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Sid Meier's Civilization IV (Windows)

Everyone 10+
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Theme
92
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Indra is here (19699)
Written on  :  Jan 10, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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Summary

[v3.0] Whoa, Sid...what did you do to Civilization?

The Good

Review: 3nd Update.
Game version: v1.0.0.
Tech Specs Used: Intel Dual Core 2 1.86 Ghz Processor, 1GB Memory, 256MB NVIDIA 7300 LE Video Card.
Level Difficulty Played: Immortal
World Map used: Pangaea
Map Size used: Huge, Large and finally Standard.
Game Speed used: Epic.
Race used: India, Asoka (don't need to upgrade fast workers)
Time Played: You don’t want to know…

So now comes the long awaited Civilization 4. Considering all three series were a success in my personal opinion, I had no doubt to what Civilization 4 had to offer. I was wrong. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Graphics
No doubt, its graphically superior. Very much similar to Pirates!, so you may have an idea about the graphics displayed here: detailed and yet somewhat cartoon feel. Nothing going wrong in the graphics/art department as far as I'm concerned. Well, almost nothing...

Music
From all of the Civ series, this game definitely the best music soundtrack, if not one of the best game music soundtracks I've heard in a very long time. The trivia section in MG mentions that the opening theme (the obviously best music in the game) is in Swahili...and man, those Swahili can sing! The composition of that particular soundtrack alone deserves an award! And I thought the Lion King sound track was good.

The game like its predecessors is still pretty much addictive as hell. Exploration and finding that perfect spot for your next city will occupy the first very several hours (or days) of game play. Depending on your level difficulty played, you will probably have to fight of those irritating raging barbarians that seem to show up out of nowhere on the map. But to my professional opinion, although the bad doesn’t really out-weigh the good in the end, it does tend to shatter the hopes of fans of the series. Which I will explain in the bad section.

The Bad

Time for the bad...

Graphics
It’s not the graphics/art department's fault in this case. The problem is, the level of graphics in the game is a little too good for a strategy game. Usually veteran gamers may notice that if the graphics are good in one area of the game, it means something is lacking somewhere else…and boy you really notice where its lacking, if that is you’ve played Civilization 1, 2 and 3.

Hey Sid Meier? You did a hell of a good job with Pirates! (despite the lack of a storyline), why the hell didn't you do the same with Civilization 4?

You really notice the good graphics (despite the lack of an intro movie…though Nimoy's not-so-pleasant voice while loading is very much noticeable, at least to me – and me being a Star Trek fan). Note: Thanks Ben Shadwick for pointing this out, thought it was Sid, not Nimoy. The main map, you have all those detailed animations, smooth graphics, while wondering how this will effect overall game, since something this graphical is bound to take up a lot of memory. But we’ll talk about that later.

Now I’m all for graphics like in previous Civilization games, but the thing is, if your familiar with the series as well as Alpha Centauri, you notice a lot of things missing:

  • No Eye-Candy for Personal Achievements
    Remember in Civilization 1 (and 2? Dunno about 3) you can upgrade your palace and stuff? They took that away. There is nothing graphical about your personal achievements. The only animation movies going on is when you create World Wonders. And not much audio historical background about that either. In fact, the only animations (cut-scenes) are only about World Wonders…as if everything in Civilization revolved around that and only that.

  • No Eye-Candy for Cities
    One unique feature in all Civilization games (excluding this one) was you could see the not-so-little buildings of your city from your city screen. In another of Sid Meier’s games for example, Colonization, new buildings would be shown being built (its just shows appears slowly in the city screen), giving you a sense of accomplishment in city development. Some genius brilliantly removed that feature of “city accomplishment”, replaced by minor information that X building has been built in Y city. Now looking at your city screen is very much boring since there isn’t much eye candy to see. No close-ups, no nothing. If you don’t feel you love the city, you really can’t feel to love the whole game either.

  • No Eye-Candy for Technology Advancements
    I remember in Alpha Centauri each technology advance provides a minor movie, thus giving you some form of entertainment while you watch and listen to words of wisdom. This is now replaced by (still) very good quotations from famous people/sources but narrated by Leonard Nimoy’s (to my personal subjective opinion) not so charming voice.


Overall, they focused the graphics too much on the primary game play and not enough features anywhere else. I said it once, I’ll say it again. Please do not take away little things that fans have learned to love.

Educational Value and In-game Documentation
It's still there, but less than it used to be. The in-game help menu somewhat sucks, since half of it is more clicking on pictures. There isn't any info on military units, just its statistics, no background. You get the feeling at one point, this game was for pre-school children (considering all the yummy graphics and click-able pictures), but not for that hardcore Civ-Gamer that wastes months of his or her life playing this game.

The help menu sucks, I still have no idea what "First Strike" means in combat, I still don’t understand how my Longbowmen can get beaten by a Warrior, I still don’t get why I don’t get resource bonuses (not the special resource, but the terrain bonuses) when I build a city on a resource, I didn’t find info whether I should build cities on the coast or by the river or should it just be within development reach? Info on cities is too minimal, too many holes in the documentation to actually use it seriously. If you’re a veteran and hardcore strategy gamer, you know that you eat every information you can get just for an edge.

Memory Leaks and Heavy Specs
Another long awaited title down the drain. The next Civilization will probably be after they've discovered a graphic card for 4 Dimensions (whatever that is). Yikes, the tech specs of this game is downright irritating.

Before I played this game with my once upon a time before my new super computer, I played it with really low specs (really minimum requirements), here’s what happened…

The game loading is slow, the start new world is slow, the load game feature is slow (and slow is like more than 10-15 minutes here) Dang it, since when was "game loading" part of gameplay to a game? Don't quite understand why it takes so long to load? Black and White 2 is very stable in its graphics and much faster than Civ 4 (but then again, Lionhead Studios never once blundered in programming…Yay!), and it runs on 256 MB. I gave up Civ 4 (then) because of the loading time. After loading a save game around 5 times or more, the game gets REALLY slow. Sometimes the enemy leaders you talk to don't even have a face, it's like a blurry no graphics disorder. Even quitting the game is takes time. Well, probably because I prefer playing Large and Huge worlds, but I couldn't bother myself with Standard worlds...

The problem is solved after I totally upgraded my PC with the new specs now mentioned in the beginning of my review. But it still has problems. I checked the recommended specs, which I have totally fulfilled. The thing is, the only way I can get to play this game (almost) smoothly is if I play the Standard Map. When I played Huge, the game started to get slow (suspicious of memory leaks) near the World War I era. Same deal with Large. Play it too long, it sorta hangs on you. More than often the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) shows up or other crashes mentioning an error having to do with my memory card or something. This process tend to occur in Medieval to WWI times, and later. What’s going on? Do I really have to have the utmost expensive memory card and 2 GB of RAM just to enjoy this game to the fullest?

Combat
This is why Civilization 4 died. Remember in its previous games, you couldn't access an "area on control" or something like that, meaning you couldn't enter tile adjacent to the enemy. This means you can't sneak by the enemy. Thus, fortress built on tiles have a use. Another genius erased that feature, so you can just walk anywhere you like in enemy territory, don't mind the fact that the enemy has 20 tanks in that tile, you can just walk right pass them. This action ultimately killed any form of strategy in combat, since you can't really "guard" certain key geographical positions. It also rendered fortresses useless, unless of course you fortify an entire geographical line, which is of course inefficient.

Stupid. Real stupid.

I also noticed that you can move units in the same tile as neutral troops. I reckon this is due to problems in multiplayer (greedy players like me guarding passes and resources, hehe). But that was really fun, you could plan and guard areas. The only way to override that was to declare war. Which is perfectly logical. But they had to take that out to, since newbie gamers tend to whine a lot (then again, veterans still do too…hehe).

Resources, Lousy and Unbalanced Gameplay and Everything else
[Gold] This game focuses on one thing and one thing only. Gold. When you play the computer opponents, that’s all they do. Build hamlets and villages, paying little or no attention to other improvements. It’s just about gold. Hell, I once butchered a civilization to only one city and that civilization for some stupid reason still is more technologically advanced than mine? Why? Gold and certain civ choices. I mean seriously, I have 20 cities, that bloke has only 1 city. How in statistical probability theories can he still be more technologically advanced than me???

[Politically Biased] The game is a little biased on too more “western” type values. I mean, hell, the bloody communists and the fascists once upon a time where the most advanced nations in technology, now you tell me I have to be a “democracy” with emancipation to get the most bonuses in technology advancement? Come on…

[Time Errors] Thus, it is pretty obvious that something is amiss when you notice that the opponent starts the Apollo Project in 1870. What? And this is me playing the Epic game speed. The game is totally unbalanced. It’s the 21st century and I still have my War Elephants with me…only because I don’t have access to horses to upgrade them.

I always wondered why it takes 30-100 years or so just to create a Warrior unit the start of the game (BC). What do they do, have 1 working day and 6 holidays? Why can’t we enjoy those prehistoric times slowly? And why is it, all those civilizations in the world and you get to meet ALL of them during the stone age?

Why is this a problem? Simply because you have to work fast because a couple hundred years later (which is only several turns away), the roaming barbarians have archers and axemen knocking on your door (but never spearman).

[Resources] Speaking of resources, not every civilization has access to the resources they need. This is pretty useless for Egyptians, Russians, Mongols, Arabs, etc., whose unique units are horses…but no horses. This game focuses too much on the monopoly of resources…and its not really abundant. And correct me if I’m wrong, doesn’t it just make you MAD when you can’t access a certain resource, but the city is strategically perfect where you want it? Thus, a find a location for a new city is always irritating. Which is always a problem for Civilization games (but not for Colonization and Alpha Centauri). Since some resources (like Iron and Copper) cannot be seen until you have the technology, it’s a bummer when you create a city that doesn’t reach that resource or if you accidentally built it right on top of one…which you don’t get bonuses either. Mountains don’t give you resources and one thing they still haven’t fixed, building cities by the ocean without resources is still not advisable. Funny that this game still hasn’t figured out that creating a city by the ocean SHOULD be faster than creating a city in the middle of a forest. Apparently not.

---

I don't know. Civilization just doesn't have that "edge" it use to have. Every time a game relies the graphics of be the "edge" it goes down in the pits. Well, there goes Civilization 4, Master of Orion 3 all down the drain. I hope they don't ruin the remake of Alpha Centauri...if they decide to make it again.

The Bottom Line

Make sure you have 1 GB of memory, despite what the minimum and recommended requirements of the game suggest. You may need 2 GB of memory to fully experience the Large and Huge maps, and darn expensive video card.

Still addictive, but this series is no longer for the mature audience and veteran fans of Civ.