Friday, 23 July 2010

Civilisation II Review

Civilisation II
PC – Turn Based Strategy


The Daddy. Before men spent countless hours of their lives (like I do now) playing Football Manager and guiding their team to glory on all fronts, there was another. . .

Before we spent our precious free time trying to buy a hot little Brazilian who is gonna be the next Kaka for less the £500k, there was something that changed the way we game forever.

In the old days, we played games for fun. For a laugh. To try and get to the next level. The same could be said for almost every game – even the groundbreaking ones.

Wolf3D – Shoot Nazi’s, get to the elevator, next level, repeat until Boss killed.

Super Mario Kart – Drive, throw shells, avoid banana skins, win, repeat.

Command & Conquer – Build a base, train troops, kill enemy, next level, repeat.

FIFA 96 – Whistle blows, kick football, score more than opposition, repeat.

Don’t get me wrong, I spent many hours of my youth playing all of those games with joy and I would happily play them all again today – unless you ask me to try and play the level on Wolf3D with Hitler in it . . . it scares me to this day.

Then came Civilisation II. Now I’m getting ahead of myself. Sid Meier’s Civilisation came first in 1991. However, this is a review of Civilisation II – in my opinion, still the best game in Sid Meier’s Civ series of games – although Civilisation V is out this year, we’ll soon see.

Civilisation II puts you on the world. In 4000BC, as a small nomadic tribe, with the overall task of doing one of 2 things.

Either conquer the entire world or build a spaceship and fly to Alpha Centauri.

It’s a big new world out there. Someone’s gotta have it…
Now then, Civ II has several different elements to it that are very easy to figure out, and easy to master. You have the main World Map – which is an isometric view of the world you live it. It might be a pre-made map, like the World or Europe or it might be a completely random map with no similarities to our little Earth in any way apart from the grass is green and the sea is blue, and almost every time I play, I gun straight for the French.

To start with the world map is just your little nomad unit, or 2 little nomad units if you’re lucky, a little bit of land and maybe water around you, and of course the fog of war. Even though at the moment, it’s just you. The more you explore however, the more land and water you find, the larger your Civilisation grows.

Your first real job in the game is to establish your Civ in the form of a capital city. All of these cities are pre-set, so for the English – London is your capital, the Germans – Berlin, Russians – Moscow etc.

However you can change the name of your city to anything you want, Fuckersville, Arsemagnetaria, Clungeton to name a few examples of rudery in gaming – which is something we at MonkeyBoxGaming take very fucking seriously. Bitches.

In any case, this is basically a chance for people to relive the last 6000 years and to make it right. The French get crushed before they’ve even heard of that Marie Antoinette bird, the American’s get destroyed and sing God Save the King at the beginning of everyday, and the Chinese don’t even have a Great Wall. No way baby. I built that in Nottingham.

Of course, you don’t have to be forceful and aggressive, that’s just me. You could be very diplomatic. Make love, not war. Befriend the Germans, the Zulus and the Persians, get luvvy duvvy with the Sioux and the Japanese. But exploit them for all they’re worth. Move your nomads around the world, settling in the furthest reaches of the planet, becoming stronger by being clever. And eventually say “Cheerio” to the world as your Civ takes to the stars with as little blood shed as you can possibly have – which the game rewards as much as warfare.

Then there is the City Screen. This micro-management is where the big stuff happens. Yes on the world map, your units can build roads to new cities, or defeat barbarian hordes or decimate the rainforest – but the City Screen is where it’s at. That’s where the cool kids play, that’s where you can win the game.

London as it was about 6000 years ago. Complete with palace and taxes.

In the City Screen you can see a wealth of information, such as what the city is currently building, what units are within the city, what city improvements there are and how happy the population is.

Now population happiness is another key element to the game. If your population are unhappy, they’re gonna riot. If they riot, your city will do nothing. It wont build anything and wont make you money. Also the game rewards happiness as well, and since you want to be remembered as The Great or The Magnificent, and not The Feeble – you’re going to want to make sure your people are happy.

You can do this by building certain improvements, like a Temple, Cathedral or Colosseum. Or by increasing the amount of Luxuries in your Tax screen.
Also in the City Screen you can build Wonders. Earlier, I mentioned having the Great Wall in Nottingham and not – as history and geography will tell you – in China. Well it’s simple. You can. You can have the Pyramids in London, the Statue of Liberty in Moscow or Shakespeare’s Theatre in Bombay.

Each Wonder will also grant your Civ a special attribute or ability to give you an edge over opposing Civs. The Collossus for example gives your city more trade, giving you more money from that city. The Great Library gives you technologies that 2 other Civs have already discovered, giving you a scientific edge and the Great Wall means that in all talks with opposing Civs, they must offer a cease-fire or a peace treaty regardless of what you’ve just done or how they feel about you. These are to name a few, but of course it’s not that simple.

Every time you have your turn, the other Civs are working away, making cities, discovering new technologies and expanding. They too want what you want - to win. And if they can gain an edge through Wonder’s they sure will.

Xena was hairier in Civ II than in the TV show…

Units that you can use in this game vary from age to age, and depending on what technologies you’ve discovered and even to what Wonders of the World you have. If for example you don’t have Leonardo’s Workshop – which upgrades all of your units to its successor as soon as a new tech is discovered – you could have Joe Warrior going into battle being helped along by Stealth Bombers and Nukes.

Of course this is unlikely but possible, but the more techs your Civ discovers, the more advanced your units become. And that is exactly what you want in the battlefield. You want your Marines going into battle against Musketeers and Archers. You want your Cavalry to stampede over your opponents Phalanx. Of course you do, you want the best odds of winning a battle or a war. Who doesn’t??

The small hut of Dublin surrounded by its mystical white wall.

There are also many, many features on the game which make it very replayable. You don’t have to stick with the conventional map of the Earth, you can have a completely random world which is arid or wet, depending on how you set it, or where the land mass is large but made up of archipelagos.

There are also, of course, the different government types, 6 types in all that you can choose as and when you discover them – well I suppose 6 ½ government types, since Anarchy is technically classed as one. It

When you switch government types, your Civ will enter a short period of Anarchy. Unless you have the Statue of Liberty – then you don’t get so much of it. The 6 actual types of governments however are:

• Despotism – Which offers little in the way of any benefits. But it is the default government at the beginning of the game. It does the job at the start when your Civ is small, but becomes less useful the further in the game you get, and the bigger your Civ grows.
• Monarchy – Much the same as Despotism – however the richer echelons in society have more freedom, so you’re a smidge more productive.
• Fundamentalism – Under Fundamentalism, there is one major benefit. Nobody is ever unhappy! However you produce half the science of any other government – making this a very hard government type to get far in the game.
• Communism – Personally my favourite government type in the game (just as a disclaimer, this has no bearing on my ACTUAL thoughts on Communism). The major benefits I find is that you get absolutely no corruption in Communism, doesn’t matter how big your Civ grows, Corruption and therefore productivity never faulters. Also in my experience, because the land is shared by the people, there isn’t as much unhappiness. And lastly you don’t ever get the Senate bothering you to stop doing something, or signing peace treaties behind your back!!
• Republic – What a bother. If you want to advance militarily in the game, don’t even think about having a Republic. The more units you have not in Friendly cities or Fortresses – makes more unhappy citizens, which halts productivity. Also during a successful war, your senate might force a peaceful solution! Bastards!!! I want to destroy those Persians! Not become “friends”! Urgh. Also if you want any remote chance of keeping the people happy – you’ll have to lower how much money you spend on Science, and put it into Luxuries.
• Democracy – Much the same as Republic. However in a Democracy instead of 1 unhappy citizen per unit not in a friendly zone, you get 2 unhappy citizens per unit not in a friendly zone. Double the unhappiness!! Double Wank! Now the benefit is that your units and cities are immune to bribery – which is great! No spies or diplomats can convert your cities away from your Civ! Which is great if you again didn’t have the senate there forcing peace treaties. The other benefit is like Communism – no corruption or waste! Much higher productivity. If it wasn’t for the major downsides to Democracy (again, IN GAME not real life opinions) I would pick it more over Communism.

Then there is science. Technology upgrades, techonology trees which branch off and let you discover more technologies. Technologies which need to be discovered along with other technologies to create newer Military Units, build new Wonders of the World and of course – discover even newer technologies.

For example to discover Refrigeration, you wouldn’t have though that you’d need to know about Pottery or Metallurgy would you? However without those techs, helping to lead you onto sanitation and electricity you can’t get Refrigeration.

Ahh yes, Pottery – that key element to buying a fridge.

There is a simplicity about this game which for me puts it head and shoulders above the newer Civs in the series. This simplicity makes it easy to learn, master and play. I recently tried Civ IV for the first time the other day. After completing the tutorial I felt that the game would be more hard work than play but I’m sure after putting the hours in it would be just as fun.

Learning the tricks and tactics of Civ II is a joy which makes this game one that can stand the test of time, in years to come after the last Civ game has been published, I’m sure people will look back on the series and say the same thing – Civ II conquered all. It really would take something special to knock it off it’s pedestal.

This is a game of epic proportions. You must nurture and cradle your Civ until it’s big enough and bold enough to seek out new lands and kick some serious arse if need be. You must be clever, cunning, ruthless and domestic all at the same time. You need to think tactically, aggressively and patiently. You need to destroy the French.

This game is amazing, after so many years it still grips me to my chair to sit and play it until stupid o’clock in the morning because I just want to get that advance, or build that Wonder. This game for me, will always be there, no matter how many new Civs Sid Meier churns out every couple of years, this Civ will remain top of the class.

Quick Summary: A fantastic Turn Based Strategy for the PC where you start life with a nomad and can end it with a space trip to Alpha Centauri. Addictive, fun, easy to master, epic. Quite simply one of the best games of all time.

Rating: 5/5 - Epic Gaming.