Civilization III Review

Civilization and Civilization II are two of the most memorable games in the annals of computer gaming.  Now Civilization III enters the scene, bringing with it numerous changes to the gameplay of its predecessors.  How does it stack up against its noble forefathers?

For those new to the series, Civilization III is a turn-based strategy game which places the player in charge of an entire civilization from the dawn of time until the dawn of interstellar space travel.  Starting with a few settlers, the player must found cities, expand his/her borders, and advance his/her civilization's technology far enough to leave the cradle of the Earth.  This must all be done while simultaneously keeping the population happy and well-fed and fending off rival civilizations.

Civilization III offers several changes to gameplay that will add a twist to the game for veteran Civilization players.  The first of these is the concept of culture.  Each city generates culture for a civilization based on the size and age of the city and the cultural improvements it possesses.  As a civilization's culture increases, its borders expand outwardly, increasing its territory.  Weaker foreign cities bordering a culturally strong civilization can even be overwhelmed by the stronger culture, causing them to happily join the foreign power.

Also new are minor wonders.  These function the same as wonders in that they take a great effort to build and provide a bonus benefit to the owning civilization.  However, minor wonders are not restricted to a single civilization.

Resources are no longer static spots on the map that give the player a bonus shield or two of production.  They are now vital, tradable commodities which come in two forms: luxury and strategic.  Luxury goods serve to keep your population happy - the greater the quantity and variety of goods, the happier your people become.  Strategic goods are vital to the production of certain units or improvements.  For example, without access to iron and coal, your civilization will not be able to construct railroads.  As your civilization's technology advances, you'll discover new resources on the map (Ancient Egyptians did not have much use for coal).  

Civilization III has also made some changes to the game's military aspect.  First of all, units are no longer based out of a single city, but instead draw their upkeep from the civilization's treasury.  You can now move your garrisons to the part of the empire where they are needed most without worrying about them being far from their home city or bankrupting your frontier cities with their upkeep.  Each civilization also has a unique unit available to it, such as the Jaguar Warrior of the Aztecs and the Musketeer of the French.  Civilization III also introduces leaders, which can arise from units after combat.  These leaders can create armies, which are essentially stacked military units which act as one in terms of firepower and defense.  

Finally, Civilization III has overhauled the game's diplomatic interface.  Complicated negotiations and trade agreements can be worked out using a simple interface allowing the player to see what both civilizations have available to put on the table.  A lot of the guesswork has been removed from trade proposal thanks to the advice of an advisor who will let you know a deal's chances of acceptance.  Diplomat and spy units have been removed from the game - their function has been integrated into embassies and spy centers which require gold to perform acts of espionage.