Product Type: Take 2 PC games
Newest Review: ... as the greatest strategy game ever made. The concept remains the same. You choose an empire (the Roman being my favourite) and you bui... more
Civilization IV (PC)
Member Name: Mauri
Civilization IV (PC)
Date: 23/02/06, updated on 23/02/06 (406 review reads)
Advantages: Good graphics, challenging, great gameplay
Disadvantages: Suffers from its previous reputation
Way back in the mists of time… well 1991 a long time in PC game terms, there was a game called Civilization. This was the new offering from Sid Meyer who had had great success with a previous strategy game called ‘Railroad Tycoon’. Civilisation was one of the most ambitious strategy game ever produced, its premise was for the player from very humble beginnings to create a civilisation and through conflict, co-operation and skill build it up to reach out to the stars. The game was a huge hit and it quickly became acknowledged as the best turn based strategy game ever made.
Since then ‘improved’ versions Civ 2 and Civ 3 have been produced, which have on the whole built upon and tweaked the basic concept to varying degrees of success. Personally I found Civ 2 to be an even better game than the original but was rather disappointed with the third instalment. It was with a mixture of great expectation and a little trepidation that I waited for the release of ‘Civilization IV’ the very much improved and expanded latest version of the famous franchise.
The basic premise of the game hasn’t changed, why change something that is almost perfection? Your task is still to take charge of a nomadic tribe, settle down build a city and grow making the best use of your surroundings. Over the course of thousands of years by careful management of your resources and economy you should expand into a global empire and finally rule the whole of the world or be the first to build spaceships to settle other distant planets.
At the start of the game you are asked to choose a civilisation type from a fairly large list of options (British, American, Indian, Mongolian, French Chinese etc. are all there) as well as a difficulty level beginning at the easiest ‘Chieftain’ gradually going up the scale through ‘Warlord’, ‘Prince’ etc. eventually arriving at the extremely challenging ‘Deity’. Other pre-game choices include terrain type, sea levels, resource abundance etc. Careful consideration has to be given to all these before starting. The excellent printed manual included with the game will make essential reading for the first few attempts at playing.
The gameplay involves as it always did a careful balance of economic and structural development. This will include creating food for your cities to expand and collecting resources in order to manufacture goods and develop technologies eventually to trade with other people. As well as these considerations you will expect to have to defend yourself from other aggressive empires and also do a little conquering in the bargain, so training a powerful up to date army if only for defence is also a strong priority.
The new game takes the gameplay to more sophisticated levels. Where in the previous version once you had set up a city you could develop the land around it by either irrigating for food production, building mines in suitable areas for extracting resources and additionally building roads to stimulate trade and make movement easier in the new version all these activities lead to many more choices. Land development is not only about irrigation, you could forgo farming for setting up plantations or simply build satellite hamlets and town to provide your coffers with extra tax revenue. The provision of resource is also made more complex by giving a choice of which material you want to produce, silver, gold, oil and maybe you want to simply generate power by building wind farms or water mills. These changes have greatly improved the game and made the possibilities of developing in many more specific areas thus allowing the type of economy that you can develop to be much more tailored to your own individual preferences in playing the game.
As before at the start of the game you are given a choice of races to chose from will affect they type of empire you are suited for so for instance if you choose to be Genghis Khan expect other to be wary of you and not do you any favour diplomatically but on the up side the fact that you can train armies faster than them will give you a distinct early advantage if you take an aggressive stance. Ghandi of the Indian empire on the other hand will make you many friend sand allow your diplomatic influence to flourish but will not suit an aggressive, blood thirsty player. Right from the start your choices will count toward your eventual success.
The big changes that have been introduced to CIV 4 are to do with religion and culture. In previous game these factors have not mattered whereas now they must play an intrinsic part of your strategy. You early on can choose to set up a religion and depending on how you play this religion can spread to other states thus making you as the seat of that religion an important influence over their decisions in relation to military and diplomatic matters. Culture in the form of art and literature and by the existence of great citizens provided when you build cultural centres will allow you sphere of influence to spread even further and can ultimately plant the seeds of unrest in near by foreign cities making them more likely to revolt and join your empire.
VISUALS, GRAPHICS AND SOUND
One change that is very welcomes is the improved graphics. In the earlier versions the map looked like nothing more than a graphically enhanced chessboard but CIV 4 has finally added graphics that do justice to the complexity of the game. With the help of a voice over by Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy) the new graphics engine provides us with an improved amount of detail and animation making the whole gaming experience more enjoyable. The world has become 3D and you are able to zoom in and out with godlike power. All the information that the game employs is still there to be accessed but in a new easier user friendly way. Although the AI representation of the rival leader still leave a little to be desired. I also miss the films clips representing the various advisors from CIV 2 especially Elvis!
The terrain itself has become a lot more variable and the graphics are geared to make this aspect of the game easier to handle thus you are able to tell quite easily whether any selected area is generating food, resources or commerce. A certain amount of customisation is also allowed so that various aspects of the terrain can be highlighted.
WAR, WHAT IT GOOD FOR?
This is an area that has seen big changes in the new CIV. In the original version a units military strength was represented by an attack and defence ratings in CIV a single power rating is used, this simplifies combat but you units can add flexibility by the addition of different upgrade depending on their experience which allows them to specialise in city defence or attack or in combat against specific kinds of units over and above their normal abilities such as first strike. This can produce some hard fought battles between unlikely units and makes it generally harder to conquer cities with small armies.
Another change involves the use of artillery units which now cannot damage defenders in a city but only lower the city’s overall defence bonus. Gone are the days where a powerful navy would guarantee world domination. Some units also have the possibility of withdrawing from combat if they are about to lose a battle.
This changed aspect of the game might represent the biggest hurdle to previous players of Civ and will require some fundamental changes in the game tactics.
Other areas of the game will be familiar to past Civ players. When you build a city you have to decide to devote your efforts to earth building city improvements (barracks, temples, aqueducts) or improving you army buy building military units but unlike before you cannot change production half way through without losing all the resources you have put in already so a little more consideration must be given to which improvements path to take at nay stage of the game.
As in previous games you will also undertake scientific research and discover new technologies and civilisation advancements, this now includes various religious advances. The ability to build ‘Wonders’ building of enormous importance and influence that will give you civilisation various advantages is still there although it has been expanded to include national wonders as well with more limited effects. New in-game movies shown on wonder completion are also a welcomed addition.
I have yet to try the multiplayer modes and I am unlikely to do so in the near future So I can’t comment too much on this aspect of the game apart form saying that LAN, Internet, PBEM, and Persistent Turn-Based Server (PTBS) is possible and that a variety of differing game type and team allocations are possible.
It is almost impossible to include all the features of the game in a short review but I emphasise that what I have written about will provide you only a brief outline of most important aspect of the game.
So is the new CIV 4 an improvement of previous versions? It is certainly true to say the graphics are far better and the player interface is much improved and easier to understand (once you have the hang of the game) so in this respect yes it is better. However it is difficult to improve on a game like CIV in that it was one of the best and strategy games around and one that retained a high re-playability value. I think the question is in fact unfair; CIV 4 is different enough to the other version to be considered as a new experience even for long standing fans of the franchise. Civ 4 will provide a challenge for even the best CIV player and will ensure that there is no comfort zone based on previous tactical knowledge. Despite the complexity of the game I found it relatively easy to play on the easier levels (up to ‘warlord’) and the ability to customise the length of the game means that it does not have to be a sleep depriving epic gaming session. Overall I can’t really criticise the game and it is one of the best strategy games around but I was a little (a tiny, tiny bit) disappointed when I completed my fist game possibly due to my extremely high expectations from the game before playing and less to do with the game itself. I’m sure that Civ-virgins will find this new version every bit an enthralling as I found the very first Civilization all those years ago in 1991.
TECH SPECS (for those interested)
The game requires a DVD Rom drive to run and comes with a 12+ (PEGI) rating mainly due to its complexity rather than inappropriate content.
1.2GHz P4 or above
256MB RAM (Win 2000) 512MB RAM (XP)
1.7GB Hard Disk Space
64MB Video Card
‘Civilisation IV’ can be bought from Play.com for £17.99 (delivered) at the time of writing this review.
© Mauri 2006
Summary: The best turn based strategy game ever made.