Civilization III, published in 2001 by Firaxis Games and the brainchild of designer-legend Sid Meier, is a continuation on the revered line of Civilization titles that have graced the computing world for the past decade. The goal of these games is simple: Rule the World. This is not an overly innovative objective, but it has a certain classic appeal that, combined with the game’s trademark gameplay, makes for a truly addictive experience.
As with all great games, a complete Civ novice can pick up on what’s going on in minutes. The game itself is a Civilization-Simulation, where you lead your people from a single village in ancient times to the modern era and (hopefully) world domination. Along the way you found cities, expand your borders, harass your neighbors, research new technology and generally wile away six millennia. The incredible variety of styles in which you can play the game (and do well) is amazing, and is the source of Civ 3’s addictive nature. The game takes place on a world ranging anywhere from tiny to gigantic, against anywhere from 1 to 15 other Civilizations. Your goal is to smash them (or subvert them, or out-do them) before they do the same to you.
As with previous Civilization games, the heart of Civ 3 lies in your cities. Each city is started by a ‘settler’ unit, and can control the immediate 20 squares around it. It is important to pick city locations carefully, as they can never be moved, and the nature of these 20 squares limits how useful the city will become. In the city you can build structures ranging anywhere from granaries to coal factories to the Great Pyramids, each giving a specific bonus to the city and costing money in upkeep.
City Structures fall into three categories: normal buildings, small wonders, and great wonders. Normal buildings are the mundane structures of everyday Civ life: the cathedrals, the libraries, the barracks, etc. Any city, limited only by the technological state of its Civilization, can build these structures. Small Wonders are triggered by specific game circumstances (a victorious army, five-hospitals-in-civ, ect) and contribute a much stronger benefit to the entire Civilization, but can only be built once for each Civ. Great Wonders are the kings of buildings. Each Great Wonder can only be built once, ever. They convey massive bonuses to the Civilization that builds them, and as such are much competed for in the game. These projects typically take a great deal of time (the Pyramids weren’t built in a day, after all), but are far and away worth the trouble.
The other half of Civilization life is the units. Units are mainly of military nature, ranging anywhere from Neolithic Warriors to Marines and Paratroopers. These units, as you may imagine, are used to convince other civilizations to see things your way. A great deal of thought has to go into a military campaign, as the technological level of your target, as well as the terrain on which you will fight, all play critical roles in the execution of the campaign. It is, all in all, a very complex system, and while at its heart there is a random number generator, there are far more factors in your control than out of it.
The thing that determines what structures you can build and what units you can make is Science – the technological level of your Civilization. At the beginning of the game, 4000 B.C., all Civilizations are thoroughly in the stone age – still struggling with the complexities of things like ‘The Alphabet’ and ‘Mysticism’. As such, the construction of The Sistine Chapel is somewhat beyond them. As time progresses you can direct the research of your scientists (or shamen, or wise-men) and open up new projects. Science also determines what Age your Civilization is in, either the Stone Age, Middle Ages, Industrial Age, or the Modern Age.
Inter-Civ-action is very important. You can trade gold and technology to other Civilizations for important resources or a Peace Treaty… or vice-versa. You are not at perpetual war with your neighbors, and gaining a close ally is as important as mashing an enemy.
All these things are traditional Civilization fodder – they’re taken directly from Civilization II, if not Civilization I. However, Civilization III is an evolution on the classic Civilization theme, and as such has several new features.
The most prominent new aspect is the concept of ‘Culture’. In previous Civilization games, a ‘peaceful builder’ strategy was almost sure-fire defeat against competent opponents (or maxed-out-AI). Culture was added to Civilization III to add more weight to this strategy. In short, Culture is a measure of the cohesiveness of your society: the pride your citizens take in their country. Culture is produced on a per-turn basis by nearly all the non-military buildings, and quickly snowballs into a significant defensive force. In previous Civilization games, once any given city was conquered, it was the sole property of the conqueror until the end of time. In Civ 3, if your Culture level is significantly higher than that of the aggressor, the city stands a decent chance of spontaneously defecting back to your control. This greatly hinders an aggressor, and is yet another factor to take into account when you pick your battles.
In addition, Culture determines your national borders, which radiate from each city a set number of squares. This is greatly magnified when two such areas overlap, eventually defining exactly how much land is your sovereign territory. Culture also has an effect on border-cities – those places when the city zones of control meet and are in conflict for pieces of land. Inevitably, the higher culture civilization wins these confrontations, sometimes even causing the weaker city to defect in favor of the stronger civilization.
Another addition over Civilization II is the introduction of Strategic Resources: things like oil, iron, and uranium that are found at random on the world map. Unless you have an obscenely large Civilization (and thus a very successful one) you will not have all the resources within your territory, and as such will have to trade for them with other Civilizations. It is absolutely vital if you are playing a militaristic game, that you obtain all the strategic resources and they dictate what units you may and may not build. For example, while you may know the technology to produce Swordsmen (Iron Working), you can not actually build them until you have a ready supply of Iron. This can be a very troubling situation if, say, the Zulu are invading and you can’t build defenders on par with their attackers due to your resource deficiency. Depriving the enemy of strategic resources is a prime goal of any successful conquest.
There are 16 different Civilizations you can choose to play as, being:
Each Civ is differentiated from its fellows by its two defining Traits and its special unit. There are six Traits in all, and every Civ is characterized by a combination of two of them. They are as follows.
Militaristic: These civilizations receive bonuses to building military structures and receive battlefield promotions more often.
Expansionistic: These civilizations have a bonus when encountering minor barbarians and can build Scout units.
Scientific: These civilizations receive a free tech at the start of every Age and build science-related structures faster.
Commercial: These civilizations receive extra money in the form of trade and slightly reduced Corruption.
Industrious: These civilizations’ workers make improvements faster, and build everything slightly faster.
Religious: These civilizations do not experience Anarchy between governments and build religious structures faster.
Each Civilization also has a special unit (such as the Roman Legionaries or the German Panzers) which are a step above the normal units of the time period when they are typically available. These units are used to represent the era in which a particular Civ historically dominated the world, and are powerful factors in offence and defense.
In all, Civilization III is a worthy successor to the Civilization dynasty, and a good buy by any standard. Expect hours of addicting gameplay as well as a significant challenge at the higher levels of AI.