Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization Review

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Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization Publisher: 2K Play (Take-Two Interactive)
Developer: Firaxis Games

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: 1.2 GHz Processor, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c compatible video card with 64 MB VRAM, 900 MB HD space, internet connection, Windows 2000 or more recent operating system

In the mid-'90s, Microprose released Sid Meier's Colonization, a Civilization-like game that explored the foundation of the American colonies, diplomacy with and exploitation of the natives, and ultimately rebellion against the mother country. Now, Colonization has been remade, using the engine from Civilization IV, bringing an incredible level of polish to the classic game that saw gamers around the world settling a new continent and declaring independence.

Kyle Ackerman

How can I loathe Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization so much when the game is simply an elaborate modification of Sid Meier's Civilization IV – a game I love deeply? What I loved about Civilization IV was the opportunity to choose my own path to victory. In Colonization, I feel like the only legitimate courses to victory involve brutalizing indigenous peoples or micromanaging my economy so that a successful revolution is a foregone conclusion. I can't bring myself to attack the natives, and the micromanagement is too much even for me, a devout micromanager.

The goal of Colonization is to found a colony on a new continent, develop it into a thriving nation and ultimately succeed in armed rebellion against an oppressive European monarchy. Using the same engine and many systems familiar from the Civilization games, players manage individual towns, growing the colony and building up a military that can resist a visit from the royal expeditionary forces sent to quell the revolution. Players are locked into 18th century military and economic technology, with an exceptional focus on building a thriving economy.

Colonization requires an incredible commitment to micromanagement for players who want to build a successful, colonial industrial base. The Civilization games required plenty of attention themselves, but I still enjoyed that level of effort, and I'm more willing to spend my gaming time focused on the miniscule details of my cities than most. Colonization requires players to manage food, wood and ore to build towns, create tools and develop a colonial military. Furthermore, the real income comes from harvesting raw resources like furs, cotton, sugar and tobacco to manufacture finished goods like cigars, cloth, coats and rum that are economical to ship back to Europe, funding the acquisition of more specialists and military hardware.

This micromanagement isn't difficult but requires a lot of time, and the automation tools for allocating colonists and shipping goods around my colony weren't nearly efficient enough for me to build a country that could resist our former king's ire. As a result, most of my hours of play were spent moving cotton from one town to another, then carting cigars and silver to the coast to ship back to Europe. A decently managed economy will allow players to easily win the revolution in a series of battles where victory is a foregone conclusion and final victory simply involves waiting a few years for the king to finish shipping his troops across the ocean.

The only real alternative to economic micromanagement is to slaughter the indigenous people of the region, and even that doesn't get rid of the micromanagement, it simply reduces it slightly. I just couldn't bring myself to attack the local tribes already occupying the new continent. Frankly, it was hard to justify, when I could usually find a decent settlement site or even purchase lands from the locals. Sadly, even in a peaceful scenario, eventually I ended up starting newspapers to preach independence and rally my population to somehow convince nearby indigenous settlements to simply walk away from their ancestral lands. Whether using guns or through the oratory of overzealous statesman, I ended up evicting nearby tribes.

Ultimately, my gripe with Colonization is with its victory conditions. If you want to slaughter indigenous peoples and micromanage a proto-industrial economy, Colonization has everything you need. It's a faithful re-imagining of the original Colonization game, but it's more like a scenario for Civilization IV. It only boasts a subset of what makes that game great. In Civilization, I revel in winning through a cultural or scientific victory. But those aren't options in Colonization, so Colonization drops the flexibility I enjoy from the Civilization formula, transforming it into a polished and technologically competent scenario. But it's a scenario sold as a full game, and it isn't one I want to play.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on October 1, 2008 6:49 PM.

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