Civilization II

a game by Activision, and Microforum
Platforms: PC PSX
Rating: 9/10

Overview

Activision has converted the award-winning PC game to the PlayStation platform. Most people are very familiar with the setting -- you’re the ruler of a young civilization struggling to survive and grow from 4000 BC to the space age 2020 AD. Most of us have devoted hours sitting in front of the PC trying to build up our empire and enticing our subjects to give us a better throne room. But those days were dealt a death blow years ago by real-time strategy games like Warcraft, Starcraft and Age of Empires.

Gameplay

Don’t bother playing unless you have a LOT of time on your hands. After the cities have grown to a reasonable size, it takes what seems like forever for the computer to complete its moves. I recommend having a book handy so that you can finish a chapter or two before it becomes your turn again.

I found the graphical interface extremely clunky. Once a unit was selected, the only way I could get it unselected so that I could move to other areas was to bring up the map view and then dismiss it. It would have been nice if the game didn't make you perform two operations for something that should only take one. The PlayStation paddle comes equipped with enough buttons that this should be uncalled for. The game also seems to screech with glee each time it thwarts your attempts to move around and view the layout of the enemy cities and troops. Eventually I got so tired of trying to scope out the area that I just moved my troops in the general direction of where I thought I remembered seeing the enemy.

I’ve been a little rough on the game so far. I bet you’re asking, "Isn’t there ANYTHING about the game you liked?" Sure there is. The reason Civilization II on the PC became the number one selling game in history was because of the rich choices of civilizations, troops and strategy you have at your fingertips. Starting a new game takes a while, but it’s because you have a myriad number of choices that can make each game unique and up to par with your empire-building skills. The game tests your ability to manage numerous troops.

Civilization II does take a whopping 10 blocks of memory per game, which I suppose can be attributed to all the statistics it has to hold. So don’t be disappointed if you move your civilization along at a nice clip and decide it’s time to go to work or school, only to discover that you don’t have enough blocks free on your card.

Graphics

I have a pretty large TV, or at least it felt that way when my brother and I carried it in. But I obviously should have invested in a movie theatre-sized screen if I wanted to play this game. The text is so small that you’ll find yourself pressing your face against the screen with a magnifying glass, trying to decipher what it says. The units are so small that you’ll often select the wrong soldiers or wonder what kind of unit you have under your pointer.

Bottom Line

Unless you’re a die-hard Civilization fan and proudly display it as your Windows desktop theme, don’t bother buying this game. The graphics are too small, the user interface is clunky, and Activision missed a golden opportunity to take the best-selling game of all time to the next level.

Download Civilization II

User Reviews

Overview

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it took a while, but Civilization II is finally out. And yes, most of the neat little improvements, bells, and whistles that were promised are in the final version. However, that may not be as many as you are expecting. While Civ II is indeed a wonderful game, it is important that it be presented as simply the next generation of Civilization, not a radically new product. Microprose has presented it as such, and to coin a phrase, if you liked the original you will love the sequel.

Oh, what's Civilization, you ask? In case you have been in solitary confinement or were raised by wolves, Civ is quite possibly the best game of its genre of all time. In it, you are in charge of the management of a civilization (hence the name), deciding how to expand, develop and progress. It involves city management, military planning, scientific research, negotiation, strategy and everything that trigger-happy Doom/Quake meisters like myself usually shy away from. At first thought, it sounds kind of like history homework. However, if you give it a chance, it really grows on you (as millions of Civ addicts undoubtedly know.) In fact, I was amazed at the number of sleepless nights I spent trying to develop gunpowder or secure the Arabian peninsula. In fact, I don't remember ever telling myself "just five more minutes ..." so many times in a row.

Gameplay

This is where Civ II really delivers. If you are the type who played SimCity (or any of its variants) throughout the night in order to recover from the recent (un)natural disaster or implement your new anti-crime/traffic/fire plan, you'd better be sure your calendar is open before getting this game. While there may be flaws in its execution, in general buying Civ II for a Civ or SimCity junkie is like passing bootleg around at the local AA meeting. It is quite addictive. Again, this depends on the type of game you like. If you prefer a warm shotgun over an Aegis cruiser or would rather study the finer points of using the BFG than negotiate with Mongol tribes, this game may not be for you. But then again, it just might.

If you have at least a passive interest in simulation, development, strategy, history or the like, I recommend this game. Not only does it give you a varying level of detail through auto-implementation options and difficulty levels, it also leads to a variety of strategies. For instance, do you give tribute to the cocky English in order to secure a peace treaty, or do you instead build better defenses and armies to take back what is rightfully yours? Even if you do opt for the treaty, do you break it in order to secure a financial gain or will you keep your word in order to keep a clean reputation with other countries?

Microprose added a certain level of detail and realism to negotiation and other areas that were somewhat neglected in the original game. One of the first things I noticed was that when I played as a vicious warlord, taking land and breaking promises, other civilizations soon learned that I was not to be trusted and treated me with disdain. I guess that was what I was looking for in the first place. If I can play against the computer and treat it like a little kid without getting my fanny whacked for it, I'd rather be deathmatching. Civ II plays well in this sense, providing a wide enough variety of challenges and responses that you won't fall asleep at the wheel -- or at least if you do, you can expect to pay for your mistake in spades.

In short, I think that Civ II combines the strong points of the original Civ with some wonderful improvements in gameplay, making for a comfortable yet refreshing game. The game is fun to play and is not too complicated, especially if you have played Civilization before. In order to help you acclimate to the changes, the manual carries a good deal of information directed specifically to players of Civilization. If the Civilization II network patch comes out as promised, I am going to be very glad to have gotten this game. If not, I'll still like it a lot.

Installation/Setup

Although I did not do extensive testing (a couple of installs, maybe), I found the installation process to be easy and trouble-free. It did not take too long before I was getting my fanny conquered by everyone from Aztecs to Zulus. The degree to which you may have problems will vary between systems, but I found the setup to be straightforward and smooth. In addition, the in-game customization and setup was very convenient; whenever I thought, "I wish I could change that ..." I usually could, thanks to the in-game help.

Graphics/Audio

While this is by no means a multimedia tour de force, I must admit that Civ II is a nice step up from both the original game and other titles in the same vein. Not only do the SVGA graphics add a great deal of fun and ease of use to the game, but also multimedia clips, good unit sounds, and neat abstract graphical details add a lot to an already very playable game. Units are all detailed and colorful enough to distinguish without any problems, and battles are often fun because of the accompanying sounds, such as roaring elephants and roughriders charging with bugles trumpeting. In addition, I always looked forward to new technologies because they meant that I could see a video of my latest development. Even if those get annoying, you can turn those down or off.

While the graphics are not necessarily a breakthrough, I think that the audio and video included should set a standard for future games. After all, if you have a whole CD, you might as well fill it with something. One thing that all users may not like is the music. While it is not bad, it is simple MIDI files that are not the richest you have heard, to say the least. However, Microprose gives you the option of specifying which music you want (or don't want) to hear, or you can just shut it off. All in all, the multimedia aspect of the game is relatively good, especially for a "thinker" kind of game.

So What's New?

Since Civ II is about 85% Civ and 15% new stuff, I'll focus on the differences between the two. There are quite a few, so I'll try to cover the most important ones. If you have played Civilization, imagine Civ II as a remodeled version with the same chassis, but a new engine and a beautiful paint job. First of all, the game is in SVGA, a dramatic improvement over the original. In addition, the map view has changed from a square view to the ever-popular isometric view. Therefore, you now look at terrain from a diagonal angle. In order to distinguish individual squares on the map (one of my personal frustrations with the original), the game includes an option that lets you overlay a map grid upon the terrain, thus showing divisions in territory and allowing you to plan cities and prevent overlapping.

Also worthy of mention are the changes in the combat engine. Military units are now more detailed, including defense and firepower strengths, as well as a varying "health" that varies between the two states of "dead" and "living" that existed in the first game. Therefore, if you get in a fight, your unit may win the battle, but be damaged or injured in the conflict. As a result, you need to either rest the unit (preferably in a town) to recover, or walk it around damaged and take the risk of it getting killed more easily. In addition, there are greater numbers of units to choose from, giving you more of a varied army.

In addition, the areas of diplomacy, research, and management have been improved greatly. There are more technologies, technological dead-ends have been removed, terrain and cities are more detailed and specific, and diplomacy is more realistic. I was impressed that finally, other civilizations get pretty miffed if you keep breaking treaties. If you are a tyrant, they will notice and be careful with you, often refusing even to consider a treaty or other such agreement. In addition, the Wonders have now been given little video/audio clips that present and celebrate such achievements, adding a feeling of polish to the game.

Documentation

Since this is something that has been very lacking in games as of late, I think it is important to let game companies know that we still want a manual. Fortunately, Microprose headed us off at the pass with Civ II. Not only do you get a hefty (i.e. specific, but not quite a tome) manual, but also a large poster giving development trees and strengths of various military units. This made it very easy to get into the groove of the game, and I think that would be true for both the new player and the very experienced Civ ver. If I could, I would give a round of applause for coming through in this area. Since the game is so complicated, online help (pretty good in this case, I must admit) just doesn't always cut it. Three cheers for good manuals!

Computer AI

While the computer may act like a bonehead at times, I found that in general the AI was satisfactory at its worst and frustrating at its best. While there are occasional loopholes and tricks that you can pull on the computer, I found that in general it is much smarter than the enemy in the original game. In addition, it can be really angering with the new reputation that you carry in negotiations, because once you are in a treaty or pact that you want to break (but can't), you have to convince him to withdraw from the agreement without breaking it yourself.

In addition, one of the factors that I learned to like was the entrenchment factor. As technology advances, wars get more and more expensive. In other words, what would be a fairly manageable war in the early game would be prohibitively expensive in the later game, when defensive technologies are more advanced and cities are well-fortified. This pushes the character more towards negotiation than war, although both paths are equally viable in many situations. In the long run, the peaceful path leads to a space race, where the warlord attitude leads to a war of annihilation for one side (or both).

In addition, there is a good variety in difficulty settings, and at the highest level (Deity), it is very challenging (at least for a mere mortal like me). I just wish I could wade in with my BFG and chaingun at times. Therefore, even when you get good at the game there is a great deal of playability at higher levels, where challenges increase and the computer babies you less and less.

Reviewed On

P-133, 16 MB RAM, 64-bit video card

Bottom Line

While those looking for a revolutionary new game may not be entirely satisfied, any serious gamer who can even imagine enjoying this game probably will. While Microprose did not build an entirely new beast with this game, I feel that they kept the best of the original and changed weaker points in regards to user input. If you find yourself still playing Civilization every once in a while, or even if you want to, get this game. It may not be perfect, but it's pretty darn good. In fact, if this were an original release (not a sequel), I think it would be given immediate enshrinement. It's a great game, and I give it a 94. It could be a little better, but I'm so busy looking at the things I like that it's hard to remember the things I don't. If only the Civ II Net Pack is a patch and not an entirely separate product, I'll be in heaven. And if I do hear that nasty Cyberdemon calling again, there's always the Aegis cruiser ...

reggie posted a review

Other games by
Activision

X More on GameFabrique Tiny Toons - Buster's Hidden Treasure

Download Tiny Toons - Buster's Hidden Treasure