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Sid Meier's Civilization III
Menu"Build an Empire to Stand the Test of Time" read the epic subtitle of the first Civilization published back in 1992. But also ten years later, this slogan has lost nothing of its truth. Luckily, Sid Meier and his team at Firaxis avoided to change the successful gameplay beyond recognition - novelties can be found on closer inspection, though. But dramatic changes would have been more of a curse than a boon, since both prequels had dominated the sales charts for many months and are still considered to be the most popular and most successful (strategy) games ever. So what is Civilization 3 all about and what assets do Sid Meier games have that others seem to lack?
 
Pragmatic graphics:
Dawn of CivilizationIt's interesting to note that the Civilization series has never spawned graphically impressing titles. Irrespective of this fact, people have always flocked to lay their hands on the games. Also the third installment doesn't break with this graphical "tradition" and won't make your eyes pop open wide. Apart from the nice animation of the units, the graphics alone wouldn't keep you glued to the screen. Particularly frightening are the rendered portraits of the 13 historical personalities leading each people. Few animations, no cutscenes and no way to alter the games' resolution (if you don't want to change the CivilizationIII.ini manually, that is) - why play Civ 3 anyway? Well, if not beautiful the graphics are quite pragmatic, allowing you a good overview of all activities taking place on the screen. Only few mouse clicks are needed to run an entire people within and beyond your cities' borders. You can conjure up the game's encyclopedia, the so-called Civilopedia, at any time through hyperlinks. However, the soundtrack that changes according to the era you're playing is inconspicuous once more.
 
Riveting gameplay:
EmpireIf you have played one of the prequels, you will recognize the familiar environment at once. Civ 3 has no storyline, leaving your task to lead your people from the year 4000 B.C. into the year 2050 A.D. basically unchanged. To that end, your first step is to choose your favourite from 13 different people (e.g. English, German, American, Russian, Roman), taking their two special abilities into account. A militaristic people will have the upper hand when it comes to confrontations, scientific people are faster in research and expansionist people will start the game with a scout. What's more, every nation has two technologies right from the beginning and has access to one special unit during the game. While all people can later on build the unit "jet fighter", only the Americans will be able to build the F-15 that gives them supremacy in air combats.
 
Subtle diplomacy:
DiplomacyThe Civilization series draws a great deal of its fascination from its freedom of choice what to do next. You intend to destroy your opponents with militaristic means, lull them with subtle diplomacy, or defeat them without any warlike actions by intimidating them with your cultural progress - well, it's all up to you. At the beginning, you lay your foundations for your desired dominance by looking for a place rich in resources where you can build your first settlement. From that point on, it's all a question of expanding and researching to prevent your lagging behind. Your workers go about their duties to set up an infrastructure (thus increasing your units' movements), build mines to enhance production, or irrigate barren pieces of soil. They also have to tap raw materials now by integrating them into the road network - in case the resource is located outside your city borders, workers can erect a colony in the corresponding field. These raw materials do not only satisfy your citizens' needs, they can also be used for trading purposes. Diplomacy has become an integral part of Civ 3: be it raw materials, world maps, technologies, or certain treaties - anything can be traded. A people's cultural or militaristic strength has an impact on the other's behaviour that can range from arrogant to grovelling.
Details:
Producer:
Firaxis

Website:
Civ 3,
Patches

Genre:
Strategy

Graphics:
average

Sound:
average

Gameplay:
very good

Verdict:
very good

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Pros & cons:
City viewThe most interesting aspect of Civ 3 is, once more, the hunt for technologies and Wonders of the World. Technologies such as "Metallurgy" or "Physic" bring about progress and unlock new units and/or structures. Wonders raise your cultural value, your citizens' morale or provide you with city improvements. For the first time, every nation can build Small Wonders once during the game, e.g. another palace. Your income, reaped in through taxes or trading, should be spent wisely between research and morale-boosting entertainment for your citizens. A fast research of technologies secures your lead in the race to space, which marks the game's end. Without content citizens, however, such a feat will be nigh impossible, with the degree of satisfaction also depending on the chosen form of government.
You see, correlations in Civ 3 are complex and listing them all would surely take hours. All in all, the game gets you hooked after only a short period of time - of particular fun is the game's initial phase when fast exploration is critical. Later on, keeping track of what's going on can turn into a challenge, although you can opt for the computer to run most parts of your empire. Several difficulty levels notwithstanding, some might despair about the seemingly superhuman opponents. That the system requirements are fairly high despite such sloppy graphics, is as unpleasant a fact as the many bugs that require a patch to be removed (see info box). Nevertheless, Civ 3 is another landmark in strategy gaming. Many subtle improvements, the easy access to the game in spite of its complex aspects, along with the user-friendly handling make Civ 3 a must buy for every strategy aficionado. Admittedly, there's no mulitplayer mode, but then you can create your maps with the integrated editor. At the official website, you can download such self-created maps for free. The only question is - will your empire stand the test of time?
© 04-13-2002 by CE

 
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