Civilization IV

Review

posted 12/28/2005 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
One Page Platforms: PC
The Civilization series is arguably the best empire-building franchise ever to grace the PC. So when a new sequel comes along, there are some very high expectations to meet. Civilization IV meets each and every one of those expectations, giving us one of the best games of the year, of any genre. Sure, I’m a little biased toward strategy titles, and Civilization in particular, but even through that bias I see an out-and-out gem of a title, something with which to while away countless hours, spending “just one more turn”, conquering just one more city, and researching just one more technology.

Civilization veterans should find a lot of familiar ground in Civilization IV, but there is enough new and innovative content to keep everyone happy. As in previous Civilization incarnations, players get to choose from one of 18 available Civilizations. Each Civ has one or two leaders to choose from, with each Leader conferring a particular pair of Traits, some starting Techs, and the ability to build a Unique Unit specific to the Civilization in question. Civilization traits have been extensively reworked for Civ IV, and it will take some time before I get a solid handle on which Traits I like most. Thankfully, none of the traits seem overpowerful, since the developers were careful not to pair up any devastating Trait combos for a single Civ. Some of my favorite Traits include “Financial,” with the ability to generate additional commerce points from all worked city squares that already produce commerce, and “Creative,” which allows all cities to generate a small amount of Culture points per turn, negating the need to construct early Culture buildings for a border expansion. With the large combination of Traits and Civ Leaders, it’s easy to find a favorite Civ or two to fit just about any play style.

A big change has been made to the military units since Civ III. No longer do units have an “attack” and “defence” value; they now have a single “Strength” rating representing their combat effectiveness. That’s not to say that all units are equal in attack and defense, though. Units now come with a wide variety of abilities which determine how best to utilize them. For instance, Archer units gain a bonus when defending cities, and Spearmen get a bonus against mounted units. In addition, as a unit wins battles and gains experience, it gains “Promotions”, additional abilities which can further tailor units into very effective (and frightening) forces. A wide variety of Promotion abilities are available, such as bonuses against Melee, Ranged, or Mounted units, additional First Strike abilities, and terrain bonuses such as increased movement and Strength when fighting in forests, hills or jungle tiles. This Promotion scheme allows for a great deal of customization of military units, further diversifying an already-impressive selection of forces.

Building up an army requires some careful planning and use of resources, and Civilization IV introduces a great many new resources and improvements to the mix. Worker units can not only improve tiles with Farms and Mines, they now have the ability (with the proper technological advancements) of building Pastures, Watermills, Lumbermills, and Plantations to gain full advantage of the many Resources available. A very interesting tile improvement, the Cottage, actually grows as time progresses. Initially, this improvement only provides a single point of Commerce, but as the nearby city work the Cottage squares, they develop into larger and larger Hamlets, Villages, and Towns, greatly increasing their output.
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