Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom

  • A fresh historical setting that has yet to be explored in the city building genre
  • Huge amount of depth across the ministries to min-max your city building tactics
  • Lacks level variation between the campaign missions with similar objectives that only vary in scale

Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom is a city building game that focuses on Ancient China and takes the genre away from the modern day by sending players back in time for a different historical city building experience. Released in 2002 it has become one of the cult classics of the city building genre and serves as the sixth in the city building franchise. Not only is the title the first to offer multiplayer gameplay but it is also the first to venture into China with a previous focus on the Roman Empire, ancient Egypt and ancient Greece.


Your focus in Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom is for players to create their own thriving civilisation across a number of scenarios that each require a different focus to overcome. Played from an isometric game view the 2D world beneath you is free to players to generate goods, manage crime rates, ensure the safety of your settlement and generate the important taxes that are needed to provide public services and a military force for threats. When it all comes together the amount of control that you have over your Asian civilisation to achieve these varied objectives is extremely high just like the past titles of the franchise.

In total players will tackle seven campaigns in an order they select which spread a massive 3,000 years of Chinese history with familiar names like the Xia, Jin and Song Dynasty that allows players to play a role in the Great Wall of China construction and the Terracotta Army. While goals vary based on the campaign you’ll find similar requirements across population levels, monument construction, production quota or claiming a particular city for yourself. This progression through the campaigns time period also serves to scale the difficulty over time with players starting as a simple village elder who settles their nomadic tribe and the last having players serve the Emperor of China directly against a host of external threats.


Mechanically the process of maintaining your city is made one decision at a time as players set their economy parameters in hopes of acquiring surpluses of food and other goods that encourage city growth. This surplus also provides the foundation for trade and your tax system that turn your city into a larger empire capable of claiming new cities. To support players further these extra resources can be offered to appease the ancestral heroes of Chinese culture which not only stops disasters from sweeping through your city but may also prompt a visit for temporary positive benefits.

Players need to be aware of other neighbour relationships though which requires the player to respond to trade requests to maintain good relationships. To prepare for when these relationships sour though you’ll have full control of both defence and offence to create walls or develop a roaming militia to do your own conquering. Only with this protection in places will players want to attempt the monument requirements given these are a massive drain on your resources.


While managing all of this players will also need to ensure their underlying city building is strong as the right structures and overall design is key to ensuring you generate resources at a sufficient enough pace. Utilising the various ministry information screens players will balance religion, entertainment, commerce, industry, government, monuments, popular, agriculture, safety, military and aesthetics which each require specific buildings or decisions to be made.


  • A city building title that explores ancient China with a campaign that spans over 3,000 years of history.
  • Manage your 11 ministries that each require players to balance their limited resources to achieve their mission.
  • Please the ancestral heroes for rewards with multiple religions to minimise disasters and maximise blessings.
  • Balance your economy and trade relationships against military power.
  • Develop your own civilisation one road, building and wall at a time to create a unique Chinese city each time you play.



Review Platform: PC

This review was first published on . Read our update policy to learn more.

Written by
Samuel Franklin
Samuel Franklin is the founder and lead editor of the Games Finder team and enjoys video games across all genres and platforms. He has worked in the gaming industry since 2008 amassing over 3 million views on YouTube and 10 million article views on HubPages.

Games Finder is a Steam Curator and featured in the aggregate review scores data of MobyGames and Neoseeker.
Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.