The Civilization series has spent the best part of a decade now chiselling it’s own individual place in gaming history; and influencing countless other strategy-based offerings in the process. Despite it’s now, less-than-fashionable, turn-based approach to progress through the game, Civilization still remains immensely popular due to the vision, scale and sheer brilliance of it's implementation. Now Civilization III is here to continue in the footsteps of a gaming tradition with four-million plus sales under its belt, and awaken a new generation of gamers to the joys of Civ. Join me then as we investigate Sid Meier’s latest offering…
First things first the general premise of the game has remained unchanged from previous incarnations; the idea being to take charge of a recognizable race, kicking-off in 4000BC, and guide them through discoveries, expansion and advancement until 2050AD, the overall aim being to develop your chosen society into the greatest on the planet. Throughout this epic and dramatic sweep of history you will guide advancements in culture, politics, war, trade, expansion and science, whilst interacting, albeit in commerce or war, with other rival civilizations. Each race is imbued from the outset with strengths traditional to that civilization, for example the British are capitalistic and empirical, whilst the Chinese are industrial and hard-working. You are given certain units to begin with, and from this starting point decade upon decade and century upon century of historically-minded progress commences, from discoveries of pottery and tools through to space-travel. As you can see this a game not short of ambition.
It’s beautifully implemented too, the turn-based approach allowing for a slow, deliberate approach to gameplay, which enables the player to observe and manage matters in a fashion unheard of in the more recently popular real-time strategy sub-genre. Each turn allows for a certain number of actions, for example one war can be waged in one-turn, and through this gradual movement through time a realistic history for your civilization gradually emerges.
Of course, the main bone of contention with the game is likely to be how little the gameplay has changed from previous editions, the only modifications being a few changes in approach to War and trade, as well as some improvements to the interface.
The most notable improvements are in fact in the visuals, which, whilst still lacking the flair of 3d-offerings, are incredibly detailed and diverse in their representation of the landscape, and the buildings and cities upon it. The whole approach to the map and the interface is one born of functionality rather than eye-trickery, and as such marks less of a departure from Civ II than might have been envisaged. That’s not to say it isn’t attractive, though.
The whole game is highly addictive from start to finish, and those who enjoy Sim games will find Civ a trickier initial proposition, but a subsequently far-deeper and more satisfying one. The game’s scope and potential never failing to impress. It is also immensely replayable, thanks to the different civilizations and element of hindsight enjoyed thanks to the History option. This option enables the player to look back over their progress in the game, and the progress of their neighbouring civilizations; educating them as to the impact of their decisions along the way.
Sadly, no multiplayer game has been included, a real shame as the potentially epic scale of such an experience is mouth-watering, though Firaxis aren’t ruling out some form of add-on, so we are hopeful for the future.
To conclude then, whilst Civ III may be something of a daunting prospect initially; it is however a hugely involving and vastly immersive game, that deserves a chance. I’m concerned it may be rather too slow for the action-orientated preference of modern gamers, however Civ III offers a far deeper experience than most real-time strategy titles. Epic, immersive, clever, addictive and ultimately brilliant.