Civilization IV Review

Rare is the game with a “IV” at the end of its name. There just aren’t that many game series with a design that stands the test of time and that can keep bringing players back for each new version. Well standing the test of time is something that is right up Civilization’s alley. What better game to do so than one that spans the entire history of mankind from the Stone Age to the Space Age and beyond? Now we find ourselves on the threshold of a new age with the dawn of Civilization IV. Will it join its predecessors in the annals of history as a new classic? The short answer is “yes”, for the long answer read on…

A thriving civilization.
It’s entirely possible that you’ve never played a Civilization game before, so first I’ll take a few sentences to explain the basic concept of the game for those who are new to the series. Civilization IV is a turn-based strategy game that places you at the reins of one of history’s great civilizations. Starting with a band of nomadic settlers, you must found cities, research new technology, and expand your empire’s borders, economy, culture, and wealth. Of course you’re not alone in the world, and diplomacy is a large component of the game as you try to keep your rivals at bay … or under your heel. The scope of the game is all encompassing; at the start of the game you’ll have a single city and a few spearmen and, if you’re good enough to survive, you’ll build your way up to a continent-spanning empire armed with nuclear weapons. One of the great things about the game is that it gives you so much leeway in developing your civilization and choosing a path to pursue. You can become a conqueror, a peacemaker, an economic powerhouse, or pursue a combination of these paths or something entirely different. It is totally up to you. The gameplay is addicting and long stretches of time will fly by as you’re playing. You’ll always be working your way toward several short term goals and find yourself with an endless supply of reasons to play just one more turn before quitting. And that is Civilization in a nutshell, now let’s have a look at what’s new in Civilization IV.

On the whole Civilization IV is a lot slicker and faster playing than its predecessors. This is not to say that it is a shallower game – the opposite is probably true. Rather, the interface has been streamlined and the dead time spent waiting for the computer-controlled civilizations to make their moves has been reduced. The move to true 3D graphics has helped with empire management by making it possible to zoom in on your cities or pull the camera all the way back to view your empire from space – not even to mention how good everything looks on the colorful and animated world map. You can manage your cities’ production queues right from the world map, and icons on the map let you see the status of your cities at a glance. When an event occurs in one of your cities that is currently offscreen, an icon appears on the edge of the screen to let you where to quickly find the event if you need to respond to it. All of this means less time spent popping in and out of detail and graph screens and more time spent planning your strategies. The detail and graph screens are there if you need them, but you only have to visit them if you really want to do so.

The game’s combat system has been reworked to prevent the infamous “spearman defeats tank” scenario that could occur in earlier games in the series. In addition, as units win battles and gain experience they will receive upgrade awards. These upgrades give various bonuses to your unit such as greater strength while fighting in the mountains or the ability to heal other units away from your cities. Since you’ll be given a choice of upgrades when a unit levels up, you can customize them to fit your play style or suit your current needs. The battles themselves even look better in Civilization IV – the camera zooms in on the action and you can watch the animated fight as it is waged.