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Appletell reviews Civilization IV: Colonization for Mac OS X

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Category: Real-time strategy
Developer: Firaxis
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.5.8, Intel Core 2 Duo, 1.83GHz, 1GB RAM, 1GB hard drive space, 128MB video card
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Network Feature: Yes
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: $39.99
Rated: E for Everyone (10+)
Availability: Out now

I might like Civilization IV: Colonization better if it were just called “Colonization,” rather than associating it with probably the best game series of all time. Then again, maybe not; its restrictive gameplay and limited amount of power in a “god game” make it something of a throwback to the early days of graphic gameplay.

You are, as you might expect, a colonist who lands in the New World (either North America or the islands of the Carribean). You establish towns, exploit the land and the natives, and sell your goods back to the motherland, where you recruit more settlers to further expand your hold in the west. Your ultimate goals are self-sufficiency and, finally, rebellion. Stir up enough independent feelings, then you can break away from your homeland and, if you can survive the military reprisal, win the game.

colonization city screen

Colonization is very much a micro-management game, your population is measured by individual colonists who can be assigned specific tasks such as harvesting food or other raw materials (cotton, sugar, silver, etc.) from the land surrounding your town, or converting those raw materials into finished goods. You can assign any colonist to any task, but specialists will do it better. You can recruit colonists and specialists from Europe (or they may offer to come in search of religious freedom), or you can send missionaries to native villages in hopes of gaining converts to live in your towns. If you buddy up to the natives, you can send your colonists to their villages to get specialist training.

Managing your population and keeping them on task will eat up half your time, with the other half being devoted to trade, carting your goods around to the other colonists or shipping them back to Europe. Producing finished goods (which are more valuable) is a multi-step process; you have to have a citizen harvesting, say, tobacco, as well as another citizen working to convert the tobacco into cigars. You add more people to a particular job, or improve the buildings to make them more productive.

civilization world map

And that’s the game, really, to try to build up trade while also building up the desire for independence (that’s a job, too; you add workers to your Town Hall). There’s very little exploration and practially no technology research (beyond building new structures that give you access to new units). Raising armies is a matter of assigning colonists to defend a city (or hiring professional troops).

With its shallow gameplay and narrow focus, this game reminded me of a piece of educational software I played in middle school in which the goal was to teach you about the American Revolution. Except for Colonization’s improved graphics, they could be sisters. Managing trade can be an interesting aspect of game play—in fact, I wish trade was more of a factor in the main Civ game—but here it’s reduced to such a simplistic level that is never interesting. Pretty deadly, as that’s the main focus of the game. Considering how far simulations have come in the last two decades, Colonization comes off more like a mini-game in the scheme of something much grander.

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Civ IV: Colonization review

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