Civilization IV

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Civilization IV review
Sergio Brinkhuis


The series takes a huge leap forwards with this fourth installment

Building and governing an empire

As I mentioned earlier, city building is now faster than before, making it a lot easier to decide whether to build 'one more unit just to be on the safe side' or that wonder that became available finishing that research project just now. Building world wonders is also less risky this time around. If another nation finished the wonder before you did, your treasury will receive an influx of cash depending on how far along you were in the project. Now that upgrading units has become even more important with the introduction of experience bonuses, the extra cash will surely be welcome.

Another major shift from the old mechanics is the lack of government types. The original government types like communism and democracy have been replaced by 'Civics'. Civics are a group of five different areas in which you can influence how your nation should be governed. Each type focuses on a different area of society like legal, economy and religion. New options in each area open up with research or can in some cases be opened up by building a specific world wonder. I'll explain. In the 'government' area for instance, you start with despotism but through research 'Hereditary rule', 'Representation', 'Police State' and 'Universal Suffrage' will open up. Each of these will give you different bonuses (or penalties) but you'll have to make choices as you can only select and profit from one type at a time. By combining the bonuses from different areas you can greatly enhance the efficiency of your nation. Although this way of governing isn't new (Alpha Centauri comes to mind), it's definitely a refreshing way of running your Civilization and gives you a feeling of being in control.

Mostly rosy

What will instantly strike anyone who has played any of the previous Civ games most is the use of 3D graphics. Firaxis only recently made the step to 3D games with Sid Meier's Pirates! being their first big 3D title. They must have liked using the NDL engine as they've used it again for Civilization IV. Personally I'm not convinced that this was the right choice. The game is unresponsive and laggy even during the early stages of the game and my PC is almost twice as fast as the recommended system for the game. On larger maps I found myself on the settings screen regularly, lowering every performance slider down to medium and sometimes even below. Exchanging maps with other nations became something I avoided like the plague because it would stall my system for up to a minute and even caused crashes now and then. After a couple of hours of tweaking with the help of fansite forums, I managed to stabilize the game but it was quite a chore and it was clear that I wasn't an isolated case.

That said, the graphics do really add a new dimension to the game. It took me a while to get used to them but between the well animated units and little details like birds flying up out of the forest you just entered, Civilization really comes to life for the first time in its long history. Add to that a truly amazing soundtrack, above average sound effects and all kinds of small sound-bytes giving you you've got mail-like notifications, the atmosphere in the game is beyond anything fans of the series have ever experienced.

It's hard not to feel that the game could have used another month or so of tweaking but knowing Firaxis, a patch is imminent. With that in mind, I can still wholeheartedly recommend the game to any armchair strategist out there. Being among the oldest and most loyal fans of the series it was difficult for me to embrace all the changes but after a while the game really started growing on me. Civilization IV is a true sequel to a fantastic franchise that will feel familiar but fresh and tantalizingly new to veterans and newcomers alike.


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