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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Giving up on Colonization

As a big fan of the original 1994 MicroProse classic Sid Meier's Colonization, I had high hopes for the new Civilization IV: Colonization standalone expansion pack.  The Beyond the Sword expansion pack for Civilization IV added several nifty and much-desired new features, including random events, quests, some great scenarios (including the epic "Nextwar" mod, which comes vaguely-close-ish to being the "Longer Reach of History" Civ game I've yakked about in the past), and some new military units.  However: Beyond the Sword had a big huge problem; namely, the 3.19 patch (which added some of the most desirable things, like switching off the hated espionage component) rendered the LAN multiplayer mode unplayable with dreaded "Out-of-sync" errors that inevitably occur. Oh, you can try to minimize the OOS errors by switching off random events and clearing your cache, but eventually during a long LAN game you will have an OOS error, and it's really aggravating. It's not really characteristic of Firaxis to leave a big atomic monster bug like this unpatched, so that was one of my earliest indications that Civ V was in the works - I figured that they must have been busy with something!

So, I was hoping that Civ IV: Colonization would be a much-needed return to form for Firaxis.  Unfortunately, this plot below accurately sums up my experience playing the Colonization remake:

The game starts out promising enough. There is a small graphical upgrade from baseline Civ IV; the water looks especially good. The interface is close enough to Civ IV to be familiar, but still reminiscent of the original 1994 game. You settle in, open up your root beer, and dash across the Atlantic to the New World...

...and then the wheels fall off. This game has an insane amount of micromanagement. You have to manually adjust all of your colonists, and the population grows at a snail's pace. The economy of your settlements almost never gets going. Equipping and building military units is a tedious chore, and when the Revolution happens (if it happens at all, since Liberty Bells aren't that easy to make, either), the Royal Expeditionary Force is so large that it is impossible to beat - and this is on Chieftain mode!

Now, I'm usually the first person to stand up and say that complexity is not a bad thing. After all, Flight Simulator is one of my favorite games and in real life, colonizing the New World wasn't exactly a picnic. However, Civ IV: Colonization is just annoying and tedious. What a shame - the original game is a timeless classic, but new one just isn't as fun as the original. Unless I get really bored at some point in the future (which isn't likely, since I'm barely 1/8 of the way through Dragon Age: Origins and I have an unopened copy of Sins of a Solar Empire waiting in the wings) I probably won't ever try to play the Colonization remake again. I really hope that this isn't a preview to what Civ V is going to be like! I guess we will all find out on September 21st...

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