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Review: Civilization CD from Guildhall Leisure
By: Jason Compton
Civilization was one of the first major computer gaming hits of the 90s.
Like many of Microprose's games, it's a rather broad undertaking.
Microprose has attempted to make a number of "true to life" simulations of
war machines, but in this game it's an attempt to simulate the formation
and development of a civilization. Obviously, they cut a few corners here
Guildhall Leisure has a license to republish virtually all of Microprose's
catalog of Amiga games on their Acid Software label. Civilization is their
first attempt to publish a CD-ROM on the Amiga as well. The particulars of
this re-release will be addressed at the end of the review.
For those of you who haven't played it in the 5 years since its release,
Civilization puts you in the role of a small group of settlers whose first
task it is to found a capital city for your civilization. From that city,
you grow food, build military units and important buildings, feed your
people so they can have children and make your empire bigger, and go on to
start more cities. Meanwhile, a number of computer opponents are doing the
(The game is single-player although I've played it with other people and
it's quite fun. The new FreeCiv which can be played over the net can help
you if you're looking for a multiplayer game like Civilization.)
Civilization takes a long time to play and is pretty addictive. There are
a number of different difficulty levels as well as a number of different
strategies you can try to use. For example, you will inevitably encounter
rival civilizations who have the same goal as you--being the world's best
civilization. You can take a very militant and aggressive position with
them, or attack only out of self-defense. It is very possible to take over
other civilizations' cities, but the game is more challenging if you don't.
The level of complexity in Civilization is just about right. One of my
gripes with world-simulations (or park simulations, see Theme Park) is that
you sometimes have to do so much micro-managing, particularly after your
city/empire/park starts growing, that the game is no longer any fun.
Civilization is pretty good about that sort of thing. You make work
assignments to your citizens by assigning them to work on plots of land
around your cities (which reap different rewards, depending on the terrain
and how much you've developed it), and by assigning settler units to
develop and improve the land around your cities. It's enough to keep you
interested throughout the entire game, but not so bad that you're killing
yourself trying to keep up with every little person there is.
One of the most rewarding parts of Civilization is research. Your
civilization starts with only the most basic of skills and abilities--it
is, after all, only 4000 BC. But you can assign your wise men to work on
new technologies, and as they discover their secrets you can build more and
better buildings and military units. You can also trade (or demand, or be
shaken down for) technology with other civilizations, and early in the game
you might discover a "scroll of ancient wisdom" which immediately bestows a
technology on you. The only down side is that the technologies available
in the game only stretch into the present day and a bit beyond (to
technologies it seems reasonable that humans will master in the not too
distant future.) If you're a very good Civilization player, you'll expend
these technologies and be stuck researching "Future Tech", which earns you
Civilization Points but nothing new in the game.
The ultimate goal of civilization is to colonize another planet. You never
do this directly, but late in the game you'll be able to start building
components for a vast interstellar spacecraft which can carry your people
to the stars. Wiping out the other civilizations is another possible goal.
Civilization is a lot of fun. There, that's clear.
Guildhall has placed both the ECS and AGA versions of Civilization on the
CD-ROM, and they can be run directly. (In fact, there's no HD install
option, although it would be pretty easy to do it yourself by just
modifying their startup script.) The AGA version is the prettier, and
implements more of the animation found on the PC version. Unfortunately,
because the game seems to insist on running on a DBLNTSC 256 color screen,
it's quite slow, even on our test 040/40 machine. I tried a number of
methods to persuade the game to run in a different mode but they failed.
Part of the delay is in the relative slowness of a 256 color DBL screen,
another part is in the excessively long screen fades the game uses. If
you're an experienced Civ player or don't care much about pretty graphics,
I strongly recommend using the ECS version--it's much, much faster.
Guildhall hasn't made any real marked improvement to the game short of
making it playable from CD. The extremely uncomfortable save-game scheme
is still there (you can save the game, but only to the root directory on a
device or partition, and if your partition list is too long the game gets
What is nice (and was part of Guildhall's license agreement with
Microprose) is that there's still a full printed manual and a color box.
The manual is not notably different from Microprose's old manual (except
the cover is white, not black, with black type instead of gold). This is
nice in general, and important since Civilization has documentation
protection. Call me a hypocrite seeing that I'm an online magazine editor,
but having printed documentation is tough to beat.
Civilization is a modern classic, and plays quite well on the Amiga. It
predates the popularity of RTG so you're pretty much stuck with your Amiga
chipset, but for UKP15 (around US$24, but the pound keeps getting stronger
against most other currencies) it's still a good value. I hope to see more
CD products from Guildhall--perhaps next time around they'll consider a
Guildhall Leisure (Acid Software)
Guildhall Industrial Estate
Doncaster, DN3 1QR
+44 01302 890000 voice