Sid Meier's Colonization

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a game by Microprose
Platform: PC (1994)
User Rating: 7.8/10 - 8 votes
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See also: Civilization Games

This is going to be the shortest, least in-depth review of one of the most complex strategy games around - but I'm keeping things brief and concise for a reason. Two reasons, in fact:

(a) If you're familiar with Civilisation then you'll already know roughly what to expect here: the game structure in Colonization. although deeper and more complex and with a few extra bits, is still much the same as it was in Civilisation. All you really need to know is that if you loved Civilisation, you'll love Colonization at least equally as much.

(b) If you're not familiar with Civilisation you may be thinking I should have done loads of annotated screen shots to explain what all the icons were for - but it would have made for pretty boring reading, and at the end of the day you still wouldn't have got the "flavour" of the game.

So. what I've done, to avoid boring everyone to death with annotations and graphs, is to devote most of the space on these three pages to a storyboard. You'll get a bit of information and at the same time a bit of atmosphere (hopefully). But before the storyboard, just very quickly, here are the main directives of the game.

(1) You play the part of either the English. the French, the Dutch or the Spanish (there are subtle differences). You start off with a tiny, crappy ship and a budget of 1000 gold pieces.

(2) Your orders are simple: conquer the New Lands for your mother country in any way you see fit.

(3) But you've a hidden agenda: once you have established yourself, it might be quite nice instead to cut all bonds with your mother country. Independence, in other words. (Which might not go down too well back home. Got a big army and navy yet?)

Get the drift? And there there five difficulty levels (from "bloody hard" to "forget about it"), an option for creating random maps and another to make your own. Oh and if you are one of those people who haven't seen the original Civilisation, it's worth knowing that this is a "turn-based" game, but it does somehow feel like a "realtime" game.

Download Sid Meier's Colonization


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

I know that at least one literary snob is going to write in and chastise me for doing so, but I'm going to do it anyway. Do what? Draw an analogy between computer games and novels, that's what. The majority of computer games fall into the Jackie Collins/Harold Robbins class of book: trashy, formulaic, but very popular. A good example is Leisure Suit Larry. Then there are the cult books, that spring up out of nowhere but gain a huge and loyal following, like Jack Kerouac's On The Road. The obvious computer game counterpart is Doom. There are a few books which, while attaining classic status, can be heavy going unless you're in the right frame of mind: Ulysses, for example, or The Naked Lunch, or in a computer games frame of reference, Harpoon. And finally, there are a few (very few, mind), that are undisputed classics, destined to influence other works for a long time to come: War And Peace, Heart Of Darkness, Dougal And The Blue Cat. There are so few games that come instantly to mind in this category: Elite, Lemmings, Sim City, and, of course, the immensely successful Civilization.

Created by the legendary Sid Meier (the brains behind classics like Pirates and Railroad Tycoon), Civilization is a strategy game unlike any other. It simulates the growth of a civilisation from its humble beginnings as a wandering tribe to a huge space-faring nation. It is so massive in scope, and so absorbing that, three years on, it's still in the pc charts.

Colonization has a lot in common with Civilization, but it shouldn't be thought of simply as Colonization II, because although it adopts a number of the better features from its predecessor, it also breaks some fresh ground.

History lesson

The background to the game is quite straightforward. Back in 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered a rather large lump of land we now know as America. The British in true style moved in and took it over, kicking both the Dutch and the French out of the road in the processes. Eventually the Colony, being so far away from London's influence, got restless, rebelled and declared independence. This, of course, led to the American War of Independence, and ultimately to savoury things like a democratic republic, and rather less savoury things like MacDonalds and a version of rounders replacing cricket as a national game. This is what Colonization sets out to simulate.

New World Sympathy

Colonization is essentially a re-enactment of the founding of the United States, and the Civilization aspect plays a big part in terms of founding towns, allocating resources and planning ahead. There are two different scenarios to the game. There's the realistic American scenario with a geographically correct map, and a set up that is identical every time. The second scenario is a randomly generated map which will come as a welcome relief once you've played the historical scenario a few times.

The game begins with the player controlling one of four nationalities: British, French, Spanish or Dutch. All the powers are present in the game and they're all staking their claim to the New World. You have to expand at a greater rate than the competition, make yourself more powerful and deal with the foreigners on a diplomatic level (i.e. declare war, make peace, shrug them off, hop into bed with them, or whatever).

As the game progresses, a second aspect comes into play. As your population grows and your military strength increases, there is an ever increasing possibility of fomenting rebellion. At the start your colony is too per cent loyal to the King. But as unrest grows you coax your population to support the rebels until you eventually get to a stage where you can declare independence. However, once you do this, you have to fight off the armies of the controlling nation who don't take kindly to unruly Yanks.

Civilised pursuits

Players of Civilization will feel instantly at home with the control interface. Once again, the game is tile-based, and troops, ships and other units can move a fixed number of tiles each turn. As they do, hidden parts of the landscape are gradually revealed to the player. Having established colonies at beneficial locations, it's time to allocate production, research and manage diplomatic relationships. Within each town, the player can determine which types of building to construct and what units to station there.

MicroProse has evidently put a fair bit of work into the game engine: the graphics are slicker and more professional looking and the tiles scroll smoothly. Fonts and general presentation have also been improved. Colonization has all the elements of Civilization that made it such a classic, but the more confined scope of this second game, rather than resulting in a less appealing game, has focused the gameplay to the extent that it is far easier to keep track of the finer details of your miniempire. If you are familiar with Civilization you will realise that these improvements have attended to the two main criticisms of the original game. Our early impressions are that Colonization is not going to disappoint any fans of Civilization and should be a must-buy for anyone who has yet to try the original game.

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PC Screenshots

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