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Rediscovering Civilization 4

Content of the article: "Rediscovering Civilization 4"

Or Civ4 for short. Ahhh the memories. Glad I gave up a few euros on GOG to adapt my childhood to the present. CD Projekt Red, thanks for creating the best store in the (digital) world <3

TL;DR: Civ games are awesome even though I just (re)played the IV for a little while, if you're not experienced with strategy games give this franchise a try as they are accessible due to them being turn-based 4X games.

Gotta admit that I probably understood more of this game as a child (the same has happened with Age of Empires Definitive Edition), but this game still holds up and has a lot of strategy going on. Given that I completely dropped strategy games for the longest part of my life (even more than fighting games), it is obvious that going back to a game like this is hard: these kinds of games are complex and require you to have a plan all along. However there is absolutely nothing wrong with dropping the difficulty down to the bottom just so that you can get a basic handle of things (and even after your first complete match there will be a LOT of stuff you don't know) and just to have some fun fooling around, not really having a plan and just going with the flow.

For the less knowledgeable, Civilization is one of the biggest franchises in the 4X subgenre of Strategy games: the 4 Xs meaning Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate, which are all options available to you throughout an entire match (which takes hours, so watch for that clock and remember that you can always save and load your game the next day!).

They are excellent gateway games as they are turn-based strategy games: in short this plays like a strategy board game. Everyone takes turns and hopes no other civilization wrecks their plans. An interesting contrast, given the tension of these games and the utterly calm, peaceful and hopeful vibe that Baba Yetu (the first videogame song nominated for a Grammy and actually won!) seems to give you in the menu.

So, what do you do in the game? Well basically you pick a civilization, a leader and you try to win until 2050AD comes along. The best part? You can customize your civ to an extent, so it's possible to have something such as having "Potassium Queen" lead a civilization called "Banana Empire" that is based off the Russian civ bonuses. Also Catarina the Great poses as a 3D CGI model representative of Potassium Queen. This type of customization always goes either extremely well or extremely wrong.

But what is victory in Civilization 4? It can be one of many:

  • be the top position on the scoreboard by the time 2050AD hits (Time Victory);
  • build the United Nations wonder (or have someone else do it) and trigger an election while hoping and bribing the AI or human opponents so that they vote you as world leader (Diplomatic Victory);
  • be as cultural and literate as possible by building Wonders, religious temples, science and art improvements in the form of hentai museums (actually universities and theaters, etc) and spend Great Scientists/Artists/Engineers/etc to contribute to your cities in order to attain Legendary Culture status on 3 of your cities (Cultural Victory);
  • trigger the inner Star Trek/Wars/any-other-sci-fi-series nerd in you and, through extensive research, use of new discoveries and high-tech improvements, build all the parts necessary to build a space craft capable of holding humans in stasis chambers in space and hauling them off to Alpha Centauri (Space Race Victory);
  • if all else fails or if you're a warmonger at heart, conquering and bathing in the blood of your enemies is always an option. Attain a Conquest Victory by "convincing" other civilizations to agree with you through the use of military units (ranging from primitive axe-men to tanks and planes) or through replication of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by researching the Manhattan Project and dropping nuclear bombs on your opponents. If even this fails, you can always hope to have a majority of the world's population in your country's borders, as well as owning most of the map's terrain. This scores you a Domination Victory;
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If you're a beginner to strategy games, look no further. Civ games may be complex, but they can be learned and you can start having fun straight away at the lowest difficulty by watching your empire develop across the ages. Best of all, it's turn-based: no need to immediately learn a thousand keyboard shortcuts and micromanage every single unit at superhuman speed, in real time, to stand a chance. Take your time and think about the next steps.

With that said, I recommend the game. Feel free to stop reading here: below is just my most recent personal experience with the game. Feel free to skip it if you don't feel like reading more.


Here's some personal experience, keep in mind though that I'm still going through my first few matches in YEARS. For starters I've played a basic game and picked Bismarck (Germany) as my leader for the match. Tried to win through Culture, ended up winning the Space Race instead. The game however gives you the option of keeping the match going after victory (not sure if that happens on a standard time victory), so I decided to check what would happen if I kept going. Turns out I would end up winning both Diplomatic and Cultural as well. I initially thought of going until 2050AD but the point difference was clear, so I decided to finally cause some conflict and proceeded, after several millenia of peace, to declare war on literally everybody else and to gift them with a few nukes. Got a bit disappointed by my results and closed the game.

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On my second match I decided to spice things up by creating a small archipelago world with high levels of water (so basically the entire planet was composed of small groups of island about to sink into the big blue). Also the climate was extremely cold, so the only place where gameplay could take place was in the Ecuador's line. I also decided to go up a level in difficulty, confident in my knowledge of the game. I proceeded to meet Catherine the Great, who greeted my great American nation (renamed as Banana Republic) quite warmly and also Louis XIV, king of the French, who happens to be a bit of an asshole in this game. Why? Because not only he greeted me "cautiously", he decided that the best way to get some resources from me would be to politely "ask" if I'd give him some of my precious fish or if he'd had to "take it" from me. Naturally I rejected his empty threats, which got him quite annoyed at me. Being the innocent, island dwelling, science and culture loving pacifist that I was, I had no military other than the tribal warriors that we get at the beginning… I eventually learned that was a mistake. Because a few turns later his annoyance turned into warmongering and he proceeded to declare war on me, while also deploying his troops on my island and steamrolling my sorry ass. Meanwhile Catherine watched. Suffice to say, I know when I have been defeated. I closed the match before the inevitable happened.

After some more Internet research, I came back with a vengeance. Replicating the exact conditions for the world generator, I started my American civilization with a tad bit more wisdom (and double the vulgarity as I gave it a more "cultured" name). Except this time… my island was even smaller than the other one. Suffice to say I felt screwed and proceeded to research literally everything that would get me up the seafaring business in no time. I must have done a good job this time because every unit and building literally cost nothing to develop and before I knew it I had ships fishing clams for me. Later on I've met Genghis Khan who, loyal to his legendary status as a conqueror, proceeded to imply that I was too weak for him so I should opt for peace instead. Except this time I was aware that some leaders were friendlier than others, so I knew I was dealing with a troublemaker straight away. So I did what any sensible man in my position would do: I signed peace with him, while plotting in the background. The plot culminated in me building a pair of galleys and sending a nice, composed group of swordsmen, axemen and spearmen to storm his little excuse of an island (which actually was bigger than mine, not gonna lie). Suffice to say I steamrolled his sorry ass before he could do anything other than killing just one of my units. The other civilizations remain to be found…

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Civilization 4. A beautiful introduction to a beautiful genre that respects one's time to think. The GOG version features every single expansion that came out, so it's a good deal (was on discount today still, not sure if it still is by the time you read this). If you find it too intimidating (and if you do avoid Europa Universalis like the plague until you're comfortable) or if you prefer a more recent version, Civ5 is considered the best alongside 4.


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