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Civilization IV Preview

publisher: 2K Games
developer: Firaxis Games
genre: Management

PIV 1200, 256MB RAM, 1.7GB HDD, 64MB video card
ESRB rating: E

release date: Oct 24, 05
» All About Civilization IV on ActionTrip

There was a time when the first thing I would do in the morning would be to turn my computer on and start Civilization. Civilization was one of the big obsessions of my life, taking up to twelve hours of my time every day. It did not bother me I was starting to lose friends, and if I was invited to a party, I would instantly produce a satisfying explanation of why I couldn't go - I had to play Civilization. It made sense. I still feel nostalgic when I reminiscence about the old times, when the Tokugawa empire was the most powerful force on the planet, preparing for the galactic race and the colonization of other worlds.

While I never got hooked on Alpha Centauri, I remained a loyal fan of the Civilization franchise despite its unhealthy influence on me, sometimes making me clench my fists in frustration while I promised myself I would get my revenge on the world if I did not capture "that damn city." "Just one more turn," I'd say, "just one more turn, and I'll...!" And when I finally thought the game held no influence over me anymore, I found out that the latest iteration in the Civilization series finally gets rid of some highly irritating and time-wasting options, which marred the otherwise addictive and engaging game play. I have no friends left, so I don't have to think about the delicate mechanisms of social awareness. Since I have no social life, I must look forward to other things like where we stand when the fourth title in the popular series is in question.

The new Civilization brings the familiar concept of playing the leader of a nation of your choice and securing your position in the world by peaceful and/or military expansion and technological advancement, covering the usual period from 4000 BC to 2050 AD. This time, the game will introduce some minor changes, which are mostly cosmetic in nature, such as replacing the shields needed for building objects or units by hammers. However, the fourth Civilization game will also bring some important innovations, which will significantly influence the game play and even alter to a degree the basic concept of the game (Don't mess with the formula if it works -Ed). Most importantly, the element of religion has now been introduced, so your nation will be able to convert to one of the seven great world religions such as Buddhism or Christianity and gain a certain bonus on its account, as well as to regulate the nation's happiness. Of course, each religion will have its good and bad sides, allowing you to intensify your style of play as well as to convert other cities to your religion through missionaries. This is useful, as by spreading your religion, you gain power and spread your influence in the world. Owning the holy city (the capital of the religion) allows the player the line of sight for all cities that belong to the same religion. Religions also feature different wonders - this time, we are supposed to see 30 wonders of the world and enjoy their visually enticing animations (as well as advisor videos in the diplomacy screen, which are once again present in the game).

The concept of government is present as always, albeit with some slight differences. This time, your political aspect will be determined by the way you approach certain political, economical, and social issues. This way, the game won't present you with the sterile model of picking a suitable government, as you will be allowed to adopt the model that suits your needs best and corresponds to your style of play and your general views. There are no featured governments to choose from, so you will be able to tweak your own government by employing the civics. The Civics include five areas, such as Government, Legal, Labor, Economy, and Religion; they enable you to allow the freedom of speech, or slavery (even when it includes only one race of your choice), and such. These elements influence your government formation.

The game also holds to the familiar concept of nation, with 18 nations in all, including some major world powers as well as some extinct nations. Every nation will feature two playable leaders. Depending on which nation and which leader you chose, you will be able to gain a specific bonus. This also determines your style of play, giving you certain upgrades or advantages over other nations. Also, the "more flexible" tech tree featuring "more tactical choices" will supposedly allow you extra customization of your nation by avoiding linearity in choosing your tech path. Technologies won't be limited to certain ages, meaning they will be free for everyone to explore. The option of always following the same path in order to obtain a specific technology is no longer present. You will be able to choose between several different paths in order to obtain the technology you want, which introduces dynamics even into this aspect of play. In fact, Firaxis claims to have dedicated themselves to making the new Civilization more dynamic, playing at a faster pace and leaving out the boring or frustrating details, such as the never-ending struggle to clean pollution in an effort that resembles Sisyphus' job of ever rolling the same rock uphill. This time, the pollution has been replaced by health status present in your city, which is regulated by balancing food types and erecting certain buildings. It's obvious that factories will have a bad influence on the city's health status, while certain food types will tend to improve it (Like Twinkies? Mmmmmm. Twinkies. -Ed.).

Firaxis also promised some new buildings, wonders, and units (on the other hand, some units have been left out, or replaced). What's especially interesting about this is that the game will feature the so-called Great People units, including many famous figures from the history such as Plato, Isaac Newton, or Shakespeare. These units give you specific bonuses and advantages, but they also help your cities more specialized in a specific area. These units come in five categories - artist, scientist, engineer, tycoon, and prophet. It is also possible to introduce some sort of a 'Golden Age' in your city if you manage it well; you will be granted certain bonuses for a specific amount of time. It's also interesting that the city riots have been replaced by 'lazy workers' - if they are not satisfied, they stop working instead of rioting. What has happened to the revolutionary spirit, one may ask?

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