Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Civilzation 4

From it's early days as a boardgame back in 1980, Civilization has always been something more than just a game. Ever thought Monopoly could take a while to play?
Civ typically takes eight or more hours to play and is for two to seven players. The more players, the more time it would take to play (4 or 5 hours would be a good minimum for 2 players though, 8-10 for 7 players).

I remember my bro, my girlfriend and a few others decided to play Civ one St Patricks Day. Although it was a very fun and memorable day, alcohol and Civ should not be mixed! It's a board game that requires a lot of time, attention and strategising to play properly.

With all of this calculation in your head taking place over such a long time, you can understand how it may be hard for people to ever get the chance to play a full game of this with anyone else. We had to wait for a bank holiday and the day itself was all planned a fortnight in advance. Imagine having to do that each time you want to play solitaire!

So it was no surprise when Civ first hit the PC in the early days of home computers (1991 to be exact). I remember seeing Civ1 on a 286 and wondering why the hell anyone would want to bother with such crappy graphics and no "real players" to play against?

Sid Meier (inventor of the PC game Civ) admits to "borrowing" many of the technology tree ideas from a board game. The early versions of the PC game even included a flier of information and ordering materials for the board game. In an ironic twist, there is now a board game based on the computer game version of Civilization.

Paying Civ1 no attention, I again shunned Civ2 as a (marginally) graphically-better game, but with the same terrible appeal - there were no real players to play against, computers either tend to be too hard or too easy to beat and again the graphics were still pretty pants. Even the Amiga, which had "superior graphics capabilities" for this task, failed to look good.

At this stage in my life, I was happier to play the "cutting edge" games - ones with great graphics like Doom and Quake. Civ seemed like a boring waste of time. Then Civ3 was released and it actually looked pretty good. By this stage I had already played games with great AI and I felt that Civ (after over a decade of games creation and updating) would easily be as good as the board game if the graphics were there.

I wasn't disappointed with what I bought. The graphics were well suited to the game and the AI had a sliding scale to fit everyone. Brilliant! Now I could play Civ without the fortnight of organising and the problems involved with playing on weekends or holidays.

But like most successful games, there's a sequel already out. Yes, Civ4 was released October 24th 2005 and I now own a copy for the PC. My first impression was one of surprise actually - ironically, the graphics are now so good on Civ4 that my graphics cards (a 128MB GeForce 5200FX and a 128MB ATI Sapphire radeon 9250SE) were simply not going to handle this game! What a turnaround. Life can be hilariously cruel...

Nevertheless, with jerky framerate and Anadin Extra by my side, I launched straight into a poorly running yet still playable game of Civ.

I awoke 11 hours later from my game-playing coma. Somehow Civ had managed to steal another half a day from my life! :D This is in no way a bad thing if you really enjoy strategy games that you really become immersed in. However the lengthy game play has meant that many gamers simply don't have the patience or time to play such an involving game.

Civ4 features many new features that greatly change the game from Civ1 to 3. About time I say - you can't just keep updating the graphics and selling the same old game forever. The new features include:

  • New ways to rule your country with Civics as well as Governments

  • Religion now plays a bigger part in the game and can influence
    how you interact with other civ's of similar or differing

  • New technologies and resources

  • Sensible trading rules (a much needed update)

All in all this is a much better game than the original trilogy, as computers are now powerful enough to allow you to do so much more than programmers of a 286 could ever have dreamed of. In saying this, I was a little disappointed that Civ4 didn't seem to be doing very much but
it still managed to use up all my system memory! Better programming is needed there me thinks... Because of this you'll need to have a good computer to play it (no matter what the specs say). IMHO you will need at least:

  • 512MB RAM, probably more

  • 2GHz processor (mine is an Athlon Barton 2600+ or 1.9GHz in
    Pentium speak)

  • Stacks of hard drive space (about 2GB I think)

  • A really, really good graphics card, preferably

Despite the high specs, if you have always wondered about Civilization and have a computer that will run it, there has never been a better time to give this game a try. It's probably about as far along as it's going to be able to get, so grab yourself a copy today and start doing something constructive with your free time. Stop sitting on the couch and get out there and build a civilisation!


  • Highly addictive - you'll get more than your money's worth out of Civ

  • Tons of versions out there for any spec of computer

  • Loads of sites with info, forums, strategies and more on them


  • Takes a very high spec computer to run it well

  • Each game takes at least 8 hours to play (I had one last over 20)

  • Your partner will hate you when you stop visiting (you'll get
    the "just one more turn" syndrome!)

I would give this game 4 PC games out of 5

I would give it 5 if it ran well on lower spec machines, and if the feckin' Americans would spell Civilization correctly!

[Article by KA. PA will return tomorrow]


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