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SummaryThe best civilization and empire-building simulation to date
The GoodLike the original Civ, this game is highly addictive.
One of the biggest improvements are the graphics: the previous Civs had poor, blocky graphics that scaled poorly. CivIII uses sprites rendered from 3D models so the graphics are much more engaging. The graphics are also now animated, so when units are fighting, they actually LOOK like they're fighting instead of just running into one another.
Controls are much better and intuitive. Now you can tell a unit to go to a destination several spaces away. Each turn, he will move closer to his ultimate destination. In previous versions, you had to move each piece manually each turn--often forgetting where you wanted each piece to go in the first place.
The AI and diplomacy are much improved in this version. There are also a variety of ways to win and being able to choose which victory conditions apply is a huge bonus. You can also choose which size "world" you want to play on depending on how much time you have to kill.
Cultural areas of influence is one of the biggest improvements. Before, your civilization was much like a collection of city-states instead of a nation. Now your cities influence an area which creates a national border--something sorely missing from the earlier Civs.
There is no multi-player (without the Play the World expansion), but many fans (including me) regard Civ as essentially a single player game: you against the (very good) AI. Playing multi-player Civ in earlier versions, I don't miss it one bit--I hated waiting for other players to move; the AI thinks and moves much faster.
I may be one of the few people who actually likes the music in the game. While I wouldn't exactly want to listen to the music in the car, the music is appropriate for each age your civilization experiences. Having age-appropriate music makes the game even more immersive for me.
City improvement and unit building has been improved. Now you can use a "queue" of things for your city to work on. After its done building a temple, it knows to build a legion. You don't have to use it, but its nice when you know what you want your city to work on next.
One minor plus is that the game remembers which game you were playing last. When you go to load a game, it automatically selects your last save game file.
The BadWhile almost everything about this game is better, there is one issue that can't really be easily solved. As your civilization grows, the nuances of micro-management get more tedious. It seems you have to tell your people how and where to do every single thing. While the game has an "auto-build" option for cities, I just don't trust it. The "mayor" often seems to want to build the wrong thing. While this gets annoying, I don't know of any way they could have solved it.
Another issue has to do with the opposing nations. The computer moves very fast, but as the game progresses you're forced to watch them do every single thing, most of which you couldn't care less about. You can turn off the "watch other players move" option, but then you miss vital events, like the opposing player entering your national border. It'd be nice to have an option to watch for just "critical" events--things that happen in or near your borders and/or in international areas (like the ocean).
I like to Alt+Tab between applications (sometimes I have to--people IM me or I need a phone number). While Civ3 does Alt+Tab successively, the way they use the video resizes the desktop. Therefore, when Alt+Tabbing to another application, I have to resize it to a relatively tiny size to fit in the resized desktop. The only way to get your original resolution back is to quit the game (and then, you have to resize your windows back up).
These shortcomings are really minor, however. The game's pluses for outweigh its minuses.