on May 21, 2007
Like previous Civilization games, Civ 4 is a turn based strategy game that gives you control over the development of your civilization. Without going into all the features, I will point out the strengths and weaknesses.
While some will complain about this, the overall game has been redesigned. Unlike previous games which encouraged the building of as many cities as you could in the early part of the game, Civ 4 goes to a more strategic approach, but also gives you something to do each turn(instead of setting production and waiting several turns for what you want to build to finish). The game now eliminates the "corruption" system of previous games, and goes to a system where there is an expense that the city places on your government. So, you start with one city, and you need to build a bit slower, at least in the early game.
The graphics engine is now 3D, and with a decently powerful video card, you can see all your city improvements from the main map. You can zoom in and out as well.
Cultural boundaries are based on the culture output of your cities, and you can use culture as a way to expand your borders and capture border cities.
Religion is a system that allows the founder(s) of the different religions certain extras. If you are the founder of a religion, and you accept that religion as your "state religion", you can see all the cities that contain that religion. Religion can spread on it's own, or you can help it by sending out missionaries.
The game is open for mods, and there are many out there that you can download to tweak the game in different ways.
Replay value is high due to multi-player, as well as the random factor in map generation. There are some static maps, but there are also a number of random maps that can be adjusted based on your preferred play style. If you prefer there being only one continent, or higher or lower ocean levels, or a larger or smaller map, you can start the game with the settings YOU prefer.
There are also different game "speeds", which decide how long each game will take. A marathon game on a huge map can take over six hours, but you don't need to play on marathon.
Each of the AI civ leaders have their own personalities, with some being more warlike than others.
With the Warlords expansion, you have both unique units for each civilization, as well as unique buildings. These unique buildings and units replace a "standard" building or unit.
There are many more positives, but no game is without it's negatives, even though I don't really consider many of these to be real flaws.
If your video card does not support directX 9 in hardware, the game won't look as good, and you will need to turn off certain graphics options. That is due to the video card not being able to handle certain graphics features. Even with DirectX 9, if you have a low end video card, including integrated video in most laptops, you may encounter some graphics issues. Intel video tends to be the source of many problems, but older laptops with DirectX 8.1 or earlier graphics chips tend to be the source of many display problems.
Even with a reasonably fast machine, video, CPU, etc, if you play on a huge world with 17 computer controlled civilizations, you will find that you need to wait a bit between turns(as the AI civs get their turn). This can make it a little annoying, but again, the choice of playing on a huge world with an older/slower computer is yours.
The AI at times can be a bit...slow. This is why multi-player is a good thing, because you can play against other humans. There are some mods out there that help with this. The next expansion(Beyond the Sword) has improved AI as a feature.
If you prefer a game that lets you win or lose based on thinking, and less on reflexes, then Civ 4 should be seen as a great game. If reflexes and fast gameplay are what you look for, then Civ 4 is NOT for you. Warlords and the second expansion(due out in July of 2007) add(and will add) to the base game. There are also a lot of elements in Civ 4 that will appeal to those interested in history, since there are references in the game to real life leaders, cultures, and world wonders.