reviews\ Dec 3, 2001 at 7:00 pm

Sid Meier's Civilization III - PC - Review

There have been few games that can match that scope and epic feel of the Civilization series. From the first settlements of prehistoric man all the way up to the eventual colonization of a distant planet, history is yours to shape and mold to your every whim. And it is that freedom, that ability to steer your civilization in so many directions that both defines what is so compelling and, at times, frustrating, about Sid Meier's latest opus, Civilization 3.

Civilization 3 is a turn based strategy game in which you control and direct your chosen people from 4000 B.C. all the way up to 2050 A.D., and beyond, if you wish. You begin each game with a tiny village, from which you must grow a mighty empire to a number of different victory conditions. Fans of the previous titles will feel right at home, as very little about the core gameplay has changed. One of the main differences between this iteration of Civilization and the previous versions is the ability to win the game a number of new ways, allowing for many different styles of play. Not only can you use your military to conquer your rival civilizations or be the first to build a spaceship to colonize another world, but you can now also be elected Secretary General of the United Nations or even win through cultural dominance. Along the way you will make war, make peace, and trade with a number of other cultures, and control every aspect of your people, from which scientific advances they pursue to which type of resources your people harvest. As complicated as this sounds, one of the reasons this series has been so popular is its ability to make so many tasks and responsibilities so intuitive and so simple, especially with your advisors and the new city governors that help to alleviate a lot of the micromanagement. The game includes a tutorial mode, and the long (235 pages) instruction manual includes both a section for beginners, and a screen by screen walkthrough for those who would rather not read the entire manual. Suffice it to say that just about anyone can learn how to play this game, and its addictive, historical based, "just-one-more" gameplay (just one more level, one more advance, one more turn...) will keep them coming back for more. The graphics are sufficiently easy on the eye, and very capable, as long as you don't expect gorgeous explosions and battles filled with eye candy, you won't be disappointed. But, even though the look here is spare and almost utilitarian, there is something very fitting and appropriate about the animations and art. Even the music is spare, as you will be more apt to notice the chirping of birds or the crash of the waves off the hull of your ships over the soothing, subdued background tunes. But in a game like this, where there is very little in the way of fast paced action and reflex driven gameplay, the understated atmosphere makes it easier to concentrate on planning your strategy and outmaneuvering your enemies.

But, as in life, there is always a downside - although I found very little to mar the experience. One of the most glaring problems with this game is that which makes it so amazing. The size and scope of Civilization 3 means that most games you play may last for hours before reaching the end. Thankfully, you are able to save at any time, but even so, those with short attention spans might want to look elsewhere.  In addition, a lack of any sort of story mode whatsoever, and a missing multiplayer mode means that unless you really like this game, it may not last on your hard drive for a long time. Its turn based structure and the almost complete lack of action means that many people may get turned off before they give it a try. But, in the end, if you can get past the slow pace and length of play, there is a great game waiting to be found.

Its been just about 10 years since the first Civilization title was released, yet in its third iteration very little of the core gameplay has changed. This is a testimony to how well the Civilization formula works, and how much fun this game can be. Hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Fans of the series will really be pleased, as the legacy definitely lives on, with enough changes to improve the gameplay without radically altering it. If you're new to the series, and have the patience to try something different, or just have that whole world domination fetish thing going on, then by all means, give Civilization 3 a try. 

Install: Easy
Hey, these days, installation is almost always a snap. Pop in the CD, click the icon, and watch.

Gameplay: 9.3
Even though this is the third Civilization title, the core gameplay has changed relatively little, and most improvements have been subtle and not very noticeable. If you liked the others, you'll enjoy this one, and, as always, the multitude of choices and open ended gameplay means you will never play the same game twice.

Graphics: 8.7
Sure the graphics work, and certainly the focus is on gameplay, not special effects, but after your third or fourth time through you may find yourself wishing for different terrain types or more unit animations. But that is a relatively minor problem, and by your fifth or sixth time through, you won't even notice.

Sound: 8.6
In a "setting the atmosphere" kind of way, the sound effects are very effective, and help to give the feel of a living, breathing game world,. But they certainly don't improve or detract from the gameplay experience, and in the end, are little more than icing on the cake.

Difficulty: 9.1
Of course, anyone can start a game of Civilization 3 and possibly even win, on their first try. But in order to really excel and crush your opponents, you will need to become a Civilization master, and really know the ins and outs of how this game works.

Concept: 9.4
The ambition of this game is impressive, attempting to scale all of recorded history down into one game. From the very beginnings of your fledgling civilization to total world domination, your range of choices and strategies are virtually limitless. An amazing achievement, Civilization 3 allows you to determine how history is rewritten - its good to be King (of the world).

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 9.1
If you don't mind an almost complete lack of action, and a definite focus on strategy and planning three or four steps ahead, then this is your game. A classic in the making, Civilization 3 once again serves up a big plate of turn based gameplay covered in gobs of strategy and tons of choices, this is one that will keep you coming back for another helping over and over again.


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