#633 Civilization IV

Posted: 13th March 2014 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

314th played so far

CivIVboxshotGenre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2005
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games

Welcome to our new apartment! By the time you read this, sure, we’ll have lived here for over five months, but this is the first game we played and wrote up here, so it’s a bit special for us.

Of course, the Civilization series isn’t new to use – we played through the first and second installment for this blog before and took a break for the third earlier this year. Today, we play the fourth installment.

For me, it’s one of the games in the series – and not the one I played most, with Civilization II being my major addiction back in the days and having played plenty of Civilization III – but for Peter it’s his one main game in the series he’s played. Familiar territory for us then. Let’s go!

Our Thoughts

A (semi-)addiction to a game or series often makes it more difficult to judge its qualities and compare it to others.

Clearly, the game is looking better, with more 3D things, and sounds better. Aside from most of this being natural, there’s some minor gameplay effects. The cities can have their buildings show, rather than some generic icons – a small change, but making it a bit more real. In the mean time, a number of units are now actually formed of multiple warriors/explorers, which means you have a more visible indication of health and, to be honest, more exciting battles as they actually fight each other. Not majorly so, but it’s there.

Still, as with every installment, Civilization IV adds its own concepts. The main big item is religion – you can be the civilization to found them, adopt them (or not) and promote their spreading – both to make people happy and to insidiously take over other cities.

The absence of culture in the earlier games really threw me for a loop since it was something I really used a lot during my original games of Civilization IV. I have very fond memories playing as Catherine the Great and pissing leaders off as I captured my city through religion and culture rather than through military action. The best reaction? Isabella of Castille and her pout.

Its influence extends to other areas. You now build a temple per religion – but only in cities where at least one religion has taken hold. Part of your government structure depends on how you deal with it – whether you have a state religion or not, and if you do, how it influences your politics.

This also leads to another change, that of civics. Where previous games in the series had you pick a single form of government, reducing this element to a few options (with a few government being clear upgrades of earlier ones), Civ IV drops it in favour of civics, several main policy areas where you pick your stance, similar to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri‘s social engineering choices. Each has its benefits, balanced by their drain on your income, and your decision between them will just as often be based on your play style.

There’s further upgrades that mostly only make sense when you know the games – happiness isn’t as immediate a stat, instead being derived from luxuries and culture. There’s new buildings with new effects. It’s all balanced slightly differently. It plays out well though – while some areas become a bit more complex from these changes, others have been streamlined, meaning that on the whole the game remains as playable. More important though, the game does a good job of easing you into it so you don’t deal with everything at once.

I’m not sure this is the same experience if you’re a completely new player. There’s a lot of things involved, and a lot of it is intuition to the experienced player.  You know why you need science and what happiness is for. However, for a new player this seems like it must soon become overwhelming and trickier to follow. It’d be interesting to see how a player new to the series would cope.

Final Thoughts

It’s a shame we’ve nearly finished this series, and with that most games in its genre – there are only two or three left, one Civilization game and few other similar strategy games. Aside from feeling these are genuinely good games, we enjoy playing them together – well, I play, Peter watches (and gives the names of cities to be built). And although you tend to lose your entire day to it, it’s worth it for the fun of it all. Truely addictive, with a real ‘just one more turn’ feeling.

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