It’s that time of year again, with packed malls, crowded parking lots and Christmas music blaring out of every speaker. So unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be subjected to the mindless masses and Christmas cheer for seconds, even minutes, longer than you have to. Let us save you that suffering with our gaming goodness suggestions.
In general, 2005 has been a solid but slightly underwhelming year as far as gaming goes. Perhaps we’re tiring of the sequels and the same-old, or perhaps the development was not quite up to the task of gripping our imaginations so thoroughly. However, there were gems, diamonds in the rough and genre leaders to check out.
No game this year impressed us as much as Civilization IV. It is the crown jewel of 2005, a game that is a worth sequel to the legendary Civilization franchise yet introduces much-needed changes to keep things fresh and interesting. When a game reviewer must pick nits like “well, the space race is a little too easy compared to the other victories”, you know it’s a solid title.
Civilization IV is the first 3D Civilization game, but the visual enhancements are merely the tip of the iceberg. The diplomatic model is more robust than any other Civ, with the AI being more inclined to play like a human player than an AI. Combat has been revamped by eliminating attack and defense values, replacing them with a single strength attribute. This is augmented by the concept of unit classes – mounted, spearmen, gunpowder, armor – which have various bonuses against each other. Further adding complexity is the ability of units to gain experience and levels, with the player assigning extra bonuses to that unit each time it gains a level.
After the disastrous multiplayer history of Civilization III – a sordid tale of broken promises, patches that never arrived, and the need to buy an expansion pack specifically for multi – it is refreshing to see that Civilization IV has the most functional multiplayer available out of the box. In fact, from the very moment you set up your first custom game, it’s clear that it was designed with multiplayer in mind. It is fitted seamlessly and works without a hitch, providing a number of ways to play.
One thing to caution purchasers about is the surprisingly high demands Civilization IV makes on a system. Though you would not think it by looking at the graphics, the game becomes very demanding on the CPU and memory around the time the player reaches the year 1800 in the game. This is especially true on larger maps, or at higher difficulty levels where the wars are more common and the AI uses more military units.