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Apolyton Civ4 PREVIEW (By Solver) - Part 2 online


  • Apolyton Civ4 PREVIEW (By Solver) - Part 2 online

    What Do You Want to Build Today?

    Screen showing units and buildings stats

    I will now speak about domestic issues in CivIV. How you build things, manage your cities and your empire has definitely changed, and these changes are quite interesting.

    The first change is that you can no longer switch production from one item to another and keep the amount of shields the previous project has gathered. If you are halfway through building a Library and switch to a Chariot, you'll start building the Chariot from scratch and can later go back to finish the Library from where you left off… although the production progress will decay if you leave it for too long. This change might not sound like something terribly major, but it is.

    There's no more switching 6 cities producing economic buildings to defensive units if you get attacked to get those defenders out easily. There's no more changing your mind on what you want to build halfway there, and there's no changing production from a Wonder you got beaten to. If someone beats you to a Wonder, you get a refund in gold but you've also wasted a good amount of production turns in your city. You have to plan ahead and think more carefully about your building choices. After a few games you will notice that it really changes the way the game is played.

    There is a wide array of buildings in CivIV: military, scientific, religious and economic. Since some of these buildings also allow you to convert citizens to specialists (more on that later), they are very valuable. In fact, your cities tend to be really valuable in CivIV - you can't just have a dozen small outposts. That makes sense largely because of maintenance costs - your cities had better pay for themselves or serve some useful purpose.

    Tile improvements built by your Workers are also different. There are now more tile improvements available, some of which can only be built on certain resource types such as Pastures which can only built on tiles with herd animals. And for any of you worried, no, you cannot mine grassland. One of the new improvements is a Cottage, and it's an interesting improvement indeed. A Cottage gives you some commerce, but if a city works it, then the Cottage will later grow to be a Hamlet, which will later turn into a Village, which finally turns into a Town -Villages give you more commerce, and Towns even more. Thus, Cottages are long-term investments: they may not be a great benefit by themselves, but once fully grown, become excellent improvements.

    Another very happy change is that you no longer require hordes of Workers. If in CivIII you could easily have had over 80 Workers, which could drive you to insanity even if you automated them, you will no longer need to employ such numbers in CivIV. Partially, this is because your land area is likely not going to be as huge as in CivIII. In addition, the early expansion is slower, which means that you do not need a plethora of Workers to keep up with all the extra cities you're churning out, so fewer Workers can manage to improve all of your early cities.

    Of course, CivIV wouldn't be Civ without Wonders. There are National Wonders and World Wonders. National Wonders are in CivIV like Small Wonders were in CivIII. An interesting detail is that resources such as Stone or Marble can speed up the construction of some Wonders. The effects of Wonders in CivIV are pretty diverse - some will give you free experience or a promotion for units, while others will increase commerce. Others still boost research, further construction of Wonders, one increases your defense capabilities, and one even starts a Golden Age. Finally, as many of you are already likely aware, Wonder movies are making their return in CivIV.

    You’re So Special...

    Close-up of the engineer and scientist types of Great People

    In CivIV, specialists play a big role. Specialists are citizens that do not work a tile in your cities, but instead add to your city's culture, treasury etc. Assigning specialists requires you to have enough food, as you don't want to push your city into starvation. Some other prerequisites may also apply. For instance, scientist specialists require a Library be built in a city. Also, under most circumstances, your number of specialists will be limited, such as Library will only allow for 2 scientists. That said, each specialist can, in fact, be enabled in several ways.

    By themselves, specials have a positive effect. Artists produce culture, scientists produce breakers towards technological research and so on. There are also Wonders and Civic choices that can make your specialists even more productive. In total, there are six types of specialists: Scientists, Priests, Engineers, Merchants, Artists and Citizens. The Citizen is a basic specialist that gives very little and is usually best avoided. It is, however, the only specialist that does not have any prerequisites to be able to use them. Then again, it doesn't allow you to get a Great Person either.

    Ahh, Great People. These guys are really interesting and significant. The basics are simple: each of your cities has a Great People meter with points accumulating as time goes on. When enough points are in the meter, it drops back to zero and gives you a Great Person. The amount of points required for the next Great Person goes up each time you get one. These Great People points come from Wonders and specialists.

    Each Wonder and specialist gives a specific type of Great Person points. Scientist specialists give Great Scientist points, obviously, and, for instance, the Notre Dame Wonder gives Great Artist points. All of these points are added together in the Great Person meter, but how many points of what type there are affect the probability of getting a specific type of a Great Person.

    Each Great Person has four actions it can take once you get it. The first is discovering a technology (or contributing a significant amount of breakers towards it). The technology will also be in the Great Person's area of expertise. A Great Prophet might give you the Theology advance, and a Great Merchant the Banking one. The second action is settling in a city. That essentially gives the city a "super specialist" who has the effect of several normal specialists and is thus a considerable boost to that city. The third action is starting a Golden Age. For that, you need two Great Persons of different types for the first Golden Age, three for your next and so on. Finally, there is the special action for each type of Great Person.

    Great Prophets can build a religious Shrine in a Holy City that give benefits for that religion. Great Merchants can conduct a trade mission, giving you a significant amount of cash. Great Engineers can rush-build almost anything. Great Artists can create a Great Work, instantly giving the city a good amount of culture points - this is sometimes called the "Culture Bomb", as it can push enemy borders back. Great Scientists meanwhile can create an Academy, a building only available through Great Scientists, which improves the science and culture output of a city.

    With all these options available, it should be said that the Great People are well balanced. There is not just one right thing to do in any situation. What you want to use your Great People for is going to depend strongly on your current situation and play style. The balance is good, but everyone is likely to develop his own preferences for the use of Great Persons.

    Specialists and Great People encourage you to have specialized cities. A city that has surplus food can have a high number of specialists for good economic output coupled with generating Great Persons. Cities that only have, say, one or two specialists will not be able to be steady Great People sources once you have had a few Great Persons and the point threshold goes up. In fact, all of this is closely related to another truth in CivIV.

    Bigger Isn’t Always Better

    Just as Solver's pink Spanish Conquistadors where are about to take Warwick, the Mongols made a naval landing!

    Here lies in a huge difference between CivIV and its predecessors. In previous Civ games, bigger was usually better. If you had the largest amount of land with the most cities, then you were the strongest civilization out there and would win. In CivIV, size still has its advantages. However, if you are the biggest, that still doesn't necessarily mean anything.

    I have played games where a smaller civilization won - and this happened with both me being that smaller civ. and an AI civ. in that role. If you have 7 cities and everyone else has over a dozen, you can still be the tech. race leader. One possible way to do that is to have fewer cities which emphasize specialists and in turn produce Great People regularly. There are also other strategies that will let you do similarly well. One of these has me particularly excited.

    I have seen smaller AI civs compete and win. An AI civ. can run only 4 or 5 cities and still be competitive. Another notable thing is that wars in CivIV tend to be fewer. The AIs are often smart enough not to enter wars that they don't really feel that they can win, and it's therefore possible for a civ. to remain peaceful and gain the lead while the rest of the world is fighting. War is costly - your cities are producing units instead of infrastructure, and you are running aggressive civics instead of those that boost your economy.

    Screen of the globe view showing the extent of each culture

    Obviously, a civ. with 20 cities is probably going to have a larger army than a civ. with 10 cities. Then again, the changed combat system makes it possible for a builder to defend against a numerically superior force. Clever use of promotions, siege weapons and the city defense (which, incidentally, is also boosted by culture) will make it quite possible for a smaller nation to repel the invasion of a bigger aggressor. This is not to say that being aggressive is a losing strategy in CivIV - it is most definitely not, but it's not that easy either. Don't expect that building an army early on and conquering whoever is unfortunate enough to start near you would give you an outright lead for the entire game.

    Another reason why more cities isn't always better in CivIV is city specialization. To reliably generate Great Persons at a good rate, you will need a significant amount of specialists and Wonders. Of course, this is better done in existing big cities. Since such a city can have a lot of commercial and industrial power, you will very often prefer a specialized city to several medium size cities.

    Even in war, bigger isn't always better in CivIV. Forget about the owner of the largest army winning every time. Thanks to the intelligently designed and versatile combat system, numbers are not going to be your biggest advantage at all times.

    Rip Them Off More Than They Rip You Off!

    Peter's stance towards me analyzed

    Diplomacy has changed so much in CivIV that I called it a new feature in the beginning of my preview. These changes are not immediately obvious from looking at screenshots, but in the game itself, they are huge.

    In CivIII, there was no concept of loyalty, although there was reputation. However, if you wanted to do so, you could easily get anyone on your side by repeatedly giving them 'gifts' worthless in value - such as 1 gold. Likewise, the AIs were quite happy to join wars, so getting foreign military help was not hard, either. Finally, there was technology whoring, which allowed you to gain huge profits from any tech. you had that the AIs didn't, whereas in the earlier parts of the game you could simply buy all the technology for gold.

    The diplomatic arena in CivIV is different, first of all, because there are much more sophisticated processes involved in how relationships form. There are blocs that form throughout the game, and there are true loyalties and hard feelings between the various civs.

    The basic premise is that each civilization has an attitude towards every other civilization that is determined by a set of modifiers. One of the greatest additions to the game is that you can see these modifiers and thus precisely know why a specific civ. treats you the way it does. These modifiers are quite numerous. The positive ones include having the same state religion, having an Open Borders agreement, trading resources, sharing technology, and others. The negative modifiers include having different religions, refusing to give tribute, refusing to give help, declaring war, and others. An extremely important negative modifier is trading with a particular civilization's worst enemies.

    Human vs human multiplayer diplomacy screen

    Every civ will not like some other civs for some reason. If, for example, Greece and Rome like each other and both dislike Germany, then you will not be able to maintain friendly relations with all three of them. Trading with the Greeks and Romans will upset the Germans and vice verse. At some point, the Germans, not liking your trade relations with Rome, might come and demand that you cancel deals with Rome. In turn, if you refuse that, the Germans will like you even less.

    That way, blocs are formed and you really feel like you are a part of one of them in most games. There might easily be games where, by the Middle Ages, the world is already split in two 4 vs. 4 blocs. Choosing which bloc to be a part of is not always trivial. For example, it will be easier to ally with civs that share your religion, but it might happen so that they don't have much to trade with. You can certainly establish good relations with those who have another religion, but it's extremely hard, if possible, to switch gears and get good relations with somebody who hates you.

    Of course, how exactly the diplomatic arena forms varies from game to game. In some games, everyone gets along better than in others, so you might not always see a very distinct division in blocs, but there will almost never be situations where everyone loves everyone.

    Trading items in diplomacy has also changed significantly. The AI really considers whether a deal is good for them before accepting it. Also, their willingness to deal with you will depend on their attitude. Gone are the days where an AI that hates you would sell you technology willingly. You will now find that AIs that dislike you will agree to few, if any deals, whereas those with whom you have established and maintained good relations will be much better trading partners.

    Much of the time, some items that a civ. has will be marked as non-tradable. Essentially, this means that the AI is unwilling to even consider giving those items. For example, if a civ. is the first to discover a crucial military technology or a tech. for an important Wonder, it's very likely that the tech will be 'red' in diplomacy - no chance of getting it whatsoever. Whenever an AI controlled civilization is unwilling to trade an item, you will get an explanation of why, such as "We don't like you enough" or "We would have nothing to gain".

    Friendly AIs, however, will be pretty active in trading technology most of the time. They will be looking for fair exchanges benefiting both of you. To get a technology you will usually have to offer a technology of your own in exchange, because the price in gold is going to be pretty high. Also, trading resources is very beneficial both for relations and the happiness of your people.

    You can also ask AI controlled civilizations to declare war on, make peace with or stop trading with another civ. You will not be able to get others to do your dirty work for you, however: the AI will not declare war on another civ. without a good reason. If your intended target is in a remote location from your would-be ally, you aren't going to get an alliance there. The AI will only agree to declare war on others where it could have something to gain from the war… and then it will usually want you to pay something for their trouble.

    You can also agree to sign two mutual agreements with others: Open Borders and Defensive Pact. Open Borders means permission to enter each other's borders has been granted. This gives prime opportunity for Missionaries to do their job. Open Borders also create trade routes between cities while a Defensive Pact means that, if one party is declared war upon, the other party also declares war on the aggressor. The Pact is, however, indeed Defensive - it is only possible to sign while at peace, and will be cancelled if either party declares war first.

    Developer Firaxis Games has improved the United Nations considerably. If in CivIII the United Nations only served as a gateway to the diplomatic victory, then the abilities of this organization have been notably increased in CivIV. When the United Nations are first built, a Secretary-General is elected. There are two candidates for this position. The first is the owner of the city where the UN is located, and the second is whoever has the highest population or second-highest, if the UN owner has the highest population. Each civilization in the world then has a number of votes to cast for either of the candidates, the number of which is determined by population size. As in CivIII, abstaining is also an option for each nation.

    When the Secretary-General is elected, he can choose the next three resolutions to be put forth. These can include Single Currency, Open Markets, Global Emancipation, Global Free Speech and others. A special resolution is the one which can trigger diplomatic victory if enough votes are given for it. After three resolutions have been voted on, new elections for the Secretary-General take place.

    Overall, the diplomatic system has improved so much that it truly feels like an all-new feature. May you enjoy your dealings with the rivals in CivIV!

    Health, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll

    To further spice things up, CivIV has a completely revamped pollution model, and the added concept of health. Previously, the one basic variable that you had to keep track of in your cities was happiness. Now, you can have both unhappiness and unhealthiness in cities. Unhappy citizens refuse to work, but unhealthiness slows down the growth of your cities as citizens are unable to do as much work.

    There are still numerous ways to deal with these problems. Many resources are available that increase either health or happiness in your cities. Likewise, there are buildings that do so - the traditional Temples and Coliseums for happiness, and Aqueducts or Hospitals for health. Of course, some of the civics choices can also help you with these problems.

    While the reasons for unhealthiness are pretty simple, such as the presence of air polluting factories in a city, the reasons for unhappiness (and happiness, too) are many and different. For example, your citizens might get upset at wars in general, and more so against wars against people that share their religion. Any draft or forced labor will also upset your people, just as the lack of military in a city will.

    Another new thing in CivIV are some of the late game Wonders, such as Broadway or Rock'n'Roll. These Wonders will essentially give you a number of happiness resources such as Movies and Singles respectively. You can also trade these resources. What's better than exporting your movies and pop music to other countries?

    The changes to happiness and the introduction of health are, in my opinion, some of the best things about CivIV. They remove the need for tedious micromanagement where you must make sure that no city is on the verge of disorder each turn. At the same time, managing your resources for health and happiness is also a fun part of the game, and another reason why it is good to have nice trade relations with others.

    Finally, it's just impossible not to say that the whack-a-mole pollution cleanup from CivIII is gone for good!

    Politics: Choose Your Poison

    Yet another remarkable addition to CivIV is the civics system. Simply put, instead of the seven or so governments in previous Civ games, CivIV offers you a selection of civics - there are five main categories (Government, Legal, Labor, Economics, Religion) with five choices in each. You start the game with the basic civic in each category, not giving you any bonuses, and gain the ability to employ different civics throughout the game.

    Why exactly is this an improvement? Look at it in terms of numbers. Five civics in five categories means 3,125 possible combinations. If more than three thousand extra government options compared to what was available in former Civ games isn't an improvement, then I don't know what is.

    Firaxis has done a good job at balancing the civics system as it feels quite right. There is no one right combination of civics to run, although there are naturally combinations that are better for war or for peace. Pacifism is a civic that will increase your Great Person birth right, but is less than perfect for war. Elsewhere State Property will cut your maintenance costs, Caste System will let you use more specialists, and so on.

    Civics are excellent in the simplicity of the basic idea. There isn't a lot of a explaining to be done about what they are or how they work, but they add a lot to the game. I have no doubt that CivIV strategists will greatly enjoy examining the possible civics combinations and their uses.

    Know Thy Enemy...

    And that enemy is CivIV's Artifical Intelligence (AI). I could actually talk forever about the AI, but this preview is already long enough, and your eyes must be bleeding. So, let's get straight to the point.

    The AI in CivIV is significantly better than its predecessors… period. It is a more intelligent AI which chooses its actions much more carefully and generally achieves a better result for itself with it. Be forewarned that my explanations here cannot give you a fair idea of how the AI plays - for that, you need to actually play several games.

    Overall, it is important to say that in CivIV the AI is closely tied in to the new diplomatic system. The AI does react according to the diplomatic situation in the world. The simplest examples are that it will not declare war on a best friend and trading partner, or that it will be unlikely for the AI to declare on a small civilization that has a Defensive Pact with a huge one. The AI's decision making is much improved by that alone.

    The CivIV AI does a very fair job at managing the empires that it controls. It develops infrastructure properly, improves its land, and uses specialists to get Great People. The AI also builds an army of a formidable size and is able to use it well. In fact, I am very happy to state that the AI handles every concept in the game from civics to religions, promotions, diplomacy, resource trades et cetera quite well.

    Military wise, gone are the days when you could park two strong units in good defensive terrain and watch the AI lose half its army in an attempt to wipe those two units out. The AI now has a fair threat assessment. If you have one unit in the middle of its land, it will be killed soon, but the AI will not go making suicide attacks to do that. If, however, you cross their border with a true invasion force, then the response will also be proper.

    The AI can use unit tactics appropriately to deal with your incoming forces or other threats. In one of my games, I tried invading the AI CivIII style with a huge stack of units. By the time they reached an AI city, all units in my stack were significantly weakened because of the collateral damage done by the AI defensive siege weapons. And these weak units became easy pickings for the other AI defenders: I lost 15 units, the AI only 2.

    Do not expect yourself to be able to conquer the AI cities just as you please. You will need to bring your siege weapons, you will need to use mixed arms, and you will need to make sure that you're using the advantages that particular terrain can provide you with.

    The AI is not only a good defender, it is definitely able to mount fearsome invasions as well. You will not see the AI trying to take your heavily defended city with 2 units. If 2 units is all it has in your land, the AI will pillage instead. The AI is willing and able to wait for reinforcements, assemble a sizeable group and strike against your cities. It also knows how to use its promotions and siege weapons to make the task easier.

    Also, don't expect the AI to fight all the time. In fact, you will probably see some AIs that don't fire a single shot in the whole game. What's more, these AIs are likely to be quite successful, even if they are going to have less land than some of the other civs in the game.

    The AI in CivIV will raise a fair number of Great People, will not be easy to beat to Wonders and religions, and will be a much better adversary in diplomacy than ever before. Of course, the AI is not perfect, and no AI in a game can ever be as good as we would want it to be. Still, CivIV's AI is a big step ahead in that direction, and there is undoubtedly much fun to be had against this AI. Also keep in mind that when the Software Development Kit is released by Firaxis early next year, the community will be able to write custom AI modules to improve it to which I am very much looking forward.

    Trust No One

    Multiplayer staging room

    Multiplayer lobby area, showing the buddy feature

    At least, not in online games. CivIV allows you to pit your skills against other human opponents in a variety of multiplayer modes. Under the Quick Game mode with simultaneous turn, it is quite possible to play a multiplayer game in one sitting. Multiplayer in CivIV is fun - I am a single player person at heart, but I still enjoyed my MP experiences.

    The first important thing that has to be said about CivIV multiplayer is that it really works. Connectivity is fine, the performance is decent even in games with more than a couple of players, and the game itself plays just as it is supposed to. Multiplayer is enjoyable largely thanks to the amount of options available to participants. For example, you can start your game in the Industrial or Modern Age, you can disallow city razing, play n-city elimination or even play games where wars are not possible - instead, it's a race to build a spaceship that successfully makes it to Alpha Centauri. Also, for any game type, there exists the option of team play. Players on the same team will share research and sight, and this mode can be a very popular one among players who are discouraged from multiplayer because of the more aggressive nature of it. In a team game, you can build Wonders and do research for your teammates to benefit from, while they concentrate on building armies and fighting.

    Play-by-Email is also available for those willing to join long-lasting games with elaborate diplomacy. Persistent turn-based server games will come to CivIV soon, which can be interesting to PBEM and regular multiplayer fans alike.

    Closing Comments

    I have greatly enjoyed my time with CivIV and I believe that most of you also will. If I were to sum up my opinion of CivIV in a short phrase, I would simply say that Civilization IV is the best Civ game so far. And that really says a lot.

    Make no mistake -- this is not CivIII with 3D graphics and more stable multiplayer. It really is a new game. There are major changes such as those I have listed above, and there are a number of smaller changes that have gone unmentioned in this preview but that you will have the pleasure of discovering for yourself. All these things put together truly make CivIV an excellent game.

    Civ Live Long and Prosper!

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