... I don't get it.
I tried playing this game several times. I tried another 'Civ' title, Alpha Centauri - didn't get that at all. Civ III I didn't give up on that fast, but ultimately, I did give up. I just don't get this game.
It seems that I am given both more options and less options then I'd like. On the one hand, you've got your workers and city management (the latter being absolutely convoluted and unclear to me) which I don't care about that much, and then you have the turn-to-turn movement of units and research options which I think are very underplayed... Most of the game I'd spend seeing what's going on, confirming the AI's choices and checking how it develops... the game basically plays itself. It skips over turns in which I'd like to do something. It gives me the option to do something when I'm actually just skipping forward. It suggests research and upgrades that I don't know how they work, nor do I care much. It shows me uprisings in my cities which I don't know how to stop, nor how to alleviate once they're there. And all of that in the name of what? A grand history of a civilization spanning over 4000 years? Bullshit.
There's no single civilization here. You pick a character/nation, who is going to look differently over time in a weak attempt to make the game funny, but that doesn't mean shit. You can play with the Aztecs and introduce democracy sooner than the English. You can play with the Germans and build the Pyramids. Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' can be researched by whoever feels like it. When I heard about Civ, I thought that it was a great premise - to see the development of a nation over time and change history. But this is not a historical game in the least. Sure, researches are based on the age and you have to do some stuff in order, but it doesn't matter in the end, because anyryone can invent anything, and the period won't even be right.
I know this means that I'm just a shitty Civ player and that it puts this entire article in the rubbish bin, but by 2050, when the game ends, I was still at the Industrial age and my cities were still producing Swordsmen for some reason. Sure, I had Ironclads, and Cavalry and whatnot, but I was only going out of the Industrial researches, not even entering the Modern age yet. As I said, I know this is due to my ineptitude and all, but this just didn't make any sense.
Alternate history is cool. I really dig Medieval and Rome, the Total War games. Spreading the English influence over the whole of Western Europe, or creating a great Gaulish empire to combat Rome is all good. The thing I don't like about these games is that, at some point, your empire will strech throughout the whole world. I'm a history geek, I really like history, listening and reading about. I hate the premise of 'What if one nation dominated the world', because it NEVER happened and as such is a really stupid premise. That's why I prefer the Viking Invasion in Medieval: Total War - because it actually does look somewhat realistic if I conquer the whole British Isles with a single faction.
The scale in Civ is epic, but the gameplay isn't. They want me to believe that I am forging a Civilization, but they show me Queen Elizabeth in a toga. Bismarck in a mongol outfit. Joanne of Arc as a cavewoman. It's like "Here, you have the history of the world in your grasp, feel free to rewrite it. Oh, also, here's a bunch of clowns so you get annoyed once in a while". I'm not feeling this.
So yeah, if there are three main things which bug me about Civ III and are the reason I gave up on the game, it's these:
- History. What history? Germans building the Great Wall isn't history, it's bad fanfic.
- Control. What control? Stuff's happening, I don't know why, the game doesn't make me care, I have no idea what I'm doing. Which brings me to...
- The Point. What point? I really have no friggin idea what I'm doing. I'm trying to control stuff, but the game won't let me. When I don't give a damn, I suddenly find myself asking - why am I just skipping to next turn? I could turn off this game and play something else... sure, there is the allure of the "next turn", but while in some games the "next turn" may bring something interesting, here it's always nothing worth mentioning.
Sorry, Civ. The premise seemed like a dream come true, but the implementation has left me dissapointed on every possible level. I wanted something in between the Europa Universalis games and Medieval: Total War in complexity. I got something... well, different. And served with a sauce I hate and sides I won't eat. For me, Civ III is a 4/10.
Also, I know the game deserves better. Which is why this isn't a review. I don't feel competent to write a review of this game. The worst thing is, I feel guilty for not liking this game. I know it's a posh thing, it's the high-brow thing to play and be good at Civ. But you know what, screw this. I don't care. I'm off to play something more fun. Call me a simpleton if you wish, there's games and then there's games. I've got better things to do than waste time on skipping turns or trying to understand a complex game which doesn't even have a proper tutorial explaining what it's about and how it works.
I was thinking about buying Civ IV, but now I don't think I'll bother.