I haven't written a post for quite some time. The blame lies entirely on Civilization IV (Civ4) – specifically the "Complete" pack that I bought the other day. I really can't stress enough how addictive this game is! Seriously, several times now I have sat down to play for "half an hour or so" only to stop later and realise that half a day has passed. So I guess caution is advised if you're going to play this game. Anyway, let's get on with the review proper shall we?
If you've never played one of the Civilization games then you only really need to know that they're all epic-scale turn-based strategy games that encompass the whole of human history. Each game has built upon the last and the series has continued to grow and get better and better with each version.
I must say that, when I played Civ4 for the first time earlier in the year, or late last year, I wasn't overly impressed: there were some show stopping bugs, some of the units felt unbalanced, my traditional "introverted" approach to the game didn't work at all and so on. To top it off the the new game's 3D graphics were killing my old desktop computer and the game ran like a dog. Rather impressive considering that same computer ran Half-Life 2 quite well. All-in-all I didn't like it and I went back to Civ3.
I don't know if it's because I had lower expectations coming back to it, if they fixed the bugs and flaws, or if it's because of my new computer scoffs at the game's paltry attempts to slow it down but I find I really enjoy it now! I'm guessing it's a combination of all those things actually.
So, the Complete version of the game comes with the base Civ4 and the expansions Warlords and Beyond the Sword. I'm not really sure what changes either of them made as I didn't play the base version for very long because of the aforementioned problems I had with it. From what I can gather Warlords was mostly about expanding the combat options whereas Beyond the Sword expanded on the non-war aspects of the game. All three versions of the game are playable by running the different programs (all in the menu) but I don't know why anyone would play anything other than the BtS version as it incorporates all the other material.
Some of the things I enjoy that have bee added to Civ4 are the concept of religions and corporations, which makes for a nice augmentation to culture, and random events, which require you to respond to occurrences that pop up every now and then and usually require to make a decision which has minor consequences. Examples of random events are:
- A natural disaster strikes – do you spend money from the treasury to help the city or let some of the people die?
- A Romeo and Juliet scenario occurs with one of the families being citizens of a rival nation – do you praise the young couple and risk the wrath of the other leader or admonish them and upset some of your own people?
- A new play has been getting rave reviews – do you watch the taxes roll in or spend money promoting the play worldwide for an increase in culture?
What you can see from these is that the events really bring a feeling of a living society rather than some generic empire. There are also quests which you can choose to complete for some reward. The only one I've had so far involved building coliseums in all my cities to allow the formation of a new football league, with the reward being an extra culture point per coliseum from then on.
Religion and corporations work slightly differently but the concepts behind them are similar: you can set up organisations in your civilization that can spread all over the world and extend your influence and bring in more wealth and power. Religions get founded when someone discovers certain technologies for the first time. Corporations get founded by creating them with Great Merchant units, so it's a bit more difficult to do, and they consume resources like oil, sheep and so forth.
Other things that are new to this game are things like colonies. You can actually give some of your cities independence to form a vassal state. Similarly, you can negotiate for an existing civilization to become a vassal state to your own (or vice versa), although this usually only occurs as part of a peace treaty. There are tons of things like this in the game so it's a very rich experience and requires a but of work to master all of the nuances of it.
The interface for the game deserves special mention. Everything is very well laid out and once you adjust to it you'll find almost everything you need to know can be found out by looking at the main world screen or my hovering the mouse over something. Because of the 3D engine you can zoom in and out as you please to get a wider or narrower view as you desire.
Technically, the game is well done. I believe any issues that existing in the original game have since been patched. I can't comment on any performance issues for older computers but a new one should be fine: I'm running everything on high settings and haven't found any slow downs. I do like that the game supports widescreen straight off and it looks great using it. You get plenty of room to see the main view and all the information around the sides.
Seeing as the game is so addictive there's one new feature that I really should be using: the alarm clock. I think this is a great addition to the game and yet it's so very simple. There's also no problem adding a clock or alarm to a game of this type either since the game moves at your pace and you can stop at any time. Well, I should say you're allowed to stop at any time. Naturally you have to play for "just one more turn".
In the end I think that's the most I can say about this game – it really is that addictive. I've been playing a single marathon-length game for several days now, which adds up to almost a full 24 hours of gaming. For a single game.