Strategy & War
Let's get something out in the open right now: I've never been a huge fan of turn-based strategy games. Street kids don't run up to me asking for the best Alpha Centauri strategies, and I wasn't hooked by Civ II like it seemed the rest of my Mac friends always were. It's not that I had anything against them; they've just always felt overly complex, tough to pick up, or downright slow (the thought of playing an entire game via email still cracks me up). Sid Meier's previous efforts may be considered among "the best games ever" by premier game magazines, but they were nothing that could hold my attention for very long.
So when the Civilization III preview fell in my lap, you could say I wasn't all that excited about it. After starting it up one or two times, it seemed about as uninteresting and confusing as my early attempts with Alpha Centauri. I decided to stick with the game, and then one day something magical happened. The obscure theories governing the rules of the gameworld started to fall into place. What previously looked like random icons and symbols started to make sense. I was hooked.
I've slowly come to realize that what all of the raving PC gaming sites have been saying is true. Civilization III is one of the biggest games to hit a computer in the last year, and if it's not a hit on the Mac, then I'm crackin' skulls.
In the Beginning...Being the third in a very successful line of strategy games, Civilization III isn't trying to reinvent the wheel, if you'll pardon the pun. The team has taken a basic game formula that works, retooled the parts that needed some help, and added in a few new goodies. The premise is to take a fledgling civilization from 4000 BC through the modern day. You're tasked not only with making sure you raise your people well, you must also play nice (or else dominate) your fellow civilizations covering the earth. As you move through time you gain technology, create new forms of government, and build a culture all your own.
Despite my mini-rant above, Civilization III manages to do this with as little trouble as possible for newbies. The built-in tutorial helps greatly to take the edge off, and reports are that the manual pushes well over 200 pages. For those sick of the CD-jacket manual trend, you won't have to worry about that here. One of the best features of Civilization III is that the in-game encyclopedia can reference all of the game objects you might run across. Don't remember what exactly a marketplace will do for your city? Just click on the blue link and a popup will take you right to its definition. It's a very nice way to be able to try new things without stopping to look it up in a FAQ or manual.