31 December 2012

#2LR Civilization Retrospective Gala - Civilization II

Thanks to Reddit, Civilization II hit the news in June of 2012, almost twenty years after it was released.  It was entirely due to this longevity that it managed to hit the news in June of 2012, because one intrepid Redditor decided to play a game lasting literally ten years in real life, picking up the same save-game and transferring it to different computers when necessary.

As I watch my son play a game of Wii bowling that is over in five minutes tops and forgotten in six, that strikes me as quite a bit of commitment.  People grasped onto the story, and major media outlets grasped onto the story because it just could be plausible... after all, the game situation consisted of three major powers that faced off against each other in a wasteland of multiple nukes and no real arable land... which mirrored George Orwell's 1984 at least partially, and in some situations it serves as a cautionary tale to what may happen if humanity stagnates at 2020 technology and decides to fight each other for the next two thousand years.

But... seriously, this is Civilization II.  This isn't the Mayan calendar or anything.  In a year dominated by Mayan calendar jokes, I suppose it made some people happy to know that we may still live to the year 3991, even if it was as a stalemated semi-existence.

I had heard the story, even saw the challenge that the Redditor posted ("Win my game through conquest and save the world through transformation!").  That still didn't inspire me to try to resurrect my copy of Civilization II though, his situation matched situations that I've dealt with in Civilization II as well.  However, doing these retrospectives gave me the inspiration to unearth each and every Civ game I own, which all happen to still be on CD-ROM.  Installing this game was extremely difficult, but I managed to accomplish it... for you guys!

To get the "good stuff" out of the way, Civilization II improves on the original more than a bit.  More civilizations are available, more governmental types are available as well.  The game makes the first acknowledgement that settlers aren't exactly equipped to build massive irrigation projects, providing a late-game upgrade to "engineers" (though engineers are still the unit that builds new cities in the late-game stages).  There are more Wonders in the game too, and the game gives some ability to upgrading sea tiles with the harbor and offshore platform buildings.  There are penalties for changing your project, though only if it is not the same type (going from building to building is fine, but building to unit is not).

However, the big failing and issues with this game remain the zones of control and the diplomacy.  Going through another playthrough, I remembered how frustrating Civilization II was because cities could be built anywhere by any country... which resulted in too many occurrences of the computer players putting cities in places that I already had a city next to, and because of the city's zone of control that meant that my roads/railroads were instantly ruined.  Additionally, there's no real limit to the computer players working together against you and breaking agreement upon agreement, as well as no real way for you to tell another country to get their caravan out of your railway except through military action.

Last note, I have a special shout-out to the adviser screen in Civilization II, which has become the source of more than a few jokes and a meme.  I know that everyone likes the Entertainment advisor Elvis, but my favorite was the Kevin James-ish military adviser.

As far as the ten-year Civilization II game, don't ask me to even try.  Megane 6.7 and I still write MSTings, we've been doing this for twelve years.  I've had the blog for seven... but the happy part is that things change.  While we'll still trot out our A-Team references, thankfully there's been all sorts of media since 2000 (Harry Potter, Twilight, Lady Gaga, etc.) that allows us to keep our references at least semi-fresh, and new fiction all the time to find out where it goes.  I tried to play a Civ II game from start to finish for the article, and I managed to make it through the Apollo Project, built somewhere around 1840.  (Note: I love Civ time, it's so funny to start building your railroad in 1745)  However, the diplomacy and the zones of control issues are both too much for me to overlook, and handled admirably in later versions of Civilization.  Civilization II, for me, belongs in the same category as Civ I -- fun for retrospective reasons, fun to reminisce for old games and times spent playing what was then a revolutionary game... but overall, not replayable to the point of a ten-year consuming game.

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