23 January 2013

#2LR Civilization Review Gala - Civilization III

  I've held off posting about Civilization III for a while.  Partly, this is due to my rather insane schedule recently, which finds me in places such as St. Louis, Rockford IL, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Baton Rouge in the space of about two weeks.  Finding the new job has not been elusive per se, but it certainly has forced me to extend resources and time that I would not have ordinarily spent if this hadn't happened.

  The other part though is that I wanted to at least run a couple of playthroughs of Civilization III in order to refresh my memory.  It is a very odd situation, in that I remember playing Civilization III rather extensively years ago, but the intervening time has seen more Civilization sequels, much less other games, and gaining a perspective on what makes a game tick requires at least a bit of familiarization to make sure that my memories aren't just invented.

  Civilization III was the first of the main Civilization games with country borders, which marked a very major change in the series.  No more could another player note that there is unused territory and march their settler/defense unit to the unused territory... for the most part.  This also meant that you couldn't just station your own army only three squares away from a rival player and do a bum-rush sneak attack on all their cities... only their border regions.  This allowed players even more information as to the weaker points in their defenses and players could use this information as necessary.

  Civilization III also introduced Culture to the series, as well as the Cultural victory.  Culture could be gained via buildings such as temples, libraries, and cathedrals.  Wonders could also boost your culture, and the size of your borders would be defined by the amount of culture your cities generated.  If you wanted, you could build temples and libraries everywhere, or endeavor to make one city into a sparkling Wonder-riffic jewel of dominance.  This actually helped gameplay in a couple of areas, as it allowed a player that may have had a bad start spot (very little territory to expand to) a way to still pull out a win even with more territory-grabbing players about.

  Culture also allowed civilizations another avenue to conquering cities.  If the citizens of a town are overwhelmed by the culture of another civilization, they could choose to flip allegiances.  This comes as a complete shock sometimes, and if you are going on a military path that requires you to double-check your military resources.  A flipped town would come with defense, but only just barely... if you decided to play culturally, you still had to defend your towns, even the newer ones with very little defense.

  Civilization III also introduced the concept of resources.  Some resources were just bonus tiles resulting in a couple extra food, trade, or production.  Other resources on the map were luxury resources and would generate extra happy faces.  Still others were strategic resources, having possession of these resources would allow you to build units using the resource, such as swordsmen needing an iron source.  The borders were more important than ever, because a resource had to be within your borders and connected to the capital via road to be useful.  (The designers also made allowance for "colonies", workers you could send to a resource outside your lands.)

  Another concept that was introduced to the Civilization series was siege.  This was touched on somewhat in the Alpha Centauri discussion previously.  Now, catapults and other ranged weapons had an offense number and a siege number, and you could request these units to fire and they wouldn't take damage for battle.  Siege was used a bit differently within Civilization III than in Alpha Centauri, as a unit could not be killed via siege, only brought to their last hit point.  As well, stacked units would not suffer collateral damage, only the first defending unit could take damage.  The siege concept was a way to be able to bring down heavily-defended cities if building dozens of military units was out of the question, though siege units still needed major protection.

  Of course, there are still issues that needed to be addressed.  One I can think of immediately was with the borders.  On a playthrough, I forgot one of the most annoying things that would happen with Civ III... I had built my capital city and tried to keep the area clear of other towns so that I could grow it.  There was only tundra land to the south, not really conducive to a city, and I had a resource connected three tiles away that I quickly absorbed through culture.  Another civ ended up sneaking a settler to the south of this city, bought a temple to ensure that the city wasn't susceptible to culture takeover, and grabbed the resource that had previously been mine.  On top of that, they used the road that I had built to my capital as an invasion route.  I am glad that in subsequent games (Civ V specifically) that they had addressed both issues, and remembered how much that I disliked having both of those happen in Civ III.

  All of these concepts made the game more complex, but I like to think that they also added more to the experience.  How often are wars fought over resources, for instance?  How many times are border towns almost like exclaves of another country?  Just as Civilization II was an improvement over I, Civilization III was a great improvement over Civilization II.  Quite admittedly, I do not play Civilization III anymore, but it was still a game very worthy of praise and time when it was released.

  To be reviewed are Civilization IV as well as Civilization V, including the most recent "Gods and Kings" release for Civilization V.  Please continue to bear with me as I put these up, especially as I try to figure out exactly how much time I can devote to playing games/watching videos and writing about them through the next little while.

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