How is it that some things seem to change very little but get better over time? Civilization 4 is one of those things; cosmetically it hasn’t had the graphical metamorphous most games go through (Quake vs. Quake 4 = a world of difference, Zelda and the list goes on). This latest release IMHO is the best one in the CIV series hands down. The game play is smooth and the strategic elements work exceptionally well together.
For those who just climbed out of a time capsule, Civ 4 is a turn based strategy game. You start out at the dawn of man and you end setting out to conquer the stars. When you first start you have the option of choosing different world types, arid desert, water world etc. I typically choose Earth-like (Terra). This game is all about management — managing your economy, military, resources etc. You start with one city and you start building workers, farms, roads etc. and begin growing. The more you build the more you grow, creating more cities and expanding your territory. You start researching and discovering new things, which in turn lead to new discoveries. All of these discoveries have a direct impact on your society, influencing its growth and stature in the world. You can choose the peaceful path by growing your economy through trade and technological advancements, or you can choose the path of war and confrontation by taking over what you can’t build. Both have their pros and cons. If you choose the path of aggression you’ll always be fighting and your civilization will grow slowly.
Much of your time is spent managing your cities. A city’s boundaries grow as its culture levels grow. To keep the culture levels growing you need strong food production, entertainment for its citizenry and security so they can all sleep safe at night. You also need to build and develop your city’s infrastructure, roads, hospitals, courthouses etc. A new twist in the game is the development of the “Great Person.” A Great Person can be scientist, engineer, artist, scholar priest etc. with their own unique ability. It takes many turns to create a Great Person and you can only use their ability once to create something special. Once used, your city’s culture level will increase, your Great Persons power is used so choose wisely here.
Research is a path that has many forks in the road; new units, buildings and technologies lie in wait for you, and each one will produce new and wonderful things. Think of this as a flow chart on steroids. To advance your civilization you need to constantly evolve and push forward. Democracy or gunpowder doesn’t mysteriously appear out of thin air; you need to research to discover and build.
The game comes with a flow chart showing in detail the path these discoveries will take you. I highly recommend you study the chart before you start, as it will make things easier for you in the long run. This game is about micro managing to the tenth degree and understanding your civilizations road map to success will pay off in the win column.
While all of this is going on, you must remember the world isn’t all gumdrops and lollipops. You share the world map with other civilizations and barbarians all of whom are trying to carve out there own little piece of heaven. You can trade with your neighbor, for maps, technology and special resources. When one of your city’s territory surrounds a neighboring city its citizens could revolt and join your empire. Remember though, at the end of the day its world domination you are after, and at some point you are going to have to start conquering the world. So find the right mix between building your armed forces and growing your economy.
If you focus mainly on your economy you will be taken over and at the end of it all those who control the most wins, control requires invading your neighbors. There are a wide variety of military units covering all divisions of the armed forces from the Army grunt to the stealth bomber. The military aspect of this game is very enjoyable, the strategic element of the turn based strategy has always lent itself well to the civilization series of games and Civ 4 is no different. I found myself using the following strategy, Stealth bombers in first, then artillery, then armour and last but not least ground troops.
If you really want to have some fun and you have an afternoon to kill, you can play online. For me, PC gaming is all about the head-to-head experience. Civ 4 offers a more cerebral experience than what’s currently out there. If you don’t have six hours then I suggest playing a scenario; these take a shorter amount of time to play and are just as much fun. You don’t have to worry about lag time and I highly recommend using a VOIP service like Skype, Teamspeak etc…
How can something that can take 10 to12 hours to play be so addictive and fun? I think it’s because it draws you into the game cerebrally and makes you think. So many games out there are just REM mind numbing exercises, once you’re finished playing you’re restricted to one syllable conversations.
Civ4 is a refreshing breath of fresh air in this first person shooter gone mad gaming world we live in. The game is large and complex but all the elements interact with each other with such cohesiveness and fluidity. The Gameplay is flawless and the enjoyment factor is off the chart. This game is a must buy and is suitable for most everyone.