Support Dom, click to buy via us...
Civilization IV creates a world around you. A relaxing but invigorating historic triumph complete with beautifully detailed environments, solid flowing game play that simply leaves other strategy titles wanting.
I popped my Civilization cork before a busy bank holiday weekend with my family. As the game loads up I realise I'm actually rather too tired to appreciate this big hitting strategy and decide to hit the sac. But as the opening cinematic unfolds before my sleepy eyes I feel intrigued. Apart from the nice imagery I am immediately drawn into the ethos of this game - controlling nations, conquering conquerors.
The fly by from planet to country to city is beautifully done and I'm glad I didn't skip it. The opening music by Talisman in African Diaspora style draws me further into the fantastic atmosphere created around me. I sit gazing at the title menu listening to the songs as they wash over me, the background animation slowly cycles through day and night; awesome- and I haven't even started playing.
As the game gently carries me forward I suddenly realise how attached to everything I've become.
It wasn't until my return that I could properly dig into the single player. Here, a plethora of civilizations each with intriguing bonuses and special units can be chosen. Not wanting to consciously miss out any gems this game holds; I go for the random button and let the dice decide for me. The game throws me the Japanese civilization.
The choices then start coming thick and fast. What to call my fledgling town>What would I like to research and build? My selected first research is animal husbandry and horse back riding. These I hope will open up military horse use for my army; a strong unit to get under your belt in titles such as Age of Empires; let's hope the theory is universal. This research line take a lot more turns to complete that other areas but that's a risk I take; hoping I'm looking at an investment.
To my surprise after the successful research of animal husbandry I am met with a quote about animal husbandry philosophy from the bible - I never expected that; but it was welcome as it made me realize the depth of research that had gone into this game, it made me take Civilization 4 seriously. In fact the historic quotes are all apt and add something solid to each research you do; although they are not necessary within the gameplay, they give great credibility to the historic authenticity the game boasts.
As the game gently carries me forward I suddenly realise how attached to everything I've become - I feel I own it all and losing a poorly defended town to some barbarian nobody stings. After exploration I encounter the Mongolian empire who quickly wants to befriend me and establish peace treaty early; a sound strategy when building a new empire. More choices; to ally or not to ally; peace seems a good idea as I've not got much of an army yet.
The game is well paced. Being turn based the game waits for your next press of the enter button to proceed; a calm flow in analysing, deciding and acting. The balance is perfect between having things to keep you busy each turn, but not too much to slow the progression of the ages down. How this changes with a greater understanding of the game depths and mechanics remains to be seen. For now though I can happily say this is one of the most relaxing games I've played since floating through space in X-Beyond the Frontier PC. With the wonderful music gently lulling me; I could stay all night.
After 3 hours of play I find myself in 1870 with not much ground gained. All five civilizations are still standing and there seems to be little movement. It's like we're all just waiting for someone to go all out on the stronger players. I can imagine this all within a multiplayer online game would be extremely tense - diplomacy being much more interesting against non-scripted human beings. I do have memories of very lengthy games while player earlier Civilization incarnations; this is truly what perpetual gaming is all about, like an ongoing progression of life and gaming - open ended - complete. The only problem being is a potential time sink - I could quite happily see an evening turning into the early morning, as I contemplate how to finish the game. I decide to restart. I needed to sleep tonight.
I found missed options as I set up the new game, for a simple small map with only one opponent, and within 10 minutes I'd grown to about 6 or 7 towns and almost half filled the map; encroaching on my opponent Roosevelt in good old America. Controlling the speed of the game progression was another option, meaning time and development moves forward at a much faster rate.
It's perfect for filling any game shaped hole in your life for months on end.
Happily then, with a bit of fiddling, Civilization 4 is customisable for your individual play needs or time constraints –perfect when you've got a busy family life. Forty five minutes into this ‘dual' game I conquer my last city and win the game. Kind of an anticlimax really, but you do get loads of game statistics to trawl through, great for the more geeky among us. You also get a visual play though of how the conquest of land progressed which is saved in your hall of fame for future use.
Giving my seven year old a promised go on Dad's 'too complicated for you to play' game, it was very interesting to see his careful zooming in and inspection of the map's resources and units. Every graphical detail needed interpreting and explaining; lapping seas, trees blowing in the wind, animals roaming the land and all that bread scattered everywhere. All of this I had chosen to ignore and automate as much as possible during my own game; Civilization 4 came to life in a new way as I watched him play in his micro management style.
Civilization 4 offers perpetual depth with endless customisation. It's perfect for filling any game shaped hole in your life for months on end. With the 2006 and 2007 expansion packs there cannot be a better valued game experience for less than ten pounds. Simply put Sid Meiers is a strategy genius.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: