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Sid Meier

Gw

Posted by: jkdmedia

Gamezone Review Rating 8.5 Great

I am SO glad I’m out of school now! When Civilization IV was released, I had just gone back to college and was very busy with school, family and church. Civilization IV was a distraction I didn’t need. And then came the expansions, which meant even more reasons to not study or do homework. Or eat. Or bathe.

But thankfully, now I have a little more free time to play.

I didn’t play the original Colonization; that was the year our family purchased our very first computer. I was busy playing adventure games from Sierra and The Lucas Company, and didn’t get a taste of strategy games until Caesar III. Then I became hooked, but I never encountered Colonization. So, my perspective on this game is based on experiences with Civilization III and IV and their expansion packs.

Colonization is not an expansion of Civ IV. It doesn’t offer major new content or enhancements to Civ IV, other than improved graphics and a more streamlined and intuitive interface. It uses the same engine as Civ IV, and the same overall gameplay, but it is more of a magnified “cutout,” as it were, of Civ IV. It is a stand-alone game and doesn’t require Civ IV to play. It doesn’t have the Tech Tree, as technology isn’t a consideration.

The whole game is focused on the colonial expansion period of Europe. Players can choose to play as one of several major European powers, such as the Dutch, Spanish or English, among others, and set up their colonies in the new world. Each game, whether single- or multi-player, whether in scenario or play now mode, has but one goal: Le Revolution! Plant a colony, then immediately plan on the optimum route for instilling the requisite revolutionary spirit in the people and train them to fight against the superior forces that will most assuredly come calling when independence is declared. Power to the people!

This extremely linear goal requires a lot of planning and forethought. Money is essential for colonist growth, training, route building, and weapons. You name it, you will need it. Balancing the production of each settlement against the need for increased workers and services is quite a challenge, and is sure to keep everyone busy. Players will have to stay on top of their game plan at all times; it is not possible to put the game on autopilot and sit back to reap the rewards.

In the beginning, players will have a ship with a couple of passengers to start a colony. There is no explanation on what to do with this ship. Experienced Civ players will know they need to move the ship and make landfall, but new players may be a little confused. Fortunately, the interface has been improved a bit and is more streamlined and navigable. The pop-up tooltips of each menu button give enough direction to get moving, and then a series of pop-up tutorial windows kicks in.

 

Don’t be like me, though, and accidently click on the buttons at the left of the bottom screen. My first game foray, I inadvertently turned off the unit displays and thought my graphics card was having issues, as my ship had disappeared and I couldn’t see any units anywhere. The helpful Firaxis people kindly set me straight and refrained from overt sarcasm, at least directly to me. Ah well, these things are meant to keep us humble.

One thing that is missing from Colonization is the tutorial design from the Civ IV games. There are tutorials present, but they are tutorials in name only. In practicality, they are actually more like “tips” for players. Players won’t even get the first one until after they move the ship and place it on land. Then, windows will pop-up from time to time and explain new possible actions such as having units join settlements, sending units to live in villages for training, the new Settlement Screen, and other moves. I sure missed Sid and his expert advice from Civ IV. I wonder why he didn’t make animated tutorials for Colonization.

This lack of detailed explanation, coupled with the extreme linear and fast pace of the game, may present a steep learning curve for Civ beginners. However, the manual is excellent in design and content, and the in-game Civilpedia has all the necessary information and then some. I recommend that new players take the time to read the manual and look up confusing issues in the Civilpedia. However, be prepared to restart several times in the beginning until some of the necessary beginning strategies are learned.

The interface is basically designed the same as previously, but has been changed a little to become more cohesive and user-friendly. The biggest change to the interface is the Settlement Screen, which is the city information screen. When clicked, this menu function displays a full screen of information about the city, presented as a sort of “map” of the settlement. The buildings are represented by drawings, with silhouettes of possible workers beside them. Assigned workers fill these silhouettes and can be dragged from one worker slot to the other. How easy is that?

 

Detailed information will pop-up when the cursor is passed over the map item. And, each possible commodity is listed in a row of icons at the bottom of this screen, with numbers of plus and minus production and consumption rates.

It’s important to hit the ground running. Building important structures will take a lot of turns, so there is no time to waste. Unlike Civ games, only a few units are built. The bulk of units will either be produced automatically by the settlements, or will be immigrants that are periodically spawned from Europe. These units are either basic types of farmers, fishermen or goods producers, or are expert versions of these units. Experts will produce more material. A new feature is the ability to “hurry” up building for a price, yeah!

These experts can be either recruited from Europe, or be trained at home. Many of the native villages offer different types of production expertise and are more than willing to train anyone that comes to stay with them in the village. However, the natives are only skilled in the production of raw goods. Manufacturing is beyond their capabilities. Players can also build schools to train workers. This type of training takes a while to implement broadly at first, though, so be prepared to spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to Europe to fetch immigrants.

This oceanic traveling is quite fun. It’s neat to keep getting messages about people who want to come to America, and it doesn’t take much effort to send the ship back and forth. Just click a menu button to send her on! The immigrants that generate the messages are available for free; they just want to come to America. There are also possible immigrants who can be “hurried” by paying in gold to become available for transport. These early transport ships can only hold a few cargo items at a time, either immigrants or goods. Players need to consolidate trips and always have a full ship.

Money is vital. In order to advance, big bucks are required fast. Money is easy to earn, though, with the use of transport ships and wagon trains to carry goods between settlements and countries. It’s not hard to set up trade routes, but keeping up with them is more difficult once they are in place. A more detailed and graphically oriented trade screen would be helpful. Also, getting to the trade options is not as streamlined as other aspects of the game. The manual does a good job of trade explanation, though.

The goal is to declare independence from the Motherland. All this time, the ruling power has been making more and more outrageous demands for money and other goods. Finally, it is time to set the revolutionary wheels in motion. This will result in the immediate arrival of armies from Europe to teach the Americans a lesson.

The revolutionary spirit is essential for this event. Players will earn Liberty Bells for their settlements during gameplay by designating workers as Statesmen, constructing certain types of buildings and recruiting certain Founding Fathers. A Rebel Sentiment of 50% is required for declaring independence. Getting in the real spirit of revolution is made easy by the extreme antics of the monarch. Give me money, kiss my ring! Grrr….

In order to win the game, players will have to fight the European forces that will be landing soon. Combat is accomplished in a similar fashion to other Civ IV games, where units will duke it out one tile at a time. Units can earn combat experience points by fighting the natives and other competing colonies, but this can be counterproductive. The natives are very helpful and most players are not going to want to go to war with them, but rather live in peace and reap the benefits of training and gifts. Likewise with the other powers on the continent. Winning the game will require some fine-tuning to the general game strategy, and probably necessitate at least one restart to the game to have a final successful outcome. Colonization isn’t forgiving in this respect.

When declaring independence, players can design their constitution and reap different bonuses for the given choices. Slavery, or not? Monarchy or republic?

Colonization is a more focused and smaller approach to the world of Civ IV. By no means is it an easier or dumbed-down version, it is more “contained,” if you will. I prefer this approach, as it helps me to have specific set goals to achieve in strategy games, rather than have several choices of winning criteria. All the desired strategy is present, and it is actually rather difficult to achieve victory in the end, as a few little miscalculations can totally derail any chance for success.

The goal is always the same for each game session, but don’t think that the game is the same every time. Different approaches to victory can be applied, and players will want to keep fine-tuning their strategy. Economics play a huge part to Colonization, much more so than previous Civ IV games. It is more similar to Caesar III in that respect. I prefer this type of focus, as I would much rather build and earn money than fight constantly.

This is an excellent strategy game that is deep and challenging. I’m enjoying it tremendously, and would recommend it to any strategy fan and especially to Civ IV fans. There many aspects I enjoy better than Civ IV, mainly the more focused gameplay and goals, the improved interface, and the greater economic focus. If it was closer to Christmas, I would suggest it as a wonderful Christmas present for the strategy player in the family, and one that won’t break the bank at $30.

Review Scoring Details for Colonization

Gameplay: 8.5
This is a fun puzzle game that is easy to learn, but challenging to play. The interface is logical and intuitive, and the puzzle modes offer a good variety of choices. Deep, intense and satisfying play.

Graphics: 8.5
The game looks great! The graphics were pretty before, and now are even better. The oceans and landscapes are more detailed and crisper, and there is just more detail everywhere.

Sound: 8.0
The music is stirring and inspirational. It is wonderful to hear and adds to the game experience. The sound effects are just right, and convey all the ambience needed.

Difficulty: Hard
The level of difficulty can be set from easy to difficult, but even the easy settings are hard. Colonization is not very forgiving of mistakes that may be made early on in the game. Recovering is hard, and time is ticking. Learning the game isn’t too difficult, even with the lack of detailed tutorials. However, the time constraint placed by the revolutionary goal is challenging. Everything has to be accomplished in a small amount of time.

Concept: 7.0
Well, this game is a remake of an old game, and as such, isn’t a “new” concept. However, there are many improvements and everything is executed well.

Multiplayer: 8.0
There are multiple options for multiplayer mode. Players can play over a network, over the Internet via GameSpy, directly over the Internet without GameSpy, at the same computer at home, or by email.

Overall: 8.5
 Colonization is exactly my type of turn-based strategy. I don’t miss the tech trees, and love the focus on economics and trade. Waiting for combat issues until the end of the game suits me fine. The challenge to win is extreme, but I don’t mind starting over, as long as the goal is ultimately achievable. This reminds me strongly of Caesar III, which had many scenarios that required multiple attempts. Colonization won’t be every one’s cup of tea, though; all the things I love others may not. It’s definitely not as free in spirit as previous Civilization games. Despite the same goal for every game, the replay factor is high as players will have tons of choices in refining their game plan. A great game!

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