29 December 2012

#2LR - Civilization Retrospective -- Colonization

And you thought I'd go on to Civilization 2 first?  Not hardly!  At the time, as I recall, Colonization was billed as the sequel to Civilization, long before the Roman numerals became a part of the series, and was Sid Meier's follow-up to Civilization... which is why it gets to go before Civilization 2.

Colonization included a lot of the aspects of Civilization, where settlers build cities, are transported on ships, and there are military units involved.  However, it was a departure in some regards from usual sequels because there were so many different aspects between Colonization and Civilization too.  For instance, in Civilization, you could assign a citizen to produce from a plot of land, but that citizen would produce exactly x number of shields, x number of food, and x trade arrows every time.  There was no change.  However, in Colonization, if you directed a colonist to produce on a forest square, they could produce lumber, or they could produce furs, or they could produce food, or they could produce cash crops (tobacco/sugar/cotton).

Production was handled far differently too.  Civilization had shields automatically generate which turned into buildings.  In Colonization, basic buildings could be built by cutting timber from forest, then having a colonist spend time in the carpenter's shop, generating hammers.  More advanced buildings required tools, which took ore and time spent in a blacksmith's shop.

The interesting part with Colonization was that you could ship raw materials (ore, furs, sugar, etc) or you could have a colonist process them into finished goods (tools, coats, rum).  It was a balance to figure out how to make money, whether to put in the extra work to get presumably more money for the goods.

Unlike Civilization, there is no tech tree and there are no Wonders of the World.  There are different units, ranging from inexperienced soldiers to veteran soldiers, mounted soldiers (and veteran mounted soldiers), and cannons.  Taking an established city is far harder than it used to be, especially as the cost to outfit an army becomes higher and higher.  The tech tree and the Wonders were replaced by Founding Fathers, historical figures that you could obtain through making a colonist into a statesman, similar to a politician.  Each Founding Father would have a benefit, such as extra ship movement, free city defenses, etc.

The biggest change is the start position.  In all other Civilization games, you start with a land unit and have to build a city nearby.  In Colonization, you start with a transport ship and two settlers; you have to first explore to find a good starting position.  Exploration is an extremely important part of Civilization in all incarnations, but paramount for Colonization if you want to give yourself the best chance.

It's almost as if the programmers (Sid Meier & company) decided to challenge themselves to make a new game.  It took me quite a while to get to the point of having a good enough strategy to win on moderate difficulty; for the longest time, I worked at easiest level and still had problems.  I have since figured out a few tactics and strategies that work fairly well, and can beat Colonization on medium most of the time.

It could be because I managed to find a good balance, or just that the dynamics of the game are so different, but Colonization is a game that I can pull out and enjoy almost twenty years after it was first published.  The biggest problem I've had is to find ways to continue to play Colonization long after Microsoft has determined that old software shouldn't be run on new computers.  Unlike Civilization, I still quite enjoy playing Colonization for more than just nostalgia's sake, and even though an update to this game was published using the Civilization 4 engine, I am more than happy to continue to play the original.  If you happen to find a good copy of Colonization, I suggest DosBox for running it.

The series will continue with Civilization 2, both the challenges in installing the game as well as the ways that the Civilization series was made better, along with the challenges that the programmers continued to face.

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