Strategy & War
The overhaul continues elsewhere. The venerable combat system, largely unchanged since the original Civilization, has been significantly changed. In earlier incarnations, a unit got a percentage chance to do damage, and when it did, the damage was always the same between all the units. As such, a vastly inferior unit such as a spearman had to only get three lucky strikes, and win against, say, mechanized infantry. Not surprisingly, this boiled the blood of modern warlords everywhere, and so now Firaxis has given each unit a certain amount of firepower. Even if the spearman does score a hit, the amount of damage he'd do to a tank is very low, whereas one hit from the tank and the spearman is, laugh with me here, ancient history.
Of course, not everything is just tweaking what currently exists. Gone are the governments of yesterday; you can no longer choose between being a Republic or a Communist regime, a Democracy or a Theocracy. Instead, your civilization develops what the game calls "civics." Civics are principles you choose to put into action as they become available; for example, environmentalism allows you derive happy citizens from each tree or jungle square in a city radius. There are a large number of civics, ranging from Free Speech and State Property to Feudalism and Mercantilism. Each one has benefits, but requires you to sacrifice the benefits of another. What is more, other civilizations adopt civics as well, and depending on what they are they may be more or less inclined to be friendly to you. You can request or demand that they change civics as part of your diplomacy with them, but until the game gets to the point where the United Nations can pass universal laws (a possibility that arises when the United Nations wonder of the world gets built) some civilizations are very stuck in their ways. Roosevelt likes his Universal Sufferage, thankyouverymuch.
How your government affects diplomacy is also reflected in an entirely new aspect: religion. Whether or not your competitors have your faith will affect how they treat you.
That's right, the "R" word has made it into Civilization at last. However, there are no appreciable differences between the religions; all that matters is how you react to which ones your citizens adopt, and perhaps more importantly, whether or not you decide to adopt a state religion. If you decide on a religion, then you can gain benefits from each of your cities that has also decided to adopt that religion. This can happen naturally, or you can build missionaries and send them out across the land, including into the cities of other civilizations. Depending on which religions are adopted in any given city, certain churches and temples will or will not have an effect.
So what else is new? Well, a lot of things, but the one you will notice immediately is that Civilization IV is now rendered by a 3D engine. Gone are the day of 2D animated sprites, or painted mountains. Everything is rendered using the same engine that was used in Sid Meier's Pirates!, meaning you can zoom in extremely close to a city if you want to discern what kind of wonders or buildings it has. Or perhaps you simply want to see your spearman duking it out with the mechanized infantry in close proximity; battles are animated now, of course, and this can be done. And just imagine a nuclear weapon going off...
All of these things are merely symptoms of the fact that Civlization IV attempts, instead of simply building on what was, to re-evaluate everything that was from the perspective of making gameplay more fun. They have approached the interface the same way, and have consciously tried to move the game away from multiple screens where you arrange various things, to allowing everything happen from main game screen.
Whether or not they were successful, Mac gamers will be able to find out soon enough. Aspyr has been working hard to bring this game to them, and Civilization IV is in final candidate. You can no doubt expect a review from Inside Mac Games soon.