Civilization IV
Reviewed by Minna Kim Mazza
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-12-19 PC E10 (Everyone 10+) Firaxis Games / Take-Two Interactive Software

It's been a while since I played any kind of Civ game. The last one was Civ III, which frankly I really don't remember too much, except that it was way better than Civ II. So, I suppose that Civ IV would have to really WOW me to make me remember it. Civ IV did not disappoint!

I was engulfed in the gorgeous graphics right from the opening screen. Then the music started - they REALLY took a lot of time to compose and create this original music, the style being somewhat "worldly" with a choir singing in something that sounds like an African dialect, reminding me of the beginning of a movie like "Coming to America." But it all fits very well, and it's a long song so you can sit there and just listen for a while before even starting a game.

When you start a new game, your choices are pretty familiar to you if you've played Civ before. If not, you are basically just choosing the world in which you will be building your massive empire. You can choose different climates and terrain, but be careful when you choose the size of the world. I've heard reports of the game crashing when you choose the "huge" option. Frankly you can choose the next notch down, and the world is still going to be pretty big.

The game itself is not terribly different from its predecessors. The basic goals are the same: beat the other countries to some kind of victory condition, whether it be a diplomatic victory, or winning the space race. To get there you build up your cities, improve them using workers, and learn technologies to unlock different buildings, units, and of course the Wonders. A lot has been added to the game to make things a bit more interesting. Through learning certain technologies, you also discover new religions, which can affect your cities in a number of ways depending on the particular religion. Also, sometimes your cities will produce a "Great Person," who is a specialist that can do a number of tasks for you, such as hurry up production, let you gain a new technology, or even help start a golden age.

Every technology you learn clearly illustrates the new units or buildings that you now have access to produce, and also what technology trees you are heading towards by learning it. The built-in advisor also recommends certain technologies to learn. Every time you learn a new one, the voice of Mr. Spock (a.k.a. Leonard Nimoy) reads a notable quote that is related to that particular technology. You have to admit it's a nice touch!

The graphics and interface have much improved from what I can recall. I had no problem figuring out what things did and where to click. Mousing over things gives you tons of information about what you are looking at. The tutorial does help a lot to explain how to play the game, so I recommend going through it (if you can handle looking at a likeness of Sid Meier, that is). Zooming into a city allows you to see a lot more detail than you've seen in past games, especially when you build the Wonders. Try building a lot of Wonders in one city; it's fun to see the Pyramids in the same city as the Eiffel Tower.

When you build Wonders, a nifty animation that appears to be "building" the Wonder plays, scaffolding and all, and in the end placing it in a gorgeous backdrop that is about as real as it gets on a PC nowadays. The graphics are quite nice and I recommend just letting it play and not clicking past it. Someone put a lot of time and effort to make this look pretty!

As for your military, things are a bit different here. Generally you build groups that have 1-3 units, and they earn experience which allows them to get promotions. These promotions can improve a number of attributes of that group, like strength, defense, first strike chance, etc. Also, when you attack another group, you might lose a unit or two, but have the ability to heal over a few turns to gain them back.

There is a lot more automation with your military and workers. You can tell workers to improve the closest city only, and they will sleep and wake up as needed. Or you can tell them to build a trade network across all cities, and they will keep doing that until there are no more connections to make. For those who want to do everything manually, you will have to note that there are many more different types of improvements a worker can make on land, and more are added as you learn particular technologies.

Diplomacy is similar enough to other games, as well as running your government. The Civics panel shows you which civics are available to you, how much they cost to upkeep, and how many turns it will take for revolution which is only a turn or two - greatly reduced from previous versions of Civ!

Another interesting part of this game is the ability to create "mods" for it using XML and Python. I haven't actually explored this at all, except for browsing the "World Editor" which was somewhat intriguing though a bit of a challenge to figure out how to exit that mode. Anyway, for those who are serious control-freaks or are really into building environments, this is definitely a part of the game you don't want to miss.

This version of Civilization has really gone to the "next level" in strategy gaming. I haven't gotten tired of it yet, and I hope you won't either!

Special thanks to Jason Bergman at 2K Games for providing a copy of this title.