Sid Meier's Civilization 4 review

Fancy playing God? With Sid Meier's latest world sim, you can do just that.

18 Nov 2005
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The Civilization series started back in 1991 and this update leaves the basic formula unchanged.

You're in charge of steering a civilization from 40BC into the space age. The gameplay is turn-based, so you have plenty of time to ponder each move. You have to decide how to balance military, economic and cultural strategies to defeat or assimilate your rival cultures. You and your opponents are based on historical cultures, with the appropriate units and leaders, like Montezuma and even Ghandi.

While this version is in 3D, the underlying tile-based landscape of the other games has been kept. Unlike many strategy titles that try to use 3D, you don't have to spend a lot of time fiddling around with your viewpoint - your viewing angle is fixed, but you can zoom in and out, and the camera moves to show you details of the neatly animated battles. The graphics aren't spectacular, but they're packed with little details.

Civilization veterans will find the game familiar, but with many small improvements. For the first time, open border agreements with a friendly power mean you can send scouts or missionaries into their territory. Civilization III's frustrating corruption system - which made it hard to get anything done in distant outposts of your empire - is gone. You can automate worthy, but dull, tasks like road building, and a new civics system gives you greater control over your government and social structure.

There's certainly a lot to think about, but with advisers and recommended options, the game's quite easy to pick up and only occasionally confusing. For, example, why does having a civil service help you irrigate crops?

Once you've mastered the finer points, you can play against human players over a network or via e-mail. Devoted fans will be able to make custom scenarios and modified versions easily. You could be playing this for years. If you prefer to think first and nuke your foes later, this is your game.

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