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Sid Meier's Civilization IV PC DVD-ROM

Published by 2K Games
Developed by Firaxis Games
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

Sid Meier's Civilization IV, an introduction.

Mid-November and I'm feeling terrible. Why you might ask? Well the problem is I haven't been sleeping well. Have I been ill or stressed about the ever increasing cost of Christmas? No. As it happens the problem is nothing to do with being able to sleep, it's more a case of not being in bed early enough to get a decent amount of sleep. Everything was going fine until the fourth instalment of Sid Meier's Civilization arrived for review. The amount of work I was getting through took a dive and it became a regular occurrence to be creeping in to bed when all decent folk are half way though a good night's sleep. Very few games have this affect on me and it's probably no coincidence that a good portion of those games have the words Sid Meier in the title.

What's the game about?

As you have all worked out by now, Sid Meier's Civilization IV is the latest version of the classic Sid Meier's Civilization. For those who have never played a Civilization before, it's a turn-based strategy game where you pick a nation and take them from their very beginning in ancient times and progress through to the modern day and even the future. You'll begin with only a settler unit and a warrior unit (in most cases) and you'll create your first settlement in an unexplored world. Before you know it you'll be meeting other nations, forming diplomatic relations, fighting wars, building more cities, improving your nations' culture, researching technology and so forth. Civilization IV gives you all this and much more. Many of the game basics have been refined in Civilization IV and many of the past annoyances have been ironed out. The end result is a Civ experience that is highly refined and very enjoyable.

What's good about the game?

Where on earth do I start? Well some of the key new elements are religion, civics and great people. Through the research of specific technologies your nation can found a new religion. There are seven religions in the game such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity. The religions are all as good as each other and neither one has an advantage over another. The effects of religion in the game are numerous. For instance if your state religion was Confucianism, your people wouldn't be happy about you waging a war with a nation whose religion was also Confucianism. You can send out missionaries to convert other nations' cities and build religion specific buildings too. Rather than have fixed government types you can essentially build your own government type with the new civic options. Through the research of new technologies you'll gain new civic options which you can choose to adopt if you wish. There are government civics (e.g. Hereditary Rule and Police State), legal civics (e.g. Vassalage and Bureaucracy), labour civics (e.g. Slavery and Serfdom), economic civics (e.g. Free Market and Environmentalism) and religious civics (e.g. Theocracy and Pacifism) that all have an effect on the running of your nation. This flexible approach is much better than the set governmental types that the previous Civ games offered. Another new concept in the game is great people. If the conditions are right in one of your cities (e.g. if enough great people points have been generated) a special merchant, artist, engineer, scientist or prophet will appear in that city. You can either join these to a city to give specific bonuses or you can opt to take advantage of their special abilities. A great scientist for instance can be used to build an academy.

Other new inclusions include the ability to choose upgrade paths for your military units. This is a nice touch and adds more interest to developing your army. The game comes with a proper tutorial this time and it's great for showing Civ newbies how to play the game as well as introducing Civ veterans to the game play changes. Fancy a quick game of Civ? Well now you have 3 options to determine the length of a game. Quick, Normal and Epic are the choices you can make. The Quick game is a compressed Civ experience whilst Normal feels marginally quicker than a game in the previous versions. For those who want a long game an Epic game is the way to go with progression being a lot slower. There are now 6 victory conditions and many modifiers (such as always at war, always at peace and aggressive AI) and map options to enable you to have virtually unlimited game variations. You can now even begin in any era you wish. Multiplayer has been included and covers LAN, Internet, Direct IP, Hot Seat and Play By E-Mail. 10 scenarios have been included for the single player including the American Revolution, Earth Ice Age and Classical Greece.

What's not so good about the game?

You'll end up looking terrible with the lack of sleep and lack of sun as you stay indoors attempting to lead your nation to victory. The game is that addictive. On a more serious note you'll need a decent PC to have the game perform well. The minimum requirements of 256MB RAM is nowhere near enough for a comfortable experience with 512MB being a realistic minimum. The game can still slow down a little towards the end of the game on a high specification PC although we haven't experienced any major problems. Whilst Civ IV offers a range of modding tools out of the box, the Civilization SDK won't be available until next year so advanced modders will have to wait awhile before they can really get to grips with customising the game.

How does it look?

Civilization IV is the first game in the series to be completely in 3D. Whilst the 3D isn't state of the art and won't be the most visually pleasing game you've ever seen, for a turn-based strategy game it looks very good indeed. The rivers flow, the trees swing in the breeze and you can zoom right out to see your map as a globe with cloud cover and all. Firaxis have avoided camera issues (that usually plague 3D strategy games) by only allowing you to adjust the game either 45 degrees to the left or right of the default view. This may seem limiting but there really is no need for anything else. Firaxis didn't choose to go with a separate battle screen and I for one am glad they didn't. The battles are played out on the main map and look a lot better than they have done in previous versions. The interface is very user friendly and is a lot more accessible than the one in Civilization III which could be a little cumbersome at times. Wonder movies have returned and they actually look pretty good too. The animated leaders look great and animate superbly. Overall the look of the game is quite a jump from Civilization III and it's much more inviting to Civ newcomers than the previous Civ games ever were.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Deaf gamers won't have any problems with Civilization IV. First of all though let's give a mention to the game manual. In this day and age it's all too common for publishers to fob us off with a 20 page manual (or even worse an electronic manual that you have to print yourself) and not include a technology pullout poster. This is all well and good for most games but with a game like Civilization IV, you need a good manual. Thankfully this is not the case with Civilization IV as the game comes with a 220+ page manual and a technology tree poster has been included too, which is excellent. The main game is fine for deaf gamers. The tutorial, from Sid himself, is delivered in text and speech. All information in the game, such as the Civilopedia and the technology descriptions etc., are all in text which is excellent. Any notifications you'll receive are shown in text too, although it's a shame these are placed on the left side of the screen rather than being in the centre (where they would catch your attention much easier). You can set an alarm in the game to alert you to the fact that you should really return to the real world from time to time. When this alarm rings you are alerted to the fact with a text prompt, which is excellent. What deaf gamers won't notice though is that your units actually speak in their native tongue when you issue commands to them as there is no subtitles for this. This is of no importance though and it's certainly nothing that will spoil your enjoyment of the game.

Final thoughts.

Sid Meier's Civilization IV is without a doubt the best game in the series to date. In fact I would go so far as to say it's the best PC game I've played this year. Whilst the game is still the Civilization we all know and love, the alterations and additions to the game have managed to make it feel the most complete game in the series and it's arguably the best turn-based strategy game I've played. It's just impossible to cover every thing that's great about the game and this review has really only scratched the surface of what Civilization IV has to offer. Suffice to say it's the greatest Civ game to date that every gamer should try. There's so much depth and replay value here that you'll probably only stop playing Civilization IV when Civilization V has been released.

 

Overall Game Rating: 9.7/10

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The best Civilization game to date. It's our PC game of the year and quite possibly the best game on any format this year. Most impressive.