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Review by: Brian Clair
Published: October 30, 2001
The Civilization series carries with it the unique distinction of being one of the first non-FPS reviews ever published at the Adrenaline Vault; back then we warned readers that “Civ 2 is highly addictive.” Now over five years later, Infogrames and Firaxis have teamed up to renew one of the most legendary turn-based strategy games ever created in Sid Meier’s Civilization III. Given the vast lapse of time since Civilization was last seen, we must ask if Firaxis has managed to recreate the addictive qualities of the series, without compromising the gameplay to meet modern expectations.
Civilization has never carried a distinct storyline with it, which is one of its greatest strengths — it allows the player to determine the “adventure” each time a new game is started. This time out, Firaxis has chosen to focus more on the details of each civilization by assigning not only two overall traits to each nation, but also a special (and somewhat unique) specialty unit. For example, the Americans have the qualities of being Industrious and Expansionist. In gameplay terms, being Expansionist starts you with a Scout and makes Barbarian villages more lucrative; being Industrious allows your Workers to complete tasks faster than normal and allows large cities to produce more production shields. In addition to each civilization having certain qualities, each also begins with two technology advances: for the Americans this is Masonry and Pottery. Finally, as mentioned above, each also has its own specialty unit. These are similar to those other civilizations can obtain through research, but more refined by comparison. For instance, the Americans’ special unit is the F-15; while other nations can research Jet Fighters, they are not nearly as powerful, resulting in the Americans often commanding air superiority.
As hinted at above, Firaxis has also changed the dynamics of Civilization‘s gameplay, no doubt in an effort to alleviate non-essential elements that slowed down the action in the past. Perhaps the biggest alteration since Civilization II is that units no longer have home cities, nor do they require production shields or food as upkeep. Both elements tended to bog down games as cities grew increasingly unhappy and unproductive as units moved around the map. Instead, all units in Civilization III are supported directly from your treasury, with some government types providing a number of units free of these costs. As experienced players may imagine, it is now possible to generate and maintain vast military forces.
Another major change for the series comes from the elimination of trade as a manual affair of moving Caravans across the map. Firaxis has greatly streamlined trade by making it largely a part of diplomacy and transportation networks. Cities in your empire now start trade automatically once they are connected to one another via a road, harbor, or airport — note, however, that is it no longer possible to trade food as it was in Civilization II, so starvation can occur often. Once your transportation network is connected to another nation’s capital, you can use the enhanced diplomacy system to initiate trade for excess resources you control.
Trade leads us to yet another major update in the series, and in fact, the primary driving force of the entire game: strategic resources and luxury goods. Rather than having special goods such as wine and silk be simply bonuses to a piece of terrain, Firaxis has both streamlined and enhanced their usefulness. For example, luxury goods such as wine, silk, ivory and gems, now serve one primary function — to make your people happy. For each luxury good under your control, one citizen is made content or happy in each city connected to the good via your trade network. Strategic resources have much broader implications, as these will often cause wars, and include things like iron, rubber, uranium, and aluminum. Strategic resources are now required to build certain units once you’ve discovered the appropriate technology. For instance, the Romans’ special unit is the Legionnaire, who only becomes available once you’ve researched Iron Working. However, if your territory doesn’t contain any iron deposits, you won’t be able to build any units which require it; thus, in the above example, the Romans would be without their primary asset and at a severe disadvantage. Furthermore, strategic resources only become visible on the map once you’ve researched the first technology to require it. So as above, you wouldn’t even be able to locate iron until you had researched Iron Working. Fear not, however, as strategic resources will occasionally appear (or vanish) throughout a game.
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