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Sid Meier’s Civilization IV

Civilization

I generally try to avoid playing the Civilization series. It isn’t that the games aren’t good, it’s just they’re so damn addictive and since no game is ever the same as the last, you’re incredibly willing to keep playing for just one more turn, which ends up being about thirty turns, or sixty turns, or ninety turns, and by then, your paper’s due or you’ve stayed up too late and you’re going to be exhausted the next day. It’s just one of those rare games that is incredibly accessible to newcomers, but can never really be mastered by veterans. The latest addition into the series, Civilization IV, once again proves that Sid Meier is one of the greatest game designers in our time.

It’s hard to review a game like this without a great knowledge of the series, and although I do own Civilization III, I’m no expert. There’s no storyline to Civilization IV, no grand, sweeping story of love and betrayal. Instead, you choose a civilization, a leader of that civilization, and then you’re set on a map with the mission of complete global domination. You can go about this in a variety of ways, either by going out and crushing every other nation under the power of your military units, by being the first civilization to get into outer space, even by controlling a certain amount of territory. This makes for a diverse experience every time you sit down and start a new game.

There are a whole lot of options that you can manipulate before the game begins. You can choose the size of the continent, which controls how many nations you’re going to be competing with. You can control the speed of the game, which is incredibly helpful considering how long a single game can last (I spent six hours one day playing a single map and I really hadn’t made that much progress), so if you want a faster game (or even a slower one if you’re mad), you can have it. Even more importantly, you can choose the type of map you’re on, so if you want to have a strong Navy, then you can pick a really wet map. If you don’t want to have to deal with water, you can just pick a giant continent that everyone shares. It’s completely up to you, which makes each game feel exactly the way you want it.

Customization options like these really make the game feel like it was made with strategy fans in mind. It isn’t just some package sent for every gamer, it’s a package made for you. You can even create your own units if you prefer, but you’ll find dozens and dozens of pre-made units spanning a variety of ages. You can develop simple axemen all the way up to the most advanced modern infantry. You’ll move from catapults to the most advanced tanks around. Building up your forces and researching the new technologies required to create them takes quite a bit of management, but everything is brought to your attention automatically by the computer, and it even makes smart suggestions, which will make it easier to build up your civilization.

One of the biggest additions to this game is its brand-spanking-new 3D engine and the game looks mighty fine. Sure, it ain’t Half-Life 2 or F.E.A.R, but it looks really god, especially for this type of game. You can zoom in and out, which gives you a variety of views of the world around you, all of which are helpful in different circumstances. You can watch your units as they dig into the ground, or you can zoom all the way out to get a complete view of the globe, which is a lot like Google Earth. If you’re planning on running the game on an ATI card, be advised that the game ran pretty awfully on larger maps towards the end of the game when a lot of stuff was going on, and I met or exceeded every system requirement. Apparently, a patch is in the works that will resolve all of these problems, but I suffered absolutely no problems on smaller maps, so the game is playable during the wait.

One of the things I liked best about this game is the dozens and dozens of videos marking the progress of your civilization. These minor inclusions mark the progress of wonders you’re building in your city, like Notre Dame or the Pentagon. Once you complete a building, you get to watch a fifteen second video highlighting how it was created from start to finish. Another minor inclusion which really added to the game was the decision to have Leonard Nimoy provide some voice work, highlighting the completion of research on a new technology (which range from simple technologies like paper all the way up to fusion). He reads a quote from the time period or something significant that the real-life creator wrote. This is a clever inclusion that I never would have thought about. The music is also a perfect blend of music from around the world, ranging from European Classical to African music. It’s a very fine collection.

I could go on, and on, getting into more and more specifics, but I think if you’re reading this review, you’re probably already interested in purchasing the game, so I’ll try to sum it up in less. Civilization IV is an incredibly addicting, engrossing, and incredibly well-designed inclusion. No stone was left unturned as the developers crafted this masterpiece and if you’re a fan of the previous installments of this game, you’re definitely going to enjoy this latest edition. If you’ve never played any of the series, or even a game like them, this is the perfect game to introduce you to the turn-based strategy genre. Pick this one up as soon as you have the cash for it, you won’t be disappointed.

10 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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