I’ve hit a new time sink, and its name is Civilization III. So I thought that I would give it a review here (and probably
in email to friends). As a fan of Civilization, Civ II, Alpha Centauri (and Alien Crossfire), I definitely looked forward
to this third generation effort by Sid Meier and his friends.
With the game CD came a nice and thick manual, but no tech tree chart like in the previous games. Maybe they decided to only have it for the
“limited edition?” A shame if that was their motivation, and a shame if I simply got gyped. Install of the game was pretty easy and it has a
700 MB footprint.
Opening screens are prettier but much the same. The usual sort of options (Create world, quick start, etc.). There is a “tutorial” but its pretty lame–it just
sets it to the easiest level and turns the tutorial tips on.
The choices for creating a world are pretty much the same as in the past…type of continent, size of world, the age of the Earth are all things which are in previous editions. The big change which they borrowed from the Alpha Centauri series is the nations you lead. In the past, it really didn’t make too much of a difference (just a couple of small changes with the starting techs and not much else). In Civ III, there are 16 nations, and each of them has two characteristics (out of six) which determine the starting techs, but also determine other specific advantages. The Romans, for example, are COMMERCIAL and MILITARISTIC….which means they start with Alphabet, and Warrior Code. Babylon, which is RELIGIOUS and SCIENTIFIC, get Ceremonial Burial and Bronze working. COMMERICAL civilizations get extra commerce and lower corruption. RELIGIOUS civilizations get less anarchy and cheaper temples and cathedrals.
Each nation also has a special unit only they can build, which replaces one of the units in the normal tech tree. Using the examples above, the Romans get their feared Legionaries (instead of Swordsmen)…and Babylon gets an improved Archer called the Bowman. While most of these special units are gotten early, a couple of nations have to wait until late…Germans get Panzers instead of Tanks, and Britain gets Man-O-Wars instead of Frigates.
There is an option for turning off the advantages, though, if you don’t like them. I am gathering already that there are possibly problems with the balancing, since in the Readme, a couple of civilizations changed their civilization strengths from the manual.
The gameplay itself is much like the earlier Civilization series games, but with some changes. First and foremost is something taken from the Alpha Centauri series, and that is the splitting up of the duties of the old Settlers from Civ I and II. In this game, just like Alpha Centauri, there are units which build cities (Settlers) and units which build irrigation, roads and such. These are workers. Having played a lot of Alpha Centauri, I was able to quickly adapt to this.
Barbarians have changed, too…now instead of them just popping out of nowhere, randomly, they come from specific villages that you can plunder (no more barbarian chiefs!).
Another change is technology. Now, the tech tree is divided into three eras, much like Age of Wonders. You cannot research techs in the Middle Ages until you have most of the Ancient ones. This defeats the “rush to Invention” that I employed to good effect in many Civ games. Some of the Wonders are new, some are gone, and there are now also some “small wonders”–wonders any civilization can build one of. For example, the “Forbidden Palace” acts as a second Palace for purposes of the “Center” of ones civilization for happiness.
Trade and commerce are very different. In the old CIV games, it was a case of building caravans and setting up trade networks that way. This also led to abuse on the Wonders, since you could use the caravans to hurry a wonder into premature completion. I did that myself many times. In Civ III, there are no more caravans, and in fact there is only one way to rush a Wonder (you can’t even buy them quickly anymore)…you can spend a “leader” to finish the wonder. Leaders are special units which are created from elite units randomly. Leaders can either hurry a wonder…or expend themselves to create a special unit called an Army. Armies group three units together, and no unit dies in an army unless you kill all the hitpoints of the army…making armies powerful. In the two games I have played thus far, though, I have not successfully created one.
Resources are also different. There are ones which make your citizens happy and are for trade (ivory and gems)…and then are the somewhat controversial strategic ones. The strategic resources, like iron, coal, and uranium are needed for certain units, and if you don’t have a supply within your borders connected by a road, you can’t make the units. The Romans legionaires (and plain old swordsmen) need iron. Railroads need iron AND coal…which stymied me in my second game, because while I had researched steam power, I couldn’t build networks of railroads because I lacked iron for much of the game.
Some of the problems of the modern era are STILL here. The cities have an auto governor of sorts which will build things (not just endless amounts of the same) in a semblance of order…but in the 20th century, some of my governors wanted to build Longbowmen. Alpha Centauri did this much better. The end game can be a exercise in finding hundreds of units and moving them too and fro.
The biggest complaint I have is multiplayer, the lack thereof. Sid and co. HAD to know we would be chomping at the bit to play this, even imperfect work, with our friends. You can’t do it though, and it is a shame. While the computer players offer a good challenge (so far anyway), it is against humans that Alpha Centauri and the Civ II really shined.
Still, so far I like the game, despite its faults. If you will excuse me, now I am going to try the Germans. Militaristic and Scientific. Perhaps I will get an army this time…