#203 Civilization

Posted: 15th February 2012 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

123rd played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1991
Developer: MicroProse
Publisher: Microprose

I have a slight confession to make here. While early on we said we’d play a game for five hours or until we completed it, we haven’t always followed is as strictly – if we got a good idea, we sometimes stopped a bit earlier, so we’d have more time for other games.

As you can see, today’s game is Civilization. Now, we’re both fans of the series – I’ve started playing the first game with friends, then getting the second for myself and continuing, with love, to enjoy the third and fourth. Peter just has experience with the fourth, but enjoyed that as much.

We’ve already discussed part of this in our Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri write-up, but it’s worth emphasising this now.

So when he suggested we do this game next, I knew this would be a long time playing, and trust me, we’ve spent far more than five hours on it.  It’s a good thing we’re writing this over our Christmas holidays.

Our Thoughts

I need to start our thoughts with a bit of a defense of us not playing games for 5 hours or until completion… you try playing Frogger, Demolition Derby or Bookworm for five hours and you’ll see why we had to cut it short sometimes. Rest assured that we still take the time goal seriously with most games (unless they are really beginning to piss us off).

Civilization was never in any danger of pissing either of us off since we both already had prior experiences of losing hours to an edition of this blasted game. One fateful Christmas Eve it happened again… before we knew it is was five hours later and I had to be off to help in the advanced preperation go Christmas dinner. Even now I can not quite put my finger on what makes this game so incredibly addictive but all I know is that I was itching to get back to the empire to wipe out the remaining Babylonians.

Part of Civilization‘s appeal is always the ‘one more turn’ sentiment that any fan will probably recognise. There are so many things to keep track of and so many goals to go for that it’s a straight forward response to always try to keep going to move a few forward. This could be developing a base further, nurturing past its initial stages, conquering another civilization or advancing scientifically so you can build your own space ship. This is not so much just a case of having many different things to do as having many different places to do these things.

This game is the first in a long(ish) line of games that very clearly build on each other and, as referenced, we’ve played multiple games in the series. Because of its continuous improvements, our impressions are influenced by this and it’s tempting to compare. Keep an eye open for our followup posts for more on this.

Now then, Civilization is, on its own, a 4X-game – Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate. Rather than other, more fast-paced games, it has an increased level of detail and complexity that allows you to regulate the lives of your people on a quite detailed scale, with combat being an essential, but simpler part of the game – the focus is on management, rather than battling. In this it is also notable that the further into the game you get the longer each turn takes because of how many balls you have in the air. There are cities to look after, railroads to build, tanks to maintain, Aztecs to slaughter etc. I am so looking forward to when we get to Civilization IV where military prowess and a space program are the ways to win the game.

In all of this, Civilization arguably shows its age. It’s not the first game to feature this style, but it’s the first to be as big as it is, as well as being as succesful. There’s a balance struck between exploration and securing your own borders, between growing your cities and growing the number of cities, of development versus strength.

At the same time, the game keeps things simple and clear enough that you can keep up with all this detail. It doesn’t overwhelm you with the details of happiness or corruption, you find out enough to influence it, but you don’t need to spend a lot of time to figure it out.

Beyond that, the graphics actually hold up remarkably well for a game of its age. While it’s not the peak of what it can do, it looks nice enough and makes things surprisingly clear. Nice and clear enough to still be the gaming equivalent of heroin.

Final Thoughts

I think everyone reading this will agree that a game does not have to new in order to be fun. The fact that is some of the most fun we have had playing games are with the old classics since they really do have that ‘one more time’ feeling.

Look, we have three more entries in the Civilization franchise to play through before we reach the end of this voyage… so if anyone has any Pizza Hut vouchers we can use?

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