Sid Meier’s Civilization IV
Developer: Fireaxis
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1+
Words By:

For once I will give the (attempted) witty introduction a miss and just cut to the chase. Civ 4 is pretty much perfect and deserves to be in every PC gamer’s collection. It is, without doubt, the most fun and entertaining game I have played since, well… Civ 3.

So what is Civilization? The games themselves have been around for what must be the best part of a decade and a half. They are renowned for being the “Daddy” of the strategy genre, and whilst many pretenders have tried to better them, none have truly succeeded. Part of the charm and the reason for the success is they are, at heart, very, very simple. Much like using this Jackpotjoy promo code, they are also "gaming crack" – there is no way that you can just play for half an hour before tea – here before you know it, tea is cold and breakfast is being served.

At its most basic it’s you against the world – but no hand to eye coordination or rapid reflexes will win this one, it’s pure strategy – slow and steady. Starting with just two units you have to grow into the World’s controlling force. One of these units will be a settler – these are the guys who will found and build your cities – the sooner you get one built the better – but make sure it’s in a good strategic position. The other unit is a bunch of Warriors – these are both your attack and defence.

The game starts in what us stupid people know as “caveman time” and builds to modern day – it’s turn-based – each turn takes you a step forward in time. You, as your chosen nation’s leader, are responsible for controlling EVERYTHING. It’s down to you which units each of your cities build. You can decide to produce more warriors and conquer by force, or make more settlers and create more cities of your own. Should you wish it you can just concentrate on building improvements – these give each city a bonus and increase its population, thus enabling you to build and grow even more. Growth and expansion is the key and everything has a knock on effect.

The other major thing you have to deal with is “research” – it’s your choice what your clever people should be developing – from the early days of “The Wheel” and “Currency” to “Communism” and “Rocketry” – each development will open up yet more options. For example the wheel will allow you to develop chariots whilst currency allows you to build marketplaces. You name it, YOU control it.

Rereading the above it may sound daunting and complicated, but it’s not, Civilization is very simple and easy to play-in fact, it's pretty easy. To this day I have yet to fully read any of the manuals – the game has a great inbuilt help system – there are dozens of advisors helping you and the game has possibly the greatest configurability (if that’s a word) of difficulty that I’ve seen in a game.

Civ 4 builds on the 15 year heritage of the earlier titles. Its success is based on the fact that the developers have stuck to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – however they have still managed to include countless additions which seamlessly integrate into the classic structure that Civ fans will know. The first immediately obvious thing is the graphic engine – the game map looks great, it’s crisp and clear and all info can be seen at a glance. The interface has also been given a bit of a polish – still using the keypad controls and keyboard shortcuts, but with a few extra welcome additions.

The two BIGGEST additions would be religion and combat (nice mix eh?) – Religion is handled very well and it would seem that care has been taken not to offend anyone or trivialise the subject. In fact it’s possibly the most I have learnt about the subject since RE lessons at school. Combat, whilst always having been a big part of the Civ games, is given a complete rethink. Gone are the basic attack and defence values, instead each unit has its own strengths and weaknesses. They also gain experience, both with success and with improvements from their home city. The game does a good job of even getting you attached to your more veteran units.

The opponent AI has also been given the once over. It’s brilliant – each of the opposing forces really feel like they have their own personality – some forgive and forget whilst others hold a grudge and will repay that shunned request a 100 years or so ago with a tactical nuclear strike! As with city building and expansion every action has a consequence and a reaction – it does not pay to wind too many people up – a war against one nation is bad enough.

It’s impossible to do Civ 4 justice in just a thousand words or so – it’s too deep and advanced for that – all I can do is just try and persuade you. Don’t worry about anything above – just know this: if you are in any way into strategy games, or want to try them – then give Civ 4 a go – I love it and stand by my opening comments of just how good a game it is. It has to be good – for 3 days running I found myself playing for 10+ hours only crawling into bed in the small hours…

It does have a few “problems” – nothing major, with the most obvious being that as the game gets closer to the modern age it feels a little rushed and unbalanced, for turn after turn your musketeers are fending off horse backed knights – then all of a sudden you’ll be using Navy SEALS to fend off an armoured onslaught. The game could do with having a few more turns and taking a little longer in its third quarter. This and a few other things are nothing more than minor niggles and certainly won't ruin the game.

Own a PC? Then get this – it’s that simple!

Best Bits

- Closest thing to strategic PC perfection
- Simple yet very, very deep
- Very, VERY addictive
- Easy accessible
Worst Bits

- A few tiny quibbles
- Very, VERY addictive

by: dUnKle

Copyright © Gamecell 2005