Despite MicroProse's naming conventions (did we really need another game with "ization" in the title?), this successor to Sid Meier's Civilization empire-builder attempts to embody the spirit of "Exploration and Conquest of the New World" rather than focus on the entire span of recorded history. As a result, Sid Meier's Colonization has a far more focused sense of gameplay, which can be good or bad depending on personal preference.
The opening theme from Sid Meier's Civilization is re-used almost note for note in the introduction, though the comedic value of its abrupt shift once the cartoon boat reaches the new world and home-spun mountain music begins playing is worth the blatant recycle. However, not quite so forgivable is the use of almost the exact same introductory statement: "You must forge a new world! A civilization! Oops, we mean, a colony...ization."
Much like Civilization, the ultimate goal is to build a thriving empire in a strange new world and outdo the competing nations. To this end, you begin with a little schooner full of soldiers and settlers ready to explore and start a potential new metropolis on foreign shores. Complications set in quickly, as interaction with not only the native peoples of the land but also other colonizing countries threaten to undermine and disrupt your colony. And you just started playing!
Comparisons between the two games are nearly unavoidable, particularly considering the quite similar VGA graphics (though definitely upgraded) and overall atmosphere. Differences in concept are noticeable from the start, though. Established powers in Europe already have their own interconnected alliances and economies that have profound effects on the success of your new colony.
For example, to properly deal with the natives, you often need to barter for their goods and trust. If you load your ship with the finest rum Portugal has to offer (paying ten monetary units each) and the price suddenly drops to five as soon as you leave harbor, odds are that your competitors might have a sudden edge in the trade department. To some players, playing a make-believe primitive stock market to get the most out of the game might not sound like fun but it obviously seemed so to Sid Meier.
Another similarity focuses on having your colonists do some menial labor around their city, while encouraging as much immigration as is humanly possible and dealing with your rivals through treaties or annihilation. Several embellishments in the city screen are evident and your colonists are no longer limited to occupations of farming, tax collection, research or entertainment. Now, any free citizen can choose from a variety of new occupations from blacksmith to missionary with a wide range of jobs in between. However, while the new additions certainly give the game more depth, it also loses a certain amount of simplistic elegance in the process. More time spent on any individual city is less time spent looking at the big picture.
Even with the added complexity of the town screen, though, the ingenious design of Sid Meier and company still shines through but is not nearly as outstanding as Sid Meier's Civilization, due in large part to the heavily borrowed derived gameplay. It is still certainly a worthwhile play, though, while waiting for "Sid Meier's Californization" to arrive at stores.
Graphics: The graphics are a step up from Sid Meier's Civilization and are quite acceptable overall. The series is not particularly graphics-driven (this is no exception) but provides substance over style.
Sound: While the music cues are occasionally amusing and often appropriate, overall it's not really very exciting. The sound suffers from a similar fate with noises generally sparse and reserved for major events only.
Enjoyment: There is little more fun in theory than designing and overseeing your own empire and that is exactly what Sid Meier's Colonization allows you to do. However, the reality of being the ruler of an empire requires far more work than fun and while Civilization never really showed this in gameplay, Colonization occasionally does remind you of the dry, boring actions you have to do in order to maintain a colony. And where's the fun it that?
Replay Value: Your world never has to be the same twice if you don't want it to be and you can try a multitude of different strategies, using any of the four basic country archetypes in an attempt for ultimate conquest.
This Sid Meier classic is not severely underrated but certainly deserves as much acclaim as his classic Civilization for the novel design and refreshing emphasis on colony development as opposed to military might like Civil War games of yore. Use various specialist units to build and strengthen your colony through trade with Great Britain and native Indians before declaring independence for the final war for freedom. This rare Windows version of the game features sharper graphics and AI than the original DOS release.
People who downloaded Colonization for Windows have also downloaded:
Civilization 2, Civilization, Civilization: Call to Power, Civilization II: Test of Time, Sid Meier's Civilization 3, Colonization, Civil War Generals 2, Caesar 3
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