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By Charles Hopkins Published 03/13/2006 | Games

Buying a computer game off the shelf is a bit like crap shooting. In other words, you toss down your 50 and hope for the best. However, that is not the case with Civilization IV. To put it briefly, Sid Meier has done it all over again and created a game whose track record is unprecedented and game play addictive. Civilization IV is likely to become the foundation of strategy gaming on the computer, and with its latest incarnation the bar has been raised to a whole new level.

For those gamers (and non-gamer) who have not upgraded their first person shooter (FPS) database since Wolf 3D, here is a brief rundown of what the Civilization series is all about. Civilization is a strategy game that puts you in control of an ancient culture. Your goal is to become a modern world power through diplomatic, economic, and military means; developing your culture through conquest and discovery. Civilization was the first turn based strategy video game and is considered a monumental achievement in the history of gaming.

Since Civilization III happened quite a while ago, it would be helpful if you were to take the Civilization IV tutorial. The recap of its game play is particularly enjoyable because it is taught by Sid Meier himself, by which we mean Sid Meiers computer avatar and voiceover. Movement, religion, exploration, city building and trade are all explained, and though the process takes about 30 minutes, we advise that you go through with it. The tutorial ends mid game but it shows some of the new features incorporated in Civilization IV like religion and the changes to combat. And that brings us to some of the other changes in Civilization IV:

  • Basically, Civilization IV is new from the ground up. To begin with, the Civilization III code base was discarded altogether, allowing developers to re-examine all facets of the game.
  • This gave them an opportunity to rebalance the game -- keeping what worked and throwing away the tedious.
  • Religion is the major new component in Civilization IV, adding a concept long missing from the game. Now your civilization can discover a religion -- and host its holy city. Once established, you may send missionaries out amongst other civilizations to spread the word.
  • Advanced government control in the form of civics is also in place, allowing you to experiment with mixing various political concepts into your form of government. How about combining a dictatorship with freedom of speech?
  • The last major addition is Great People, which develop in your civilization depending on your choices and then enhance your citizenry. Shakespeare may develop and provide an entertainment bonus, or Einstein may enhance your research efforts.

The Wow Factor in Civilization 4

The games graphics are just fantastic. Sid Meier, take another bow. Now fully 3-D, the cities and units are graced with incredible detail and display fluid animation. In the world itself, streams run, tides move in and out and animals roam across the continent. As you build some of the wonders of the ancient world, you can watch your newly developed wonder go from brick to finished creation in a magnificently depicted extravaganza. We call this the wow factor.

Civilization IV Game Play

The game play is addictive as ever. You can build a flourishing American Empire complete with Shakespeare, Hanging Gardens and a gold mine but Caesar can ride in and stomp all over you. But you can always start over tomorrow and bring a better army with you.

All in all, Civilization IV oozes quality from top to bottom. Beginning with Martin Sheens narration of the trailer, it is obvious now to anyone that Firaxis, the developers, have not cut corners. Even the in-game narration describing the tech tree has a quality feel, spoken by none other than Mr. Spock Leonard Nimoy. For more reasons than one, this may be the game of the year!