Impressions Games and Sierra have officially announced that Emperor : Rise Of The Middle Kingdom will be the next game in their popular city-building series. So far Impressions have covered Rome in the Caesar games, Egypt in Pharaoh and the myths of ancient Greece in Zeus : Master Of Olympus. Their latest foray takes them further east, putting players in charge of a city in ancient China and covering some three thousand years of oriental history right up to the Mongol invasion of 1211 AD. Along the way you will get to build the Great Wall and the Teracotta Army amongst other epic monuments. Further details are available on the newly launched Emperor website, but pretty much the only thing the press release talks about is Emperor's online multiplayer support. This is being heralded as a first for the city building genre, unless of course you count hybrids such as Stronghold. According to Impressions' Alex Rodberg, allowing players to control their own cities and interact with their neighbours online will mean that they "can form alliances, trade needed goods, send in spies and emissaries, invade each other, or work together on a massive project like the Grand Canal". Producer Jon "Don't Call Me Max" Payne added that "we're really excited to see what gamers will come up with in multiplayer mode, so we're leaving options open for them to invent their own types of gameplay", with both competitive and co-operative support on offer. If you read the fine print though, Emperor is actually being developed by BreakAway Games (the team behind the Cleopatra add-on for Pharaoh) rather than Impressions themselves, and apart from the setting very little else has changed. Sprites are slightly bigger and more detailed, but it's the same old isometric 2D graphics engine underneath, with a new improved combat system the only other major change apparent at this stage. With the game currently heading for an autumn release, we should know more soon. Related Feature - Pharaoh review
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