There are some sick people out there, kids. And it's all the fault of your computer. I know that's a pretty stupid thing to say, just like saying that listening to creaky old metal bands turns you into a foaming Satanist, but I reckon it could be true.
A certain type of game has arisen that stirs up some very unpleasant emotions in us human beings, and it encourages us to indulge these feelings. It tells us that it's right to be cruel, power-crazed maniacs, and that it's the only way to win. It's the 'God game', and by jiminy, here's the biggest so far. There are a small minority out there in Amigaland. A wandering band of nomads. They are the ones who felt that Powermonger didn't give them enough power, that Populous 2 left them with an appetite for more, Mega-lo-mania wasn't mega enough, and that Sim City just didn't kick butt.
Civilisation is a game written just for them. Sickos that they are. The scope of this game is pretty uncanny. Just create a civilisation. That's all you have to do. Build towns, develop society, and basically advance your civiIisation from the Stone Age right into the future. Ask, is that all?
You start with just one unit. Some settlers, to be exact. You know nothing about your surroundings, your fellow civilisations, of even what's going to happen. Use the settlers to wander around the map to begin with, revealing the landscape as they go. Any unexplored land is shown as black, but as you traverse it reveals itself. Clever, eh?
Once you've explored as far as you can, tell the settlers to, well, settle and they'll found your very first city. Name the city, and then you can get on with building stuff, military units perhaps, or if you fancy a peaceful existence, start to build the essentials for a comfortable existence.
To begin with, things'II be pretty basic but by instructing your scholars to work on certain skills, you can advance as a civilisation. For instance, if they discover bronze working, you start to build better weapons, if they discover navigation you can build ships to explore the rest of the planet.
On the other hand, you can work on the social aspects, by developing different ways of thinking - communism, the republic, monarchy and so on - and learning how to build libraries and universities. Help your cities thrive and grow, keep ahead of your neighbours by constantly developing new sciences, and most of all surround your towns with plenty of hefty military units. You see, you're certainly not alone in this game. There are the other civilisations for a start. Before you begin playing, you can set how many others there'll be, but if one civilisation gets wiped out then another rises in its place.
That way, there'll always be the set number of civilisations. Thanks a bunch. And on top of all that, you'll probably have run-ins with barbarians. They tend to be a bit hard, but unlike you they can't develop new weapons as quickly or found cities. So you can soon kick their hairy heads in. Make friends with other leaders, declare war on others, exchange or steal ideas, build a bigger and better civilisation until the game ends. This happens in one of three instances. Your civilisation being crushed is the most obvious (and the most frequent), or maybe you could crush all the others (highly unlikely and very violent).
The third way to end the game is the most intriguing and one that shows you just how much depth civilisation has. The first civilisation to master space travel and to reach Alpha Centauri is automatically declared the supreme Big Cheese. Space travel? Yes! Apparently, if you can get your civilisation brainy enough you can conquer the stars. Yowsers.
So that, in a very edited form, is the idea behind the game. But, I hear you cry, "What's it like to play, Uncle Daniel?'. It's very good indeed. Admittedly, it looks crap and there's no animation to speak of, and it is pretty slow moving to start with, and there's a hell of a lot of information to digest. But once you start playing, I guarantee you'll be hooked. The game's been cleverly designed, so it's almost impossible to turn it off.
All the time, there's something in the pipeline, so you start telling yourself "I'll turn it off when I've developed Alphabet" and then it's "Ooh, I'll just wait until I've finished this boat" and then "I'II just have a look around this island" and, well you get the idea. In fact, you're lucky to be reading this review at all. Every time I started playing I ended up losing half a day to the flippin' thing. It's addictive. Dangerously addictive, in fact.
It's not helped by the fact that the game looks really dull. "1985 strategy game" is what the graphics bellow. If any of your mates see you playing this they'll think you've cracked up. Only when they decide to have a go themselves will they see the folly of their ways. I'm a sucker for games that let you do whatever you feel like doing. And that's why Civilisation is currently occupying my every waking hour.
Ever wondered what would happen if America was a Communist state? Or if England was invaded by Zulus? Or if the Chinese invented nuclear weapons in the Middle Ages? Well, this game let's you find out It's a bit like Mega-lo-mania meets Sim City, via Populous Avenue. The PC version wangled loads of awards last year, and quite rightly so I hesitate to wander so far into the realms of cliché, but every game of Civilisation I've played has been completely different.
The only downers are the over-long intro that can't be skipped, and the spooky way that you can't move from one space adjacent to an enemy city to another adjacent space. Still, an essential purchase for any self-respecting fan of strategy games. More depth than Oliver Reed's wine cellar.
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