Oct 6, 2010

[Games] Civilization (PC)


In the days when you installed computers using multiple diskettes, computers needed to be parked manually and have more than a megabyte of RAM and the ability to support more than 4 colors. So yeah, the old school days when booting from a hard disk was still more of a luxury than the standard.

At the time I was mostly into adventure games like Loom and the original Monkey Island and the notion of strategy games was still a bit beyond me - I was still in grade school at the time, after all. But then this massive game came along and we were totally blown out of our minds that it needed about 10 diskettes to carry all the game data, a rarely feat at the time.

Fast forward to the present day and Civilization V finally came out last week. It's been a long and bumpy road from the early days with MicroProse to the present time with Firaxis but it's nice to see Sid Meier working his magic. This post is probably less of a review and more of a tribute - after all, the game is obviously a great one, especially since it has managed to survive for as long as it did.

Sid MeierImage via WikipediaCivilization was the landmark strategy game created by Sid Meier for MicroProse back in 1991. It was a turn-based strategy game that challenged the player to build an empire that would stand the test of time by starting in the year 4000 BC and ending in the far flung future of 2100 AD.

At first I didn't get into the game myself, as was the case for most of my initial forays into strategy. I spent more time other people play the game including my father, my uncle and even the man who would later become my step father. It was THAT sort of a game that had everyone playing it once it came out. The strange icons didn't make sense to me at first but in time I learned how things worked as my relatives took more and more time to explain the mechanics to me. It would be years before I'd play the game with any degree of confidence and despite initial sequels like CivNet, we still stuck to playing the original game time and time again.

The game seems simple in concept - you are the ruler of a new nation and you start with a struggling city and a single Settler - your most basic unit. With the Settler you can expand your nation by creating a new city or you can use it to build improvements around your existing city like roads and irrigation. Of course all this depends on whether or not you've researched the necessary technologies to support such improvements.

The game offered multiple paths to success. You could go the technological route and try to become the most advanced civilization before all the others. Your ultimate goal would be to build the first spaceship to reach Alpha Centauri before the game ends in 2100 AD. You could of course go the military route and try to conquer all other civilizations by either taking over or destroying all their cities. Or you could go the somewhat "nicer" route by having the highest score at the end of the game, which means more cities, more technology, more map improvements and more Wonders of the World.

Civilization - GandhiThe game taught me a lot of things. It was how I first learned about a lot of ancient military units such as the phalanx or the trireme. I learned about different leaders of history and also the fact that Gandhi can be a dick who threatens you with Nuclear War. Each leader had certain traits programmed into how to define their behavior and Gandhi always ticked me off the most since they were aggressive expansionist. Yes, the guy famous for his peaceful protests and hunger strikes tends to be a warmonger in the game with a propensity for building lots of cities close together in an effort to have more and more people to turn into more Settlers and thus more cities. It was annoying and looking for the last Indian city on the map in order to conquer him always turned into this weird cat and mouse game. Now that's an education for you.

The game did give me a greater appreciation for how strategy works and is probably one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with the genre. Then of course there was the benefit of the diversity of your cities, the special benefits of building a Wonder of the World and all the fun technologies you'd have to learn as you progress through the tech tree. Believe me it was like living an episode of Connections while fighting off Zulu hordes or something. The game also taught me the definition of the word "xenophobic" in the course of my playing. I was always a tech player that would put on a pretty strong military campaign. It was always fun to see my more advanced armies with rifles and air support totally decimating less advanced civilizations that only had Militias and Chariots.

Civilization - Combat

Sure, by modern standards the game has horrible graphics but I'd like to think that it still stands up pretty well against some of the more recent contenders to the throne. Civilization was a strategy game that clearly set itself apart from all the others and one that could only really compete with itself. Sure, we had those dark ages when control of the franchise got weird (i.e. Call to Power), but it's nice to see the game is definitely going into new places without leaving the good stuff that made the game so great too far behind.

Civilization is definitely one of my favorite strategy games of all time and a hallmark to the turn-based era. Naturally, it gets 5 ridiculous encounters between Mechanized Infantry and Legions out of a possible 5.

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