6,000 years of fun packed into a single game.
by Steve Butts
October 21, 2005 - Let's get it out of the way right at the start: the only reason to stop playing Civilization IV is to tell other people just how good the game is. We here at IGN have been playing the game almost non-stop since we got our first playable versions. The first time we laid hands on the game we felt that Firaxis was doing something special with the series. As newer, more complete builds came our way, our expectations for the game only grew. After having spent a lot of time playing through the final version, we can safely say that Civilization IV is the best version of Civilization yet.
The first thing you need to understand is that Civilization IV is a fundamental reinvention of the franchise. Fans should be assured that all the basic concepts from Civilization are still here, but many of the more obnoxious or troublesome elements have been greatly improved upon. City production, combat, and culture have all been tweaked to allow for more intuitive application within the game. Concepts like civil disorder, predictable tech paths, pollution and the creeping pace of the late game have all benefited from substantial revisions that make them more manageable and enjoyable aspects of your strategy.
On top of these revisions, Civilization IV finally offers up a presentation worthy of the gameplay. A new graphics engine adds life and charm to the world, making the experience really come alive. The interface elements have all been refined to ease access and readability. A wealth of fantastic music highlights the entire experience with a pitch-perfect voiceover assist from Leonard Nimoy.
I'm still amazed at the way information is presented in this game. While all versions of Civilization have allowed players to dig down into the numbers behind the game mechanics, Civilization IV offers such ready access to these figures that you'll get a really good sense of how the game is working. Mousing over terrain tiles tells you what the defense bonus is, the resource yield, any special resources (and the improvement needed to utilize them), as well as the ownership of the tile. What's more, it will even list all the units in the square, their strength, movement, identity and any promotions they have.
The game map also shows off a lot of information. Since there are many more types of terrain improvements this time around, you'll be able to tell just by looking at the map whether a given tile is generating food, commerce or production. There are options you can turn on to highlight certain resources. This makes it much easier to pick out where the key deposits are. Similar options let you see military units, resource yields, cultural ownership and other factors. Since there are many more terrain improvements this time around (and since you'll need to build them before you can access strategic resources or luxuries), having this information handy makes strategic planning much more convenient.
Though the new interface is wonderful, there are a few areas where more could be done. The announcements that your rivals have completed a wonder or founded a new religion should be put right in your face, not off to the side in the smallest font the game has available. While some players might find pop-ups more obnoxious, it would certainly help me stay oriented to what's going on during the game. The comprehensive Civilopedia offers all kinds of information, but there should be cross-linking for civic types and terrain improvements. While it's not a big deal while you're just browsing, it's kind of limiting when you're selecting a new technology and can't access the other entries.