Written by  :  Tatar_Khan (678)
Written on  :  Feb 19, 2009
Platform  :  Windows 3.x
Rating  :  2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars2.6 Stars

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A diamond in the rough

The Good

Sid Meier’s Civilization is widely known game that has captured the minds of a generation of gamers after it came out.

This is one of the first god games that now have become standard. Populous already existed and there were strategy games close to Civilization that existed in the board game form but this game still managed to break away from competition and become a fan favorite for years to come.

Civilization is a turn based strategy game where a player guides a civilization in its rise to power throughout the history of mankind. This is done through building cities, exploring, improving the land, mining, road building, trading, diplomacy and research. Let’s look at what comes with the game. There is a technology tree foldout with additional information on all the terrain types, units and buildings. The manual is not too large and contains a good amount of information to help the player get started in playing the game. However, manual does omit some of the things such as the unit limit, what to do when the city has finished building everything. However this is not that important as the game itself. The concept of the game is great, and the game offers a good variety. There is large number of buildings one of which does become obsolete if another one is build. The building all have specific function and it is hard to say that some are of them are useless, all of them together are used effectively to build a city that is extremely functional. However, the player is given the choice to decide where to build which buildings and when. In addition, the game has additional buildings which are called the Wonders. These buildings are based on the idea of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In the game however many of the of the Seven Wonders are missing however there are other wonders that are added for later time periods that all have different effects.

Now like every strategy game this one also has units, while settlers work and change the land, build roads, the diplomats establish embassies and act as spies, the military units are used to conduct warfare. The variety of units that exists and are made available through technology research makes the game fun and enjoyable as well as very nicely balanced.

The game also offers different styles of the government that all have advantages and disadvantages. The choice of government affects corruption levels, which is lost income, the production level and trade. This makes the game even more interactive and amazing as now the player is forced to consider when to switch the governments.

The game also has a different way of gaining income, the income comes from the trade that is taxed and the level of allocation of taxes for income, money spend on luxuries (social spending) that are used to boost morale and money given to science are all controllable. The money from taxes is used to support buildings in the cities and buy units for faster production, however a different resource is used for normal production rather than rush production. The shields which symbolize the different resources produced overall are what is used for the purposes of the construction of buildings and units. The city’s population determines how much the resources is gathered by working land around the city, they population grows and so is able to work more land thanks to gathering of food. Than there is also possibility to switch population from working the land to become entertainers and so boost luxuries output, become taxmen and so boost income and finally become scientists and boost science research in the city. The interface that the game has and offers is also great for its time period as each city has its own screen that can be opened and additional screen to view the city and the buildings that it has. Than there is other screens for the information about the civilization from score, to research, diplomacy standing, tax rates and etc. The icons are intuitive and symbolic of what they represent.

The game has advisors that change with each epoch and the different forms of government, the provide advice on the matters of spending, military, trade, foreign relations and science. The advice could be conflicting often showing the real dilemma that the country leaders in the real world have to deal with.

The winning conditions do not require only conquering the enemy, it is possible to win without that just by surviving till the time limit, or building a space ship to colonise Alpha Centuri.

The Bad

The game however is not without the flaws. The first being the historical accuracy of some of the descriptions becoming obsolete as better facts are found, the other being the functions of some of the buildings being slightly weird. Why do Pyramids allow player to change governments as they like, what is rationale behind that? There are other examples of that in the game.

Than there is the problem of computer A.I rarely functioning properly and it requires cheating to compete effectively with the player. In diplomatic functions the computer A.I is rarely rational in its demands.

Than there is the invisible unit population limit. It would have been good to mention that in the manual or put a counter in the game so that the player would know about it. In addition, there is also no ready solution for what to do when city finishes building everything. There are creative solutions that do come to mind but they are still annoying and are clearly not created by the designers. The colours of the backgrounds of the units also are not always good. I really hated the pink background that was used. The fact that the go to command doesn’t allow to take advantage of railroads is also terrible. These things make the game seem like unfinished product. The winning conditions still push the player towards the global conquest as the other alternatives are not attractive enough and the AI often just asks to be conquered. The overall, development of civilization is also seems to be done towards the democratic form of government, the communism form of government doesn’t really approach the ideal image of the communists as does democracy which has the zero corruption and is peace loving.

The game sounds are a bit lacking and I failed to hear any music in the game. In addition the use of different scripts for different world leaders makes it also hard to read their messages at firsts.

The game has problems with the realism besides the problems of the historical inaccuracies, the government types it over simplifies things too much, in addition it seems to put a lot of control in the hands of the player with regards to the such things as scientific development which generally is hard to influence in real life. While if the game would have detached the player from the civilization itself making him rather like invisible hand than a leader that is refereed to constantly in the game it would have been not a problem. There are of course numerous other problems such as ability of the weak prehistoric unit defeating a tank or a battleship. There are other problems that will be there naturally when the game touches on the topic of the history and real world, listing them all would hardly be worth it as they are just expected to occur. It is very hard to approximate the real thing.

The Bottom Line

Finally the idea of the game for working civilization is just approximation as it doesn’t really come close enough to the real world and just scratches the surface. However the attempt must begin at some point. It also gives a taste of the difficulty that the leaders of the nations face with the regards to their decisions in the real world and this creates a reason besides being entertaining why people should play this game.

Overall judging from all those points it is possible to say that the game is diamond in the rough and will require some more work to become a great game. It is a great concept however its realisation is not done properly enough even considering the limits of the hardware as it has some points that could have been addressed at the time of its creation.