Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization

Wrapped in a shiny new bow, Sid Meier’s classic Colonization returns to conquer the world in colonial style.

The world is a different place from what it used to be. Sure, we’re still the same sort of people just with different clothes, words, items, pets, transport, buildings, and a culture that has developed over time.

None of this could have happened without the colonization of the world.

In 1994, Sid Meier – a man famed for his intriguing strategy & simulation games thus far – released Colonization, a game which he developed with Brian Reynolds and took his Civilization series and pushed it further making it more localised & giving gamers just that much more control.

Fourteen years later Firaxis & 2K Games have released Sid Meier’s Colonization, a remake in every sense of the word. Like the original, you’ll play as the English, French, Dutch, or Spanish, each setting sale for the New World in an attempt to become the one that controls it all.

While a remake, the game has been refined to take advantage of the Civilization IV engine (albeit an updated one), a game engine that still makes up one of the titles I and many other people still play today. Firaxis has even capitalised on its success by releasing several expansion packs for Civilization IV in the past couple of years.

Normally, Colonization would be one of those expansion packs but here, the game is stand alone making it all that more interesting for people who’ve never touched a Civ game before.

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Colonization also features multiplayer which lets you play this more refined version with your friends. If you do end up playing this with friends, expect the games to go for hours as the level of detail in which turn-based games such as this can go on generally take a while… although this can be shared in a single-player game depending on just how long you set the game for and how advanced you make the artificial intelligence.

For the past few weeks, I’ve played this game every day. I’ve tried to see what was so good about it and, to be honest, I just don’t quite get what all the fuss is about. It’s a remake, pure and simple, and while the original was groundbreaking, the new version of Colonization feels more like the old version wrapped inside of the superior Civilization IV engine but with little other work to it. It still has the same sort of America-centric feel that the originals had even though it has a European component. Perhaps I’m feeling a little left out as an Australian missing on my own little experience.

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Regardless of this, Colonization still plays out like the micromanaged original that you saw those years ago. If you didn’t see it, you manage a town down to what townspeople do, who you trade with, what land to buy, and a whole lot more. It’s an enormous amount of things to do and this game has always been for people who like to control things to the finest detail.

This is an excellent game for fans of the original who feel they’ve been too smothered by the ease of use with which Civ IV has been showing them of late. Colonization forces you to basically play trader and settler in running your camp. In a way, it’s a more personal version of Civilization even if it doesn’t move you far down the years at the rate Civ does.

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But in the same way, it’s tenacity for difficulty might throw a lot of newer gamers off. The tutorials in the game are your typical “text on a screen” pieces the Civ games are known for, but because Colonization is built off of such a precise level of micromanagement, this seems misplaced. Even some of the automated actions – a feature which helps users in the other Civilization games if they don’t want to do simple things like exploring or basic trading – seem slightly lacking or not working at all in some cases.

Furthermore, you can’t help but feel while playing Colonization that too much of what this version has been based on – Civilization IV – has been taken right from underneath. In some places, it feels too much like you’re playing against the same characters from Civ IV and while the economics of it all has changed, this might hamper the whole “new game” feeling for many a gamer.

In the end though, it won’t matter. Civilization was already in a niche market of its own – strategy gamers who loved precision and intricate play – and only barely just broke out of that with the brilliant Civilization Revolution. Colonization, however, is in a different league of its own. It will likely appeal to the gamer who wants all the control of the original game, a title which became known for how complicated and compelling it was while you founded the new world.

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Developer: Firaxis
Publisher: 2K Games
Classification: PG
Formats: PC
URL: Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark