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Civilisation 3

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Civilisation 3 review

The third in the classic turn based strategy series of PC computer games, remarkably named Civilisation 3, carries on where it's ancestor (yes Civilisation 2) left off.
I played both the original Civ 1 and it's sequel Civ 2 for more hours than I care to own up to, both being extremely difficult computer games to stop playing. This version of the game is more of the same but with a liberal sprinkling of improvements.

For those unfamiliar with the series (everyone has to start somewhere) Civilisation plants you in the jumbo sized trousers of a nations leader. You start off with a single settler and from there gradually work your way up to world domination. Or at least give it a blooming good try old boy.

Graphically Civilisation 3 is much like Civ 2, the map view for the game is very similar though slightly improved over it's forebear.
A nice improvement in the graphics department which helps gameplay is the tech tree view. This is now laid out over four screens, one for each of the different ages and allows easy planning for your technical advance schedule.

Other graphic improvements include the animated leader's faces of your foes (which is neither here nor there) and improved trade and foreign affairs screens where the graphic interfaces help greatly.
Units on the main map are generally well done and these now animate when moved or used in combat.

The sound department of Civilisation 3 is nothing extraordinary, it does the job well enough for a turn based strategy game. Units make there own sounds when moved or when duking it out, some of which can get a bit tedious (the riflemen noises irritate my earholes).

On to the part that matters for a turn based computer strategy game, the crucial game play and how it compares to it's illustrious ancestor games.
For the most part Civilisation 3 plays quite similarly to Civ 2, with a few notable exceptions. Firstly a completely new concept of culture has been introduced so we shall look at how this effects the game first.
Every nation in the game has a culture value which starts out at zero. Cities with certain improvements such as temples, libraries etc. get given a few points of culture per turn. This has a local city based effect which pushes out the cities borders and a larger global effect where all the cities culture points are clumped together into a value for that particular nation's total culture rating. The global value effects both your score in the game and the manner in which other nations view you. Other nations cities may defect to your nation if your culture is high and theirs is low and vice versa. Also if cities are built close together then the high culture nation will take control of any disputed land squares.
Generally the introduction of culture is a significant element which certainly alters gameplay from the previous games in the series.

Combat in the game is also modified from the earlier games. Now each unit has hitpoints which vary with the experience of the unit (much like Alpha Centauri). Thus an elite spearman is much more use than a green spearman for example. Units can now be stacked without losing the whole lot if one gets beat which is good. Other combat changes include the use of stand off bombardment by some units (again like Alpha Centauri). Catapults, canon etc. are now purely used in this new role and cannot be used as ordinary fighting units.
Another new battle concept is the use of armies in the game. These can hold three or more ordinary units and use each of them to their best advantage then withdraw and send in another until all are spent. Used intelligently the armies you can create in Civilisation 3 are formidable.

The zone of control effect from Civ 2 is greatly changed in Civ 3. No more blocking the other guys units either side of your own, now he can march straight by. The zone of control effect is now a more subtle one, some units get a free shot at you if you move into their zone of control.
These changes to the Civilisation combat system are all good ones in my opinion and add to the gameplay.

The artificial intelligence built into Civilisation 3 is a very strong one (either that or I'm just rubbish). When there's trouble between you and a computer opponent expect a non stop onslaught of units massing on any weak points you have. Did you leave that city unguarded on the coast last turn, watch out a galley will find it and unload a bad guy into your treasured city and loot out some gold while he's about it. If the computer reckons on not being able to hold it chances are it will be demolished.
Even on the low to mid range difficulty settings the A.I. supplies some strong opposition. The computer will sprog out settlers and lay down new cities as fast as possible into any free areas. Indeed when exploring early on in the game (probably with a warrior unit) it's a good idea to set about blocking any choke points on the map to slow down the computers access to land which you could make better use of.

Other civs in the game also get a good move on with their tech research. What I do is try to trade for research achievements before anyone else does and then trade that with another civ for something else etc. etc. This tends to create a level technological playing field amongst the nations but of course is only possible in times of peace.
Whilst on the subject of trading there is now a whole load of stuff you can trade for with other nations. Luxuries can be bought and sold between nations as can strategic resources (see below), map information, contact with other nations, treaties etc.
A major new consideration in the game is the addition of strategic resources. This new concept introduces such valuable raw materials as iron, coal, horses and others. These are required for certain units and city upgrades such as horses for horsemen and knights, iron for Roman Legionaries etc. If you are lacking an important resource it can be a severe problem and will require the use of trading or hostilities to gain control of the resource laden territory.

Victory may be won by various means, some of which include the spacecraft victory, military domination and cultural victory.

Any review of a deep game like Civ 3 is going to be merely scratching the surface (I'm not writing a book on the game you will be glad to hear). However if you like what you see here you can buy it and enjoy giving it a good scouring for yourself.
Generally then Civilisation 3 is a successful computer game and one which is doubtless soaking up the life hours of countless computer game strategy fans as we speak. While not a huge leap forward from Civ 2, the game is sufficiently different for players to give it a look at.

Civilisation 3 SCORECARD

Graphics 7/10
Sound 7/10
Gameplay 9/10
Originality 7/10

Computer Games score 8/10