Review By: Nick Arvites
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Sequels. The gaming industry is filled to the brim with them. Some companies have made fortunes pumping out annual installments to franchises that only provide minimal improvements to the core game. Yet, the game I’m reviewing here is not an annual installment title. Sid Meier’s Civilization series is considered one of the cornerstones of the PC strategy genre, and you would be hard-pressed to find any credible “Best PC Games of All Time” list that lacks a Civilization title. The 4X concept introduced in the original game in 1991 still applies in the most recent game, Civilization 4. The 4X genre is generally found in turn-based titles, and require players to explore the map, exploit resources, and exterminate the opposition. The Civilization series has produced a new installment about every 5 years, and each installment improves on the core, original formula.
If you’ve played any of the Civilization games, Civilization 4 should be familiar to you. The graphics are an improvement on Civilization 3, and Civilization 4 makes the jump to 3D look both new and familiar. Cities visibly expand on the map and have a 3D look to them, and the units have been overhauled with new art and designs. While many sequels would be accepted with just graphical tweaks, Civilization 4 improves upon its predecessors and brings a slew of new features into the game. With far more hits than misses, Civilization 4 is a worthy successor to its predecessors.
The entire management system has been overhauled, going from the government types and leaders down to the cities and population management. Instead of just picking a government form, players can now chose from multiple options in the Civics Screen. The Civics screen is divided into 5 subcategories: Government, Legal, Labor, Economy, and Religion. The end result is that players can operate almost unique forms of government, and the choices made here can effect diplomacy as well as production and civilization functions. In prior Civilization games, you would chose only a government form, like Monarchy or Democracy. In Civilization 4, it is possible to have a Hereditary Ruling Monarchy (Government) that uses Free Speech (Legal), Slavery (Labor), State Property (Economic), and Free Religion (Religion). Each part of your overall Civic form provides different effects and bonuses. The religion tab is further increased by the introduction of actual religions into the series.
While religion has always lurked in the background of the Civilization series through various tech advances, wonders/buildings, and (in Civ 2) the Fundamentalist government choice, Civilization 4 brings religion to the forefront of the game. The subject of religion is one that people are rightfully sensitive about, and Civilization 4 manages to implement religion in a manner that probably won’t offend people. The included religions are Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism. All of the religions provide the same benefits, so you won’t see one religion conceivably be better than any other in every situation. Religions will spread through the game world, and players can accelerate this process by using the missionary unit. This unit can go to a friendly or enemy city and attempt a conversion, which consumes the unit. There are benefits to spreading your religion, as it is easier to keep up diplomatic ties with civilizations using the same religion. Conflicting religions, along with conflicting civic ties can lead to conflicts and wars with other civilizations. Religions allow players to see what’s happening in any city that uses that religion, so spreading religion can bring in intelligence benefits. Civilizations can also produce a Great Prophet unit, which takes the form of a key player in that particular religion’s history (ie: Moses for Judaism). This unit can construct a shrine in the city that founded the religion (which provides a gold bonus for every city in your civilization that adopts the religion). If you do not control that city, the Great Prophet acts as any other Great Unit and provides a one-time boost to a city of your choice.
Posted: 2007-06-21 18:01:02 PST