Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization
|a game by||Firaxis Games, Inc.|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 2 votes|
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Sid Meier Has been making strategy games since before you were a dirty thought in your dad's mind, and almost everything he has done is unutterably brilliant. So good is Mr Meier at putting together turn-based classics that you wonder whether it runs in the family. Did his dad design Risk? Was his greatgrandfather the guy who came up with Monopoly? Did one of his ancestors think up chess? Only Wikipedia can tell.
Civilization - upon which this game is based - is the Citizen Kane of videogames; a gaming classic destined to forever be remembered and played, like Checkers, Go, Mahjong, or kiss-chase.
The original Colonization surfaced back in 1993 and this update is again a brilliant Civilization-esque epic where you play one of the first European settlers in the Americas, trying to establish a colonial empire strong enough to fight off the pesky natives and other greedy European invaders, with the final aim of reaching independence from your homeland.
As it uses the same engine and shares similarities in combat and production, from one angle Colonization can look like just a glossy Civilization mod. This angle, however is the viewpoint of a bitter simpleton. Colonization is its own animal, a fabulous beast with claws that can tear holes in your gaming/life balance, its veins coursing with pure strategy-crack, its dung steaming pats of pure gameplay.
It vaults a bar of quality far higher than any of the Firaxis-designed mods that form part of Civilization IVs expansions Beyond the Sword and Warlords.
The game kicks off with you in charge of a boat stuffed full of religious fanatics and venomous criminals, the kind of people who founded the United States, (and to judge by its current government, still comprise it today). With this motley crew of European outcasts, you have the task of founding a colonial empire capable of standing on its own two feet Early turns are a simple matter of appropriating some land from unsuspecting and sadly trusting natives, starting your first settlement, and getting a viable economy going. As tends to be the way in games of empire building, there are crops to be planted, trees to be lumbered, ore to be mined, and fish to be caught to feed your hungry imperialists. What's immediately impressive is the flexibility you have in changing the professions and specialities of your settlers, who're bussed in on your ships as they nip hither and thither over the Atlantic. One minute, they're picking cotton under the hot sun. The next, some local chief looks at your wagon train funny, so you tool them up with some muskets and send them off to bayonet his squaws. And finally, you change them into missionaries, and send them into the natives' remaining village to convert them into servile Christians, just like all those other poor servants, slaves and assorted underlings busting their balls on your tobacco plantations.
At its heart, Colonization is about trading. Sometimes you will barter with the local Indians, who will give you valuable furs and silver for any old shiny tat you can ship over from corner shops in Europe. But mostly you will trade directly with your homeland in the Old World, capitalising on the apparent legions of folk looking to smoke and drink themselves into early graves with the help of your fine rum and cigars, earning the dollars you need to buy guns, tools, horses and other means of violence. While the number crunching in all of this can be a little scary, once you get your head round it, the challenge of running a successful economy is one of the game's strengths.
That there are only three types of military land unit (soldier, cannon, cavalry) in Colonization shouldn't stop you from wreaking hell on your neighbours. The Indians aren't too much trouble until they get their hands on white man's shooting irons. Your European co-colonisers are a different matter, seeing as they too can call upon heavy artillery. And the army of the King, sent to kick your arse when you try to go independent, is a juggernaut for which you'd better be ready.
That's the really great thing about Colonization - that it goes out with a bang. Unlike in Civilization where all too often thejgame finishes with a screen saying everyone's flown off to Alpha Centuri, in Colonization things come to a close with the mother of all battles, when your King sends a twatting great big army over to smash the crap out of you as soon as you dare mention the word.
In the end, Colonization is not quite as awesomely mindblowingly epic as Civ IV, but it's not far off. Your sleeping eating/socialising/working habits may fall rapidly into disrepair, but hey, what comes first - life, or liberty?
Native Americans get it in the neck once more
As in history, movies, books and television, the poor old Native Americans get short thrift in Colonization. They start as masters of a continent, living in a state of innocence among its Edenic splendour. They end having been shot, burned and starved out of anywhere worth living, left to rot in the deserts and swamps. You too can take the traditional route and wipe them all out, stealing their land and treasure as you go. Or you take a more gentle route, becoming their allies, learning their skills, buying their land, establishing religious missions in their tee-pees, and plying them with booze and cigars. Either way, they are screwed. Sadly there's no option to play as the Navajo, or another Native American nation, and drive the white devils back into the sea.