Video Game Thoughts: Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization

Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization was a 2008 turn-based strategy game by Firaxis Games for the PC. It is a remake of the very old Colonization game that Sid Meier created back in 1994. Unlike Sid’s more common Civilization games, that featured play on the world scale, Colonization zeroed in on the east coast of the New World. Now the player just controlled a colony instead of an empire. Their mission was twofold: to make lots of money and then launch a revolution against their oppressor king in the “old world”.

Making money was carried out by extracting the valuable resources like animal skins near the colony, converting them into popular items like leather coats, and then selling them in Europe for lots of gold. Seeing how much money the player was making, the king back home would periodically raise the tax rate. Eventually, the taxes became unbearable. This is when the player shifted to production (or purchase) of soldiers, cannons, guns, and horses. After rebelling against the king, they had to survive the onslaught of his superior numbers and better trained troops.

Civilization IV: Colonization followed the same basic premise but made in the much more modern Civilization IV game engine. The game was much smaller scale than a typical Civilization IV game, but they added a lot of depth to the management of the colony to make up for it. A colony was made up of one or more towns. Citizens could work the land nearby the town to gather raw materials. The player could construct buildings inside the town for people to convert the raw materials like cotton into cloth. From there it was time to load the finished goods onto ships to send back to Europe for selling.

The player didn’t just have the land to themselves though. The natives were there as well as rival colonies. Sometimes there could be conflicts between these groups all vying for the same resources. If that wasn’t enough, the king back home was constantly putting demands on the player for gifts of gold or resources. Rejecting these demands usually resulted in an instant tax hike on all exports to Europe.

Colonization came out four years later than Civilization IV, so the graphics were dated even when it was new. That didn’t matter to much to me. Strategy games are not played for the graphics. The sound and music, however, were great. There were all the colonial sounds a person would expect from a lively colony. The music tracks were all live recordings of period themes, such as drum and fife, folk songs, and native tribal dances. They really did their research here.

Civilization IV: Colonization was hard even on the easiest difficulty setting. There were so many things to juggle constantly. I always felt overwhelmed playing it. I liked the idea of the game, but many times the thought of how hard it was would turn me off from starting up the game. I tried out a few player modifications (mods) others had made to see if I’d like it better. The mods made the game a little easier than the base game but not by much. I could think of a few changes that would make the game easier, but no mods made those changes.

In the end, I didn’t put much time into this game at all, but I think it had a lot of potential. If I ever am interested in playing a similar game, I will try to find a game that just focuses on the trade and economics without any fighting or wars. The complexity of trade was more than enough for me.

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