Civilization has been going strong for over a decade and a half now and has driven people to play ‘just one more turn’ since 1990. Now we have the fourth iteration in the series, and it’s one of the best entries into the Civ line.
Civ 4 is very streamlined. There’s all the information from the older games, but it’s much more intuitive now. You don’t have to spend five minutes just trying to get a grasp on why you’re losing gold so fast or dig through menus to find out how long until a city’s cultural borders expand. It’s all right on the main screen. It’s also in full 3D now so it looks better then ever. The only complaint, visually, is the odd effect of giant people and units towering over your cities, but they’d likely be hard to see – or select – at the proper scale.
Running your nation is now easier then ever. Using tricks from real time strategy games, you can no just left click on a unit to grab it and right click to send it on it’s way. This makes it much easier to get everyone where they need to be. Attacking also works through this system. Cities can be managed from the main view, in that you can check/change what it’s building or change it’s priorities without leaving the main map. If you hover your cursor over your cities, a tooltip will pop up to give you a breakdown of everything you need to know. Advanced actions – such as bombing runs, building improvements, or changing unit status – is available on an ever-present toolbar at the bottom of the screen. War is easier, but has more variables this time. Units gain experience from either being created in a city with an upgrade such as the barracks or surviving combat encounters. Once the unit has some experience, you can improve certain facets of it’s abilities. You can improve it’s skill vs. ranged units, make it do more collateral damage, or enable it to move and heal at the same time. This makes units much more valuable then in previous games. Also, unit upgrades are also visible on the main screen, so you don’t need another menu for them, either.
The AI is nice and varied in it’s approach, and is smarter not only in negotiations – they trade much more often and much more intelligently now – but also in their war tactics. Diplomacy in Player vs. AI games is now a much more viable option. You can also find out what they think of you and why they think that way by hovering your cursor over their name on the main screen. Are you trading with their enemies? Are you bickering over borders with them? Everything is taken into account, including the new religion aspect. Founding a religion can give you an advantage in the game, as it can be used to make friends or enemies. Not everything’s perfect in Civilization 4, though. The game eats computer memory big time, so it can start to drag in longer games.
The 3D graphics, while nice, a fairly lo-res and undetailed. Also, the replay function after a game doesn’t give you any option to seek your favorite time or event, and is really just a text recount of all the update announcements made during the game. Even with this, though, it’s still an excellent game. Make sure you’ve got the time investment ready if you pick it up, because you will be left wanting one more turn.