August 28, 2011

On the Virtues of Civilization, Part IV

Pictured: best game ever.
 Or rather: Civilization III is the best game ever

I'm continuing this series, which I began over 2 years ago, from my previous blog. We last saw me in Part III enjoying the Activision spin-off Call to Power prior to the release of the "best game ever made."

I acquired Sid Meier's Civilization III around Christmas of 2001, shortly after its release. Thanks to this newfangled Internet that had made its way into my life, it was the first upcoming game that I had specifically followed pre-release. It was also my first limited edition purchase. Pretty exciting stuff for a 14-year-old budding gamer.

Incidentally I was on vacation in Texas when I bought it (with the help of some Christmas money) from the now-defunct Electronics Boutique at the Rivercenter Mall in San Antonio, and so I wasn't able to play it for a while. When I got back home the CD drive of the family computer had failed and I wasn't able to play it for a while longer. Needless to say, by the time I actually installed the thing I was giddy with excitement. Okay, maybe not giddy. But I was very eager to start playing this latest and greatest Civilization installment. As it turned out, I was not to be disappointed.

Civilization III, like Call to Power before it, brought an isometric map view and animations into the main series. (edit: Civ2 also used an isometric view, but its graphics were static and fairly simple) It also introduced civilization traits and unique units that made selecting your civilization a strategic rather than aesthetic decision. New concepts like tradeable resources, air missions, ranged bombardment, and Great Leaders added strategic depth to the war machine. Small wonders and expanding cultural borders enhanced the peaceful-builder side. While previous installments looked and played more like a board game, the world really started to come to life in Civ3. Its game mechanics were sophisticated but balanced. Empire management was more comprehensive, combat more strategic, and diplomacy more immersive.

Best of all, Civ3 featured a powerful and accessible scenario editor, which was vastly improved with the Conquests expansion- an add-on which was all about custom scenarios. If modding Civ3 was popular before Conquests, it really took off afterwards. The new features unlocked by the improved editor sparked a second "Golden Age" for Civ3 in 2004-2005, well beyond the typical shelf life of a game these days. Many veteran players to this day- I among them- insist that its well-balanced gameplay combined with its robust modding interface makes Conquests the greatest accomplishment of the series, if not all of strategy gaming. I'll talk more about modding in a later post. For now, suffice it to say that Civ3, and especially Conquests, got me into modding and kept me playing for the next decade. In fact it's the last game I played before writing this post, and the limited edition tin box is proudly on display on the bookshelf behind me. It is indeed the best game ever made.

Speaking of a decade, the "Civilization III Creation & Customization" (ie, modding) community at CivFanatics is hosting a modding awards competition in celebration of 10 years of Civ3 and in recognition of all the great contributions fans have made over the years. I'm actually in the running for "User Interface of the Decade" for a set of screen graphics I created for Lord of the Mods, which I'll cover later. If you've ever enjoyed user-made Civ3 content, come on over and join in the fun.

Next up, I'll talk more about CivFanatics and how I got hooked into the player community.

2 comments:

Kevin (aka Padma) said...

Okay, Travis, I know you know this, but just to keep the record clear for any non-civvers who read this:
Civilization: Call to Power was not really part of the Civilization series. It was an attempt by Activision to cash in on the name of Sid's franchise. Sid took them to court, and won. Call to Power 2 was not allowed to use the world 'Civilization' in it's title. ;-)

Civ1 - Sid Meier/Microprose
Civ2 - Sid Meier/Microprose
Civ3 - Sid Meier/Firaxis
Civ4 - Sid Meier/Firaxis
Civ5 - Sid Meier/Firaxis/Take 2

There is also Civilization:Revolution, which Sid released for the XBox 360/PS3/DS/iPhone/iPad, and now Civilization:World for Facebook.


(And all covered at civfanatics. ;-))

Travis Christian said...

Yes, just to be clear, Call to Power is NOT part of the official Civilization canon. I think I touched on that point in the previous post. It was, however, loads of fun and an important part of my personal empire-building history.

BTW, nice to see you around. I thought you fell off the Internet.

Post a Comment