(just read some of the great reviews on Civ4!). And since a couple of weeks the newest incarnation of the Civ series is available in stores, Civilization IV: Colonization. A remake of the original Colonization from 1994. Did Sid Meier do it again and release a fantastic game? Or has it become a slim rip-off that received the Civilization IV name to increase sales? Let’s find out!
Maybe first a little info on the original Colonization for the younger readers. It’s a Sid Meier game from 1994 where you as a colonist are sent to the New World in 1492 to build up a colony that’s supposed to bring wealth and power to your homeland. From there on history evolves and as everyone knows that’s smuthered in blood so the end goal is to become strong enough to declare independence and kick the ass of the Royal armies that are sent to put you back in line.
Now, 14 years later, Colonization is back as a total conversion mod of the very succesful and incredibly good Civilization IV.
First and foremost, as it’s a mod, the graphics are a lot like those of the original Civilization IV. You notice even during installation that everything looks similar, which isn’t a bad thing. I do have to say that I was quite scared that the game would feel like just another expansion with only few things added.
Luckily that’s not the case! The user interface for instance has undergone quite some changes eventhough it’s not too different that you wouldn’t feel at home.
The most important thing of course aren’t the graphics but the gameplay. This can be summarized in 1 word: fantastic. You start with one ship and a colonist that you need to land somewhere to start your first village/town. Of course you immediately come in contact with the local population and they love seeing you arrive if you help them enough (by giving presents). Once your town has grown enough, you can start up another one and slowly your empire will grow.
Of course there are also others and the idea is to be the first to start a revolution against the home country. However, that doesn’t mean that in the beginning you can’t work together. Just like in Civ IV diplomacy is a very important thing and you certainly shouldn’t underestimate the local population. If you remain friends with them, a lot of benefits come to you (like educating specialised colonists in their villages), but become enemies and they’ll be able to wipe out your colony in just a couple of turns.
At certain times you’ll also have to handle your King who’s back home in Europe. This is either when you find a treasure in the new world that you want to get back home, or when he finds the time right to increase taxes as he finds you’re earning too much. The European aspect in Colonization is very important as this isn’t only your biggest source of problems at the end of the game, but also your main source of income and new colonists. From time to time new ships will be available to bring over new colonists or you can fill them with all kinds of goods like tobacco, silver, weapons, … to sell back home at high profit.
Where city management in Civ IV can be micromanagement, Colonization is quite different. Everything can be done by the computer but you can do it yourself as well. There are 2 different windows present where the first shows the different tiles around your city and you can choose where you put which colonist, bearing in mind his specialisation (a fisherman is better at fishing than mining). That way you can decide what resources your city produces. The other screen shows the different buildings and you get to determine what they’ll do with those resources. Also here it’s as simple as putting the right colonist on the right square. You can also choose to not do anything with your raw material and then it’s best to set up trade routes where you decide which city imports and exports which stuff and then produce a couple of caravans that you let travel between towns. Once you get the hang of the system it’s incredibly simple to use.
All the rest of the gameplay, music, graphics and so on are exactly like in Civilization IV. Just like that game, Colonization can also be modified a lot and this only increases the gameplay and lifespan.
Of course there are a few downpoints, but luckily not many. There’s a rather steep learning curve, or beter said: lack thereof. There are some help screens in the beginning but they don’t help too much and there’s no tutorial present either. The first games are very difficult because of this, but thanks to the fact that everything is so cleverly set up that you’ll quickly get the hang of it all. Also the graphical imperfections that we saw in Civilization IV are still present, but luckily they don’t bother too much.