Civilization IV

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 90/100

Civilization IV Review
Published by: 2K Games
Developed by: Firaxis Games
Format Reviewed: PC
Review by: Wencke Schuncken

As soon as Civilization IV got delivered, I wondered if it was the intention to write a book or a game review. Why? Because the included manual is more a book than the normal expected and standard manual. As it drew my attention I just had to take a look at it first before starting up the game. But reading manuals, and especially these kind of manuals isn't one of my favorite hobbies. I don't like to read about the gameplay and how to handle it properly, I rather tend to learn by playing even if it takes longer to get adapted to the game and make mistakes. Also doesn't every game include a tutorial or a campaign mode to get used to all features and gameplay?

And so I threw the book away and focused on the game. Although the installation went quite smoothly, starting up the game was a whole different story as my ATI video card didn't want to play along. But 2Kgames has a great support and step by step explanation on how to solve the problem. After an hour I was finally able to start the game but was I prepared? No, I wasn't prepared to see an astonishing introduction. It blew me away! Another good aspect was of course that a tutorial mode was included. I knew it ...

 Civilization IV Review

And so the great Wencke began to start learning how to create her own civilization, where every citizen would be safe, had enough cultural activities and a good economic foundation. A virtual Sid Meier took the time to explain the gameplay and features step by step. He explained and then waited till I had performed his instructions. After a very long training I was able to start the normal play mode. Note that a couple of gaming modes are available, but of course I had to choose the most longest and durable gameplay. Believe it or not but it took me 3.5 hours to end a single game (and win of course). It took so long as it begins in 4000BC and ended in 2050. But what took me so long and what did I had to do?

The game contains many complex concepts but the objective is simple; create and maintain an empire which will stand the test of time. Hunt, gather, preach religion, develop new ways to govern your civilization to compete against other civilizations to expand territory and learn new technologies or find tribal villages to provide you gold, units, technology or knowledge of surrounding lands. Diplomacy is important in a later stadium to declare war or live happily ever after. Civilization is a turn based game which requires strategic moves to evolve. But there’s a main strategy guide; start with creating a settler. His task / goal is to build a city. The cities’ beginning purpose is to produce units and buildings. Create warriors to protect the city, create scouts to explore the surrounding lands and don’t forget to create workers as they’re very important for your economic status and progress. After creating the main units it’s essential to start researching technologies such like archery, meditation, pottery and the discovery of the wheel in the early years. Of course it’s necessary to create settlers to expand your land and build new cities and let the history repeat itself although you’re still in control! But remember the sooner you’ve researched technologies the more powerful you’ll be compared to other civilizations.

 Civilization IV Review

The above explanation of the gameplay may seem easy, but note that it is rather complicated. Which technologies to research and in which order? Is it a good choice to ally with the other civilizations or is a war a better option? When is the right time to expand your civilization and build more cities? These are just a couple of questions which arose while I played the first couple of games. But there are a couple of factors which will help you making decisions; upkeep and number of turns. Each unit, building and technology requires an upkeep calculated in gold. Gather gold through workers or diplomatic trades and you’ll be able to increase your civilization. If gold isn’t available as much as you’ll like, just try to increase it before making wrong decisions. The number of turns is also important as it is not possible to send units all over the world / map. No, each unit category has a restricted number of moves to make. For example warriors have to make 3 steps before they arrive at an enemy city and attack it, but they can only make 2 steps in a turn. As the gamers’ turn is over, the enemy can make his move and make 1 step towards to “trying to attack” and defeat them. Although it’s not your turn, your warriors will try to defend themselves and depending on their strengths and ranks they could be able to survive.

The graphics experience can be compared to a rollercoaster ride as it goes up and down. The introduction movie is just smashing and breathtaking but as soon as you see the play maps, it’s quite disappointing. Of course there’s the possibility to zoom in to take a closer look at a city or units, but it is in no way comparable with the introduction graphics. But during the game you’re going to build wonders and when they’re finished, a small animation movie starts which let the player see how it has been build and what the final result was. Now that is again comparable with the intro movie. It’s a shame that they didn’t made a likewise movie when your armies attack a city or fights against other warriors. Another positive aspect regarding graphics are the styling of the civilization leaders and their reactions / emotions if a positive or negative trade took place.

 Civilization IV Review

The sound is perfect! It’s relaxing and adapts, changes to the era you’re playing in with your civilization. It’s ambient, musical and the sound effects are numerous and varied. Another noticeable feature is the voice of Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek Mr Spock), he narrates little pieces when new technologies are built or you start a new game. But for the gameplay it’s not essential to have your speakers on as everything can be visualised on screen. Thanks to a civilopedia you can find all the information to answer any question. It contains entries on virtually every item and concept in the game.

There are several important female leading civilization leaders which participate. For Egypt it is Hatshepsut, a woman who managed to exercise power despite the prohibition that the pharaoh must be male. For England you can choose out of two female leading characters; Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. Catherina the Great, tsarina of Russia also participates. Her reign was notable for imperial expansion. The last female character is Isabella, Queen of Spain. She ascended to the throne to rule sensibly and with a prudent political program. I really liked Queen Elizabeth as her emotions and moves were magnificent. She tried to convince me that working together with the French wasn’t acceptable and her mimic on her face was unique when I told her that I wasn’t going to break my connection with France. That was unacceptable and her face showed that she wasn’t happy with my decision.

 Civilization IV Review

If you’re wondering if it is difficult to write a game review, I’ve got to admit that this is one of the most difficult reviews ever done as it is impossible to cover all features. Civilization IV is just overloaded with possibilities and game modes to choose from. I’ve tried to describe the main gameplay, although Sid Meier himself explains it much better in the tutorial. This is a game which needs to be played, not be read, even if the manual looks like a book. Listen and move like Sid says and in a couple of hours you can handle your own civilization and enjoying the game a hundred per cent. It’s a must have game for every
strategic gamer who wants to create and rule over a civilization / part of the world. Controlling, expanding and turning it into the best civilization in the world. You just want to be a part of it, either as citizen or as leader!