I recently started playing Sid Meier’s Civilization 4 for the ol compybox after having bested Civilization Revolution for the 360. I have to say they cranked the difficulty down quite a bit to allow average HALO BRAH! gamer to enjoy the experience as while I dominate on Xbox I can barely outwar Ghandi on the PC…which is odd because I carry myself as a benevolent dictator in all that I do, be it Connect Four or world war. Regardless, that is not what this post is about, this post is about how to improve the experience for the future.
Yeah, check out that visual flare. Now lets get to the nitty gritty.
Number 1: Fictional World Leaders
How many times have you played through Civilization…or Risk for that matter, and thought to yourself, “Man I’m handsome, but also I wonder what it would be like to lead a country as Magneto the master of magnetism??” Sure that’s a valid thought and one I can appreciate but apparently the fine folks at Firaxis can’t. In just a few minutes I thought up these fine leaders and even some of their traits and units:
Magneto (Philosophical, Isolationist) Advocate for mutants everywhere with a magnetic personality he rules with an iron fist. He doesn’t pander to the other World Leaders well, as he has an isolationist standpoint with most dealings. If lead to war however he is a cunning military leader who could threaten to dominate the entire world. Magneto starts with mining and can lift his primary city into the atmosphere.
Super Powered Mutant (replaces modern infantry) A super powered soldier trained from birth. “What happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning?” – Storm
Sentinel (replaces tank) A giant robot controlled directly by Magneto. “They once wrought these abominations upon us, now we show them the error of their ways.” – Magneto
Doctor Wily (Aggressive, Industrious) A professor of robotics who has several PHD’s and is known for his rebellious demeanor leads an army of robotic servants in hopes to control the world. His viewpoint on diplomacy is rather treacherous and will do what he has to with whomever he must to control the globe. Wily starts with the wheel and astrophysics.
Turret (replaces Archer) A rapid firing machine gun mounted on the ceiling. It shoots white pellets. “Sizziling circuits!” – Megaman
Robot Factory (replaces Factory) A factory with robots building robots. “You know, somehow, “I told you so” just doesn’t quite say it” – Will Smith.
Dracula (Charismatic, Spiritual) A centuries old vampire who leads the kingdom of the night, Dracula is an immensely powerful leader. While many leaders consider diplomatic actions with him insane, he is known to recognize the bravest as worthy allies, at least momentarily. Dracula starts with Hunting and Burial Grounds.
Vampire Coven (Replaces Settlers) Instead of founding your own town you can at will send the vampire coven into another town and attempt to convert it. “I am here to do Your bidding, Master. I am Your slave..” – Renfield
Brothel (Replaces Cathedral) A secluded house for cultured clientele. “Civilization, and syphilization, have advanced together.” – Van Helsing
Crocodile Dundee (Organized, Protective) Ahh the living legend of the Outback himself, Dundee brings a much needed Australian flair to a game with very little. His main export is blooming onions and he is very friendly to most diplomatic ventures. Crocodile Dundee starts with Fishing and Hatsmithing.
Prisoner (Replaces Warrior) If what I’m led to believe is true every Australian learns to “prison fight” with a knife. “That’s not a knife this is a knife.” – Crocodile Dundee
Ninja Koala (Replaces Spy) The result of 3 generations of Koala breeding, the perfect silent deadly killer. “I’m fucking terrified of Ninja Koalas” – Me
Zangief (Aggressive, Insane) The leading Russian of the popular video game Street Fighter, Zangief spends most of his time trying to hug men and drinking vodka. He’s the reason they put the Berlin Wall up in the first place. Diplomacy with Zangief is like trying to tickle a wolverine, when alls said and done someones missing some organs. Zangief starts with Vodka and Wrestling.
Giant Wrestler (Replaces Riflemen) Zangief doesn’t like firearms and instead instructs his country to shrug off the blasts with their immense pectoral muscles. “I don’t like projectiles, but I like you personally…” Zangief
Distellery (Replaces Farm) Russians don’t eat. They drink. “The relationship between a Russian and a bottle of vodka is almost mystical. ” – Richard Owen…I don’t know who it is either.
Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Awesome, Awesome) Theres one guy who could lead the town of New York with such gusto, such immense confidence that he literally fought a bloody war on it’s very streets for really no other reason than loving to stab things. If given the opportunity to be diplomatic ol’ bill usually is but when the hoot’n’hollarin starts he’s the first to grab something sharp and stab you in the kidneys with it. Bill starts with an American Flag blanket and the granary.
Native (Replaces Warrior) Holy crap did that guy just hit that other guy with a stick that had scalpels jammed in it? That shit was surgical. “I come for my due and proper.” – Happy Jack
Butchery (Replaces Market) Cut up dead animals. Nothing tastier. “No son, never. The blood stays on the blade. One day you’ll understand. ” – Liam Neison
Alright so you probably get the idea by now. I could go on and at some point I might, but this is the jist of it. You take any major badass in fiction and you throw him in a Civ game. The possibilities are endless. Hey, they don’t even have to be fictional really. I mean you throw Tom Cruise or Moses in this sumbitch and someones gonna turn feet up you know what I’m sayin’?
Number 2: Less AI ridiculousness
Listen, when I was playing Civ on Xbox there were times when 3 nations were at war with me at once and all I was doing was building culture. Basically, I was being ransacked by 3 world leaders because people liked to live in my towns, but the AI acted as if I was Hitler or a sentient volcano who ate his populaceand attacked me relentlessly. (Henry the Volcano is a sitcom I’d like to pitch) Anywho, In Civilization Revolutions I can deal with this. I have beaten it on the hardest difficulty with a purely defensive stance and I understand it’s there to make the game more difficult. If the computer didn’t gang up on you, you probably wouldn’t be an expert. Civ 4 for PC however is a different story as while I play I feel like at any point I could lose mainly for two reasons.
One, I have no idea what I’m doing still after playing a dozen times. The tutorial was alright I guess but I still find myself confused on exactly what I should build and why. A lot of the time I just go by the suggestions the game makes without considering anything because I can’t remember what does what. This is expedited in the fact it suggests things for you to do at every possible chance which basically leaves me letting the game “play itself”. I’m not suggesting they drop that aspect, as it’s probably still very helpful most of the time, I just wish maybe it told you why they wanted certain things so I could realize when to do them on my own.
Two, I have no idea what the computer is doing either. Sometimes it just randomly tells me Sir Patrick of Stupidtown has found Utopia, a wonderful place where elves and fairies sprinkle wishes upon those that enter. Meanwhile in my capital city of Cat Town the populace is living in rat infested sewer grates working at a strip club praying to make enough money to make ends meet. It’s like a sad episode of NYPD Blue. I like to hope this isn’t because my people can’t figure out how to build houses but that the AI builds the houses too well.
I imagine I’d get better if I played more but instead of all that nonsense, make the game fun and easy at the easiest difficulty. I mean I’ve won most of the times I’ve played but when I barely beat the AI to space on the lowest difficulty there is, I don’t feel very accomplished. In fact afterwards the game gives me a leader title which has all kinds of badass leaders on it and I end up with something like Prince Charles even when I win by an exuberant amount just because I was on the lowest difficulty. It’s like Sid Meiers was like, “You know what boys, fuck the casuals. This shit should be hardcore as fuck even on the lowest difficulty and when they win that we make fun of them for choosing it. That’ll keep ’em playing. I also liked Molten Core.”
All I’m askin is you do me a favor and tone it down Sid.
Number 3: War what is it good for?
I understand this is a strategy game and that I should find the joy in organizing and expanding my cities, not in button mashing devil may cry super combos where archers spout out gems for me to pick up. I don’t need that to satiate my needs, but what I do need is some sense. The combat in Revolution was fairly simple and I for the most part enjoyed it. Two numbers fight, the highest number usually wins. Alright that’s fine, the only complaint I had was it hid some of the modifiers for what I can only guess is shock value.
The problem comes in Civ 4 when I started getting in fights and there’d be so many hidden algorithms I needed a flowchart to figure out which side had the best chance of winning. I’m not a fan of math, many can attest to that, so instead of worrying about numbers I jumped in headfirst to most fights without considering the numbers and on most occasions did okay. I imagine this would change on the harder difficulties but as it stands I don’t want it to. I’m sure theres people who love calculating if their numbers going to be higher with certain advantages but to me I’d rather be left with the Revolution style of his numbers higher…he wins.
If anything I’d like to see maybe some sort of user interaction during the battles or at the very least some random element. Throw in some environmental hazards like rain or flesh eating virus cloud. Give me some spice. It’s the very essence of the game that you have all this customization and expansion but the combat always came down to little sprites swinging whatever their weapons are ad nauseum. Once you’ve seen one cannon explode theres no reason to watch it explode again, and thats a shame…because I love explosions.
Number 4 Variety!
Don’t get me wrong, I love the amount of ways to win in Civ 4 and think it creates a very open feeling with each game completely different than the last, which is probably why it’s such an enjoyable game. I think the scenarios do a great job of what I want from this area but they need to be expanded. I want to be able to win because I paid enough pirates to ransack the other cities that they no longer exist. I want to be able to claim victory by using a giant gravity gun and pulling the moon straight into my capital city ensuring the destruction of the entire world. Give me ridiculous options that only make sense in similarly ridiculous situations. Keep the real scenarios of course but make some more unique ones that people will be like wait what? My goal here is to melt the ice caps and cause global flooding then escape to the moon? Goals should be very flexible and neat enough that you don’t always feel like you have to do the same thing to win every time.
Speaking of the moon, why not make some more areas to live on besides a normal looking earth, or a watery earth, or what have you. Put me on the friggin moon. Even a change in scenary can change a game like this tremendously and keep people on their toes for many a scenario. Civics were a great addition to the 4th one and I wish something like that was in Revolution as the system is great. Keep adding more and more choices and the amount of replayability will sky rocket. If I can create a hive mind government who trades only in candy and speaks in facial ticks…then you know you will have done your job.
Alright I’m done. These are merely my suggestions to improve an already pretty snazzy game that many will think I’m insane for bringing up 2 years after it’s release. Thats okay though, I’ve never been one for sanity.