius, the great inventor, has summoned you, his apprentice, under the most urgent of circumstances. Calamitus threatens to destroy Rome. You must discover the villain's true identity before he (or she) can carry out his diabolical plan and stop him. Your success would not only avert the premature destruction of Rome but could result in re-writing the pages of history.
Who is Calamitus? Early on, you will discover the journals of five important Romans. Seemingly they are above suspicion, but as you read their private thoughts and realize how intertwined their lives are, you will come to suspect that one of them is the dreaded Calamitus.
It's up to you to search the streets, temples, and monuments of Rome, gathering the clues necessary to identify the Calamitus.
In order to catch Calamitus, you use the Navitor, which is a device that helps you to explore the Roman forum from within your inventor's workshop.
Like all adventure games, you are expected to solve puzzles. The puzzles can be fun but sifting through the voluminous historical and educational materials is often tedious and obscured the game rather than enhances it. One puzzle involves opening a journal in a locked cabinet, which requires you to move some stones on a desk into certain positions.
The Navitor interface shows a compas in the lower left so that you can turn every which way to see what lies there. Also along the bottom are the names of the five suspects and the scrolls of information that you have gathered on them. Above the characters are locations that you can look at from a distance through sliding panels.
It is the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus. Your an apprentice inventor. Your mentor, Cornelius, sets you to the task of preventing a sabateur named Calamitus from burning Rome within the year.
Suspects you need to investigate includ a private investigator, Lucius, a barbarian named Xanthus, an engineer, Gordian, a seer, Sibyl, and to add spice one of the vestal virgins named Verania.
The 16-bit graphics are very clear when the game is static. Like many games of this type, ie 7th guest, the graphics are very nice, but they are devoid of people. It is much nicer to see people in the scenes, rather than the sterile effect the lack of people makes.
AnimationQuick Time movies are used to examine every site but they are two dimensional, which dates the game. Current games use Quick Time VR which allows 360 degrees of movement in each location.
UtilitiesA tour of the Roman Forum is included in Quick Time VR.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
ReferencesGT Interactive S.P.Q.R. Web Site
Peter Olafson, PC Games, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 79, 75%.