Civilization IV PC Review

Leave me alone! What? No I am not writing a review about Civilization 4, I want to play it more. (4 hours later) Please, just a few more minutes! What?? It is now 4am, what?! It’s when stuff like that starts to happen you know you have got a good game (or perhaps I am slightly crazy) but nevertheless Civilization 4 is a great game and perhaps one of the evil games created. It is so evil that it will do all it can to break up a relationship with your girlfriend/wife/husband/boyfriend then completely ruin your body clock by making you go to bed at an insane time after hours of endless play. Then it will make you wonder why days have got shorter. Then, and only then it will make you cry after your social life is in tatters but you won’t mind, you will probably just want to play the game more. Disclaimer: I am not responsible for ruining your life if you chose to play this game (blame Sid Meier for that).

If you are saying to yourself “I already know that” after reading the intro paragraph then you already know and love the Civilization series (that has sold over 6 million units worldwide) and should now be running to the closest shop to grab a copy. Now on to you people who have never played a Civilization game before here is a 1000 world explanation on why you might want to play the game.

Gameplay

If I was to talk about all the aspects of gameplay that are in Civ 4 this review would run into 100,000 words long and my fingers would be worn down to stubs. If you want some indication of how much depth there is to Civ 4 then all you have to do is check out the 222 page booklet, yes two hundred and twenty two pages worth of text (front and back) which is just to tell you how to play the game so it is not worth my time going into every single aspect of the game but I will mention the important stuff and the things I found interesting.

Each different civilisation has various collection of leaders. Each leader has different pros and cons that can be exploited over the course of play. The leaders also seem more balanced this time round so there is no one hugely powerful than anyone else. The game is also much easier to play but that does not mean the AI is less intelligent, infact the AI is more challenging and fair (meaning they won’t get technology before their time like they sometimes did in previous games). The game is actually easier to play because the interface is much more refined than before and is much more intuitive to use which means newcomers to the series will not be swamped with info the second they start the game.

The other changes in the game come in the form of religion which has been given an overhaul, having several religions to chose from which is a step up from the generic religion that was in the other games. What does this mean to gameplay? Well if other people have a similar religion as you it will all be happy families but different religions cause many diplomacy problems which are awkward to deal with. Speaking of diplomacy a few changes have happened there, meaning more games can now be won with a diplomatic victory condition but this is not all that has changed. You can now try and influence other civilisations to declare war or peace on their neighbours.

Even more changes come in the form of the game being slightly quicker than previous games, meaning the games can be completed quicker. If you were a fan of the old slower approach then fear not there is a selection called “epic” which slows the game down to a more old school approach which will suit the purists of the series. I personally liked the quicker gameplay and found it more exciting. This was a direct opposite of what I thought before playing the game so don’t knock it until you try it! The multiplayer benefits greatly from the quicker speed of play as games no longer last almost a day! Now I could keep going on about more upgrades to the game but I would be talking for ever but be safe in the knowledge that all these changes are for the good. Not even one change that Firaxis has made hurt the game in any way which is a fantastic achievement by the developers as they have hit the nail right on the head and I believe made the game the fans wanted after some complaints were thrown at Civ 3 after it released.

Graphics

It is not only the gameplay that has been given an upgraded in Civ 4 the graphics is a great step up from the generic graphics of the previous installments of the series. Gone are the flat 2D worlds of the old games, now Civilization is brought to you in glorious 3D aaccompied by a fantastic zoom function that lets you get high, high above the clouds or down to the groundisometric style but does not hinder the way you play the game at all. Everything still feels “civ-like” but better, there is also lots of nice effects used within the game. One good example of this is when you zoom out far enough you can see the clouds being blown across the world below you which looks great.

The only problem with all this graphical wonder is that it needs a semi-high powered system to run it on. When I first started playing I put everything to high which was a bad idea as my whole system slowed right down (which is 2 years old with a newish graphics card) so I had to tone everything down to medium and then everything ran okay and the game still managed to look great. For those wondering the recommended system requirements are 1.8GHz Intel/Athlon AMD Processor, 512 MB RAM, 128 MB Video Card and 1.7GB of free space.

Sound

Civilization has always been known for great music to accompany the many hours you will spend sitting in front of your monitor playing the game and this is no different in Civ 4 as the compositions are fantastic. Once the game is installed and you run it you are greeted with some of the greatest title music that has ever graced a computer game. After you listen to this (and you will want to listen to all 4 minutes of it) you will be greeted to equally impressive in-game music. Most of in game tunes are from previous titles but I think they sound a little bit crisper and clearer this time round. It also has to be said that each nation has their own tunes which really adds to the atmosphere of the game. Sound effects and voice talent are also of a high standard with Leonard Nimoy being the logical choice (sorry bad pun!) to narrate parts of the game.

Lifespan

Forever! Abso-bloody-lutely fricken forever! That is how long Civ 4 will last you! If you get addicted to this game you will be playing it every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year and all the times you play it you will end up doing something different and then you will wonder “but what if I did this” and then play it 100 times. It has to be one of, if not the most addictive game ever. It is scary how the game draws you in a you lose all sense of time when you are playing. There is enough different setting and enough different customisable modes to have 1000s of hours worth of play making a different kind of game everytime.

Overall

Civ 4 is a fantastic addition to the Civilization series after the, what some deemed to be disappointing, Civ 3. The game stays true to the roots of the series but simplifies the controls and menu system without ruining the gameplay we all know and love. The only problem the game has is that it is far, far too addictive for its own good and you will probably end up playing into the late hours of the night without realising it. If you are already a fan of the series you probably already own this or are in the process of trying to get you hands on it. If you are not a fan of the series and tried the other games and disliked them then Civ 4 will not change your mind but if you have never played a Civ game before and are teethering on the edge of “will I buy it or not” fence then I urge you to give the game a go. It could be the best value for money purchase you make all year.

9.4 out of 10

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