Trent Polack's site for cats, games, game development, and undeniably powerful sociological insight all with a healthy dose of narcissism.
Turn-Based Gaming Has a New Master
Published on February 4, 2006 By mittens In Turn-Based
Alright, alright, yeah, yeah, my list is the new and fair more unknown Duke Nukem Forever. There, I made the obvious joke. Burn in hell.

Civilization 4 -- Publisher: 2K Games, Developer: Firaxis
Anyone who's anyone knew that Civilization 4 was going to end up on this list. The only question was whether or not it would take the number one spot -- and, just for the record, it didn't. It was a close call between this and numero uno, but let me tell you, them monkeys I had tied up in my closet do make reliable fun-factor calculations and comparisons, and they decided that Civilization 4 is all kinds of fantastic, but the number one game is all sorts of fantastic + 1.

Now, related anecdote time... Let me see here. Ah, yes. Now, back in the days shortly after people discovered they could they could pry their eyelids open with their mind, I was in my room popping in a PSX game disc that my Uncle and Aunt had gotten me for a Christmas present. I looked all over, and all I saw was the title "Civilization 2," and then I saw the back of the box and the screenshots. The only thing I could possibly think of was that this game was some kind of edutainment title. Now, let me clarify, I wasn't a very well-informed gamer back in them days; I contented myself with any Final Fantasy titles... Or the original Armored Core (I still have yet to play any other game in this series).

So, when I plugged in my original PlayStation into the TV in my room at BioDad's house, and threw in this... Civilization 2 thing, I will tell you the one thing I learned very quickly: "GOD, WHERE IS THE MANUAL?" After I flipped through the game's meager manual, I started figuring out the bare necessities I would need to actually play the game, and I began to enjoy myself fairly quickly. As the weeks went on, I began to immensely enjoy the game, playing a number of long, long games -- and when I say "long" I want you to get my full meaning of the word, because the PSX version of Civ 2 had the AI's turns take up to, and I kid you not, about three minutes a piece. So if you're playing in a game with eight opponents, we're talking a fairly lengthy amount of time between turns. It really made players fear the "end turn" button.

That was the first and last Civilization game that I ever played (though I gave Alpha Centauri a nice chunk of my time, it still wasn't a Civilization title) for a number of reasons; namely the fact that I don't believe I ever heard a positive word regarding the quality of Civilization 3. Though reading through numerous previews about the fourth entry in the franchise just made me hot -- the big PC Gamer article on Civilization 4 (the month the game took the cover of the magazine) is probably the single-biggest reason that I ordered the game as soon as I possibly could.

And the final released game could be called anything but a disappointment. The first time I played it was after a series of nights of three-four hours of sleep each, and the little computer-animated mug of Sid Meier teaching me the ins-and-outs of the game through his freakishly-frightening scary in-game representation. The still drowsiness of my early-morning comatose has actually helped to solidify that disturbing image into my mind's eye. Whenever I'm down, whenever I need that thought to lift me up from my dark abyss of depression and self-reflection, Sid Meier's computer-generated body is there to help.

And by help, I mean horrify.

Honestly, though, Civilization 4 is the best turn-based strategy game I have ever played. One of the many testaments to the game's greatness is in the fact that I, a complete state-certified moron with a dog-like capacity for advanced thought, was able to get into the game relatively easy and have some semblance of what was going on. And one related testament to the game's greatness is just how insanely complex it is once the player gets to a point where he wants to peel away the layers of user-friendliness that cover-up some of the less "understandable" components of the game. Firaxis did such a fantastic job covering up the more complex aspects of the game that when I searched the vast reaches of The Internet to find out exactly what the hell I was doing, that I actually wondered if this tutorial was actually talking about the same game that I had been playing. I mean, the screenshots looked similar, but I just couldn't be sure.

I guess, in the end, Civilization 4 is the new turn-based strategy game that developers across the country will be copying and trying to improve upon before Firaxis' next entry into the genre. The new rendering engine of the game makes every aspect of it look fantastic -- though, occasionally, I do miss the highly-detailed art of the 2D era, but the flexibility that the 3D look allows the game is enough to make me forget about it (though I can't help wish that they had taken a Rise of Nations-esque look). And, despite any misgivings I may have about the new look (which aren't many aside from the ones I listed here), the ability to seamlessly zoom out and check out the world as a whole at any point in the game makes it all worthwhile. And, from the sounds of it, all the launch issues of heavy memory consumption, CD troubles, and so on have been pretty much resolved by now, so that's all good too.

The only real trouble I have with playing Civilization 4 isn't really even a fault of the game itself, just a personal one. The idea of starting up a new game of Civilization 4 is simply so daunting, that I have yet to do it in a month or so, simply due to my fairly heavy workload for the time being. And I know, for a fact, that the second I finally get a new game going that the rest of my day is absolutely forfeit. It's simply such a good game that it's damn near impossible to force yourself to stop pressing the "End Turn" button and going for that one... last... round. It's apparently a real issue for many others as well. I've heard tales of people who laughed at the in-game alarm clock when they first saw it, but have since become avid supporters and users of such an ingenious idea.

There's not much left I really have to say about the game. You really just need to play it. Now. Go. And, until tomorrow or the day after, you better only stop playing it long enough to read the impending article about the #1 game of 2005.
on Feb 04, 2006
I like it but I still enjoy Alpha Centauri more. Perhaps I should tweak my game settings a bit and try again.
on Feb 04, 2006

I always liked Alpha Centauri due to how original the actual aspects of the game were. The developers didn't have to heed any necessary aspects of history, they could just make up cool stuff, let the player make their own units, and not have to worry about historical accuracy ever entering the picture. That was the coolest aspect of the game, everything was new and cool.

That said, though, I would definitely say that Civilization 4 has more refined gameplay, and is a bit more fun to play, even if the actual look/feel of all the things has a "been there, done that" feeling to it.
on Feb 06, 2006

I think  setting wise  I liked AC better then Civ4. I loved the clips about each new tech, and it has the one feature that Civ doesn't have, the ability to customize units.

Civ4 is a good game, but I also don't have the energy to start up a new game. Also it seems that it is very easy to screw up in the first 30 minutes of so of play. Two things I don't like are combat and the interface. Combat feels like a huge numbers game, and the interface is very hard to find useful infomation quickly imo.

on Feb 06, 2006
Yeah, the one thing I really wish Civilization 4 had in it was the ability to customize units in the way that you could in Alpha Centauri. The problem with this, as I've heard it, is simply that you can't create "new" units in a history-driven game. There'd just be something inherently wrong with, for instance, taking in a heavily-customized tank into battle against a three-headed horse with a cannon built into each forehead. To compensate for the lack of unit creation in Civ 4, the makers instead tried to make unit customization still possible through the experience system, allowing players to choose certain "power-ups" for experienced units. I think it turned out fairly well, for the most part. And while combat may seem very daunting at first, there are a lot of interface clues you can use to figure out how you'll fare against another unit, as well as what types of units go best against what other types of units.
on Feb 06, 2006
The factions in AC all had their own very distinct personality, and it was always fun dealing with them because of that. In Civ 4, the AI seems kind of bland... I don't get anything out of contacting them... no enjoyment, just information.

While Civ 4 was an outstanding game, it lacked the personality of AC.
on Feb 06, 2006
That's the thing that bothers me about unit customization in a history game.  I'm not a history expert by any means, but there had to have been diferent varations of the same weapon through out history. Different types of swords  , guns, and of course materials to create different weapons.  It doesn't sound complicated to let's say equip a knight unit with a lance, or broad sword, etc.
on Feb 06, 2006
I like how this game looks but if Sid had re-done AC Alien Crossfire with the fixes and new graphics it would rock even harder.
I don't like being time limited like Civ 4. If it took longer to win in AC, then it took longer to win.
Looks like I am not the only one who loves AC. I am just sorry that it is so hard to find the Alien Crossfire expansion except in a laptop gaming box with an older golf game and a few others. ($20 is cheap but I just want another copy of X-fire for my kids)
on Feb 07, 2006
Yeah, I forgot about that, but the time limited games in Civilization 4 are, without a doubt, the most annoying thing in the game.

But, keep in mind that I believe Firaxis stated that their next project would be a sequel to Alpha Centauri. Yay!

Plus, hell, Galactic Civilizations is coming out soon as well. Yay*2!
on Feb 09, 2006

I think the social choices in Alpha Centauri were much more in-depth, and they really gave AC a lot more replayability than Civilization 4. The effects of governments are pretty weak in Civ4, plus it is often the case that later governments = better. In Alpha Centauri, you could use completely different social engineering choices to make your civilization in a given game ultra-powerful in different ways.

So for instance you could have a Hive Police State with Power social choices, and just have TONS of units built with very little maintenance cost; plus these many dozens of units help keep your citizens in check when you aren't fighting. Or you could have a Morganite free market society, and instantly build anything you want anywhere via tapping your vast economic resources. Of course you could go for the more Gaian social options, and have bonuses for fungus and forest squares plus an enhanced ability to capture, train, and maintain a Mindworm army. Your territory would actually look different based on your strategy, and the game would play out completely differently.

Your choice of civ in Alpha Centauri mattered a lot more than it does in Civ4, they had the freedom to make each side the avatar of different ideals because they didn't have to avoid real-world prejudice like if they used present-day nations and religions. Though again because of the powerful social engineering options, you could change tactics later on.

And the end-game technological victory? APOCALYPTIC. The Civ 4 technological victory is a mere whimper in comparison. Even without the 'perk' system, AC's unit customization was also much more potent than Civ 4's.

Of course, AC didn't come out in 2005.. but if it had, Civ 4 wouldn't even come close for me.
on Feb 09, 2006
Lets not forget that the psychic worms are much cooler then barbarian hordes.  What sounds more deadly, axe attack ,or  having your brain destroyed from the inside out.
on Feb 10, 2006
AC was a good Sfi-Fi turn base stratgey game but it still not as balanced as Civ4. Too many thing in AC was just to overpowering like customizting units; this really only benefit the player. This was one reason I didn't like armies in Civ3 conquest as the AI couldn't handle them thus breaking the game. So for me, AC doesn't rank as high as Civ series because of the balancing issue. Keep things balance is even more important when it comes to multiplayer. There a reason why you see stuff like "game of the month" for civ series while AFAIK not for AC.
This is why Galciv2 sounds so promising to me that the AI will benefit from customization as well. If this is true then Galciv2 will be the first to remain challenging with customizing units.
on Mar 25, 2007
I love starting new games, that's my biggest problem, I find the early struggles of building up an empire the funnest part, then once I'm so powerful that I have nothing to fear, it gets boring. So I have troubles continuing my old games...
on Nov 19, 2007
just got it on Saturday. my mom got mad because i was sick and infected the key board because i played the game for 4 hours straight. man this is a good game.