Wish there were more games with this approach...
If Civilization was the macro version, then Colonization was the micro version although to say the least, Colonization is a brilliant strategy game.
Colonization sets somewhere between the 1500's and the 1800's, from where the first Europeans set ground in South/Central America bringing disease and ultimate chaos to the natives until the independence of the newly found United States of America and beyond.
With that, historically you have 4 major "parasite" nations that you can choose from to plunder the new world (in no particular order):
The Spanish represents the military hulk of the European states. Historically known for their brutal conquests of South America, bringing the treasure galleons to Spain from their successful plunders. The Spanish get bonuses when it comes to smothering the native Indians and plunder obtained from burning their Tipi's to the ground.
The French represents the "good guys" of the European States. Focusing on cooperation with the locals for trade, their presence only alarms the Indians half the rate compared to the other European invaders. This means that they'll probably be butchered much later by surprise Indian raids compared to their European counterparts. If the locals like you, they come by time to time and offer you gifts as an offer and symbol of eternal friendship.
The English represents the lack of birth control of the European States. Historically surpressed by religion and dictatorship, the arguably European scum of the earth (according to most Europeans) arrived in vast numbers in the New World. From religious fanatics to low-life cut throats landed on the shores of the New World to the amazement of the local natives. The English get more settlers from the motherland compared to their European counterparts.
The Dutch represent the founders of Capitalism and raw economic interests. The Dutch only resort to military approaches only to further economic gain. Being Dutch means that fur traps yields much greater and prices back in Europe are much more stable during transactions (they don't fall or rise very often).
Depending on your nation, you start with a Caravel (Merchantman for the Dutch) for sea travel, one unit of soldiers (Veteran soldiers for the Spanish) for protection and one unit of pioneers (Expert Pioneers for the French) to establish the first settlements.
After you land, this is where the game really starts to begin. Usually right after you land, you'll be greeted by your would be neighbours. Unless your a Spaniard with an attitude problem and Xenophobia, an offer of peace would be essential for survival.
After establishing your first settlement, you can either choose to trade peacefully or introduce globalization to the locals through musket fire. Trading is a refreshing difference from Civilization where revenue usually only comes from taxes. In Colonization, you have a wide array of trade items to buy and sell or more often produce. Your settlement can produce Furs, Sugar, Tobacco and manufacture them into valuable goods of Coats, Rum and Cigars for a much higher price in Europe. More advanced settlements can create muskets and even ships!
You have basically 3 major opponents in the game. All are optional, with the exception of the third. The first enemies you meet will be the native Indians, but only if you are considered a threat to them. Burning their camps and butchering their braves might be considered a negative gesture. Otherwise, if your French with a smooth accent, they might actually enjoy peace with pale faced invaders! The second enemies are your cousins from your backyard. These blokes are better to be in a state of war than peace, as capturing their units means more man power for you. The third and last batch are your own initial supporter. The King and motherland! They don't seem to like the fact that your making much more money selling turkey dinners than the state tax, so they'll be sending their royal pain soldiers for harsh negotiations once you figure out you want to be an independent owner in the turkey franchise.
But basically the game is divided into 2 major game sequences, the before independence and the after independence. Usually in the first part, it's exploring, trading and testing the military might of the Indians and other European nations. In the second part its about defending, defending and some counter attacking. When the King and his lackies attack, they mean business. If you don't have a substantianal force and backup, they swat you like a fly.
The technology feature in Colonization is swapped with a Founding Father feature. The founding fathers represent great figures in the history of North and South America recognized for their influence. Each founding father gives you a tech bonus after you 'research' them through the production of liberty bells. For instance the only 'founding mother' is Pocahontas that reduces the alarm rate of locals. Other founding fathers are practically useless such as John Paul Jones that gives you a frigate free of cost...you'd probably have the manufacturing ability to produce one already when that time comes.
The music is overall excellent. Colonization actually has some background music worth listening to! It has more than 10 soundtracks to choose from so this is a great bonus to the game.
There are a few minor differences from the Windows and DOS version. Some units have new graphics such as the Fisherman and the Veteran Soldier. Otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same.
The game also provides some history through Founding Fathers, units and buildings. Can't help to think they could provide more though.
The BadI can't help to think that this game could do a really big makeover. Something called Colonization 2? :)
There are however, some very irritating features in the game that require careful planning beforehand. The first one has to do with stockades. They made this stupid rule that when you have a stockade, you cannot actively decrease the population lesser by 3. This means your stuck with that settlement until someone else gains control. This is quite bad when it comes to national planning of colonies. Especially when other Europeans aquired some really strategic land that interfers with your plans. You can't rename the settlements either.
This game made me hate Indians as they seem to always have their camps at the best tourist sites. Which meant that I had to find another place, introduce the reservation camps to them or get other Europeans to introduce that concept to them. Through this game I probably understand why war was the only alternative in the first place. :(
The Bottom LineAn excellent strategy game with a lesson or two on history as well! Top stars!