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Aspyr Media
Strategy & War
Release Date

Civilization IV
March 22, 2006 | Ian Beck

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Civ IV starts with choosing a map to play on. There are seven different world map types, sizes ranging from accommodating two or three nations up to twelve, and numerous climates as well. After finding the perfect map for your particular gaming session, you get to choose which country to play out of the eighteen possible. Have a country, and then it's on to choose your leader. Which leader you decide to go with affects your country since each leader has two traits that will modify the game slightly. For instance, Genghis Khan is aggressive and expansive, meaning that under him the Mongol nation will allow melee and gunpowder units to be promoted for free, granaries and harbors will cost half as much to build, and the city's health rating will receive a boost. And with other leaders come a slew of other benefits.

If you haven't caught on by this point, Civ IV is a game that is all about choices. You choose whether to focus on developing your cities or building armies, what technology to try and achieve at any given point in time, and whether or not playing nice with the neighbors or trying to powerhouse over them with excessive force is the better option. Then the turn ends and you get to see how well your choices work.

One of the places that can show how well your strategizing plays out in the short term is combat, and combat in Civ IV is one of the places that has been tweaked from past games. The system that calculates winners and losers in battle has been adjusted to strength system that takes into account the fact that greatly advanced units deserve a large advantage over more primitive ones (no tribal spearmen defeating tanks for Civ IV). Additionally, units which survive battles gain experience and become better fighters, and as time progresses units can be upgraded, either to a more advanced type (crossbowmen to musketeers, for instance) or simply given better attack, the ability to heal friendly units on the same square, or numerous other specialties.

Aside from enhanced gameplay options, there are also some entirely new aspects to Civ IV that have not been seen in past games. One big change is the addition of a borders system to Civ IV. Essentially, if you share a border with a country you can choose to have an open or closed border, and should it be closed the country will not be able to send units into your country. Of course, declaring war means that anything goes, but for players who disliked having enemy settlers and scouts traipsing about their lands without so much as a by-your-leave, this will be a welcome change.

Civ IV has also found religion. There are seven different creeds which you can choose from to pursue if you so desire, each of which is tied to different technologies (as a result, some religions become available earlier than others). Although religion doesn't greatly affect whether you win or lose, having the same religion as your neighbor can greatly improve diplomatic relations, a process you can hurry along with a few well-placed missionaries. There are also cultural benefits to having religious buildings around, among other things. Religion adds a nice extra layer of depth to the game for fans, but isn't necessary as a part of your strategy for newcomers who are feeling overwhelmed by details.

The ability to foster great people has been introduced with Civ IV, as well. Great people are occasionally born in your cities, and can be used to create amazing works of art (significantly boosting your culture), make the construction of Wonders quicker, foster a Golden Age of productivity and happiness, instantly discover the next great scientific breakthrough, or simply become one of your advisors, boosting your performance in their area of expertise.

Although the amount of detail and sheer number of things you can do in Civilization may be a lot to handle, the interface has been significantly revamped to make playing the game easier for new players and veterans alike. More derivative of RTS games, the Civ IV interface offers easier access to key information and makes most key activities available from the main screen.

No first look of Civ IV would really be complete without a nod to two last aspects of the game that will likely be very welcome: the overall speed of play and multiplayer. In response to feedback from players, Civ IV now has much more customizable speed options, ranging from normal speed (which has been described as "surprisingly fast") to a fast speed (in which you gain resources and so forth much more quickly) to an epic speed (for purists of the series). The length of games may still be counted in days rather than hours for some circumstances, but the option to play a quicker game is there and facilitated in Civ IV.

Multiplayer also looks quite impressive, and offers many options to help combat the possibility of bogging down in the bog of turn-based strategy. Players are able to take turn simultaneously, turn timers are available, and even more exciting is the fact that players can seamlessly jump in and out. So should one of your opponents suddenly have to leave, the AI will take over their country until they, or someone else, jumps back in.

Civilization IV is a big game. Fortunately, however, it looks to be simultaneously the easiest for new players to get into while still offering expanded content over previous Civ games. Incredible replayability, lots of strategy, addictive to the point of needing rehab, and a great multiplayer option all make Civilization IV a title to look forward to for anyone who enjoys a good bit of strategy.

Civilization IV
Publisher: Aspyr Media
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