Strategy & War
March 22, 2006 | Ian Beck
When I heard that Aspyr was bringing Civilization III: Complete to the Mac, I decided that it was high time that I tried out Sid Meier's amazingly successful strategy game. I've had a lot of fun buying "complete" versions of games in the past (my love affair with Heroes of Might and Magic III: Complete has never really waned since the game showed up on my doorstep all those years ago), and I've always liked to think of strategy as being one of my top genres. With a bit of wheedling, I was able to convince my PC-owning friend to download the Civilization III demo and allow me the chance to try it out.
After playing it for a good hour, my reaction can be summed in seven words: "What the heck is going on?"
While Civilization may fall somewhere in the middle of the complexity continuum (it is nowhere near as bad as, say, Europa Universalis II and its kin), it is still a difficult game to get into for someone not used to this type of strategy (and let me tell you, the "tutorial" included with the PC demo helps almost as much as getting hit in the head before playing).
Fortunately for wannabes and entrenched fans of the franchise alike, Aspyr is also bringing us Civilization IV. And by all reports, this is a Civilization game designed with the new player (or the WarCraft III brand of strategy player) in mind, but also with a slew of exciting features with the veteran in heart.
The first big difference between Civ IV and the rest of the franchise is that Civilization IV has made the jump to a 3D engine. Strategy gaming may not be the best genre to go to for spectacular eye-candy, but Civ IV is undeniably good-looking. Of course, other than copious amounts of screenshots, there hasn't been all that much published about the switch from the old 2D isometric view to 3D. By this point, it's kind of a given that this is the direction games are going in, and besides, the thing that people love about Civilization has never been its graphics. People play Civ games for the gameplay.
Like past Civilization games, Civ IV stays true to the basic turn-based formula: you control a specific country whose ultimate goal is world domination, and you get to guide your country from the stone age to the space age. Haters of imperialism need not apply, although there are a number of ways to go about making your mark on the world, ranging from the strategy game standard of war to distinguishing your country culturally from the rest. The numerous options available to you in your search for power are one of the things that give the Civilization series, and Civ IV in particular, their vaunted addictive qualities. Players of Civ IV have, by all reports, been developing the "just one more turn" syndrome in droves to the consternation of employers, friends, and family members.
Civilization IV's gameplay is very similar to past games in the franchise, although it has also been expanded and modified in many ways to make it more strategic, and potentially more rewarding.