|Publisher: MacSoft Genre: Strategy & War|
|Min OS X: Not Supported CPU: G3 @ 233 MHz RAM: 16 MB 4x CD-ROM|
Thousands of years ago, mankind was a group of nomadic wanderers, eking out a living by wandering across the land, following the herds of animals. Then a group of people in Sumeria thought it might be a pretty cool idea if they just settled down in one place and worked the land for their food. Thus, the first city was created and civilization took its next step toward the modern world.
In 1992, Micro-Prose released a game by up-and-coming designer Sid Meier. Civilization allowed you take the reigns of a civilization from its first city and lead it to the colonization of another star. This was a game for the person who always says "I can do a better job than that bum!" You made every decision from scientific research goals to where laborers should work to harvest food. The graphics and sound were nothing spectacular but the game play was quite addictive.
In 1997, MacSoft released an updated version of the classic, appropriately titled Civilization II. Civ II had better graphics, better sound and more robust game play. I have to admit that I was addicted to Civ II for quite a while. When I heard about plans to release the third installment, Civilization:Call to Power (Civ:CTP), I was excited. Would this next generation of the Civilization universe be worth the wait?
Manual / Poster
For such a complex game, the Civ:CTP manual is quite skimpy. It is a good overview of the game and controls, but there is little "meat" in it. There is almost no information about the units, wonders or even tile improvements. If you want to know about the ins and outs of the game, be prepared to spend some time perusing the "Great Library," an online help center (the Civilopedia for the Civilization veterans). The "Great Library" is an html document that allows the player to read up on everything from Agriculture to Zero-G Industry. It seems as if the "Great Library" has supplanted the manual; not a good feature for people (like myself) who enjoy flipping pages.
There is also one rather strange omission from the manual. During the set up phase of the game, you can launch a scenario editor. After reading through a lengthy set of terms and conditions, the player is dropped onto a screen with a group of tools and no explanation of how to use them. There is NO mention of the scenario editor in the manual; nor is there any documentation on the CD or in the game folder. It is surprising that Activision would go through the trouble of creating the terms and conditions and then not document any of the editor’s features.
One update that is much appreciated is the Civ:CTP technology poster. This is the saving grace of the packaging. On one side is a clear and concise copy of the technology tree. This poster is large, colorful and, unlike earlier versions, easy to read. On the other side of the poster is a brief explanation of every unit, improvement, wonder, terrain type and government. This is all the information that should have been laid out in the manual.
After running the game, the player is treated to a nicely rendered movie of the growth of a civilization. You are then presented with a title screen and options for play. The problem with setting options is that the text boxes are light blue, a standard Macintosh color to show that the text has been selected. This can be very confusing to veteran Macintosh users. After picking your options (and there are the usual host of settings) you are dropped into the game.
The interface is crisp, clean and easy to use. ALL of your actions are handled from the main screen. A set of tabs along the top of your info bar lets you: control the output of the cities; set your production to maximize money, science or happiness; set your civilization options; and control your labor pool. No more hopping from city screen to city screen; all of your controls are in one place.
The information bar is large and easy to read. From it you can control the special actions of your units, as well as build public works (PW) tiles (more on PW later). The info bar also displays the game year, amount of PW points you have and the amount of gold you have saved.
For more fine tuning of your civilization or to get an overall view of your cities, there is a pull up menu of options that gives you command of these choices. From this menu you can exert control over your civilization, units, research, diplomacy, and ranking. You can also check the Great library and change game options.
The save and load screens are very un-Mac like. This is not necessarily a criticism as the system that is implemented is very easy to understand and use. In fact, in some ways, it is superior to a Mac-like interface in that the game automatically organizes different leaders into different folders for you so you can play several different games at the same time.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics for Civ:CTP are top notch. They are colorful, clean and well thought-out. The animations are smooth and the details are splendid. All the movies are rendered and are first rate in both quality and content.
The sound effects are quite nice but where the program really shines is the music. The music is of superior quality and it is easy to tell that a lot of time went into recording it. The music is stored as audio tracks on the CD and can be played with Apple’s built-in CD player (my personal favorite is the South-American-sounding, Track 7).