Civilization IV

In 2005 it was time to do it again and produce another version of Civ. The Civ IV team was lead this time by Soren Johnson, and you can read his thoughts about it at One Civ, Many Worlds, at the site. But in short, he played Civ in college, got a degree in computer science, and wanted to work for a game developer. So he sent in his resume and got hired.

One thing he really dug into was the online forums where all of the fans gathered, Apolyton and CivFanatics. From the fans he started to ideas on what kinds of developments they wanted, and recruited a large group to be play testers. The fan community is a major part of Civ. I was recently at a rehearsal for a wedding and saw a guy wearing a Civ T-shirt, and in no time we were having a great fans conversation, and with Civ fans the biggest topics are “What is your favorite version?” and “What is your favorite Civ?” And in Civ IV, one expression of the role of the fans and how they are involved is that the game was opened to modders to the maximum extent possible. As Soren said:

Early on in the development of Civ IV, we decided to make the game as open to modders as possible – trying not to hide anything “behind the wall” of the executable application. Map and scenario data would be saved in a simple text format, game data would be maintained in standard xml files, map scripts, events, and interface code would be handled by the Python scripting language, and game C++ code would be publicly released so that modders could create their own algorithms by compiling custom DLL’s.

Civ IV keeps many things the same, of course. You still start out in 4000BC with a group of nomads settling down to found your first city, and you explore, and you research, and you build. I doubt these will ever change in Civ, they are the heart of the games. Because of this, if you have played a previous version of Civ, you can sit down to a new version and start playing right away. But to be really effective you need to know what has changed, and each version brings in changes, some major, some minor. And earlier changes continue to propagate through the game, such as Worker units separate from Settler units.

Changes from Civ III

The first change people will notice is in the graphics. The game looks very different, and if you look closely you’ll see 3-D animations all over the map. It is a very different look from Civ III.

But the game play is where the really significant changes happen. In all previous games of Civ there were really only two things you could produce on a tile you owned: you could build a farm, or you could build a mine. So in every tile you developed, you would build one of those two. But in Civ IV you have other options. Once you had discovered the right technology (Animal Husbandry), you could put your cows in a pasture and get food production from that. And when you had Animal Husbandry you would be able to see Horses on your map, and build a pasture for them as well. And you had to do that to get access to Mounted units. In earlier Civs 1 & II all you needed to do was learn the right technology and you could start building the units, in Civ III now you needed to have the resource as well, but one copy of the resource could build infinite units. And now in Civ IV the number of units you can build is limited by how many horses you have, so you have an incentive to find more resources on the map. Similarly, where in Civs I & II you could build Legions and Swordsmen as soon as you discovered Iron Working, and in Civ III you need to actually own the Iron resource in your empire, now in Civ IV the amount of iron you have determines how many units you can produce.

Another major change is in “Production switching”. For instance, if you are building a Wonder, you have to worry about another Civ also building it, and maybe they get it first. In earlier Civs you could take that stored production value and transfer it to a different Wonder, or even a different build project. Now if it happens, you lose the production, though you get a gold equivalent. And if you want to switch buildings or units, you can do it, but it means starting from scratch on the new building or unit, though you retain your progress on the previous building or unit and can return and complete it later. This is particularly important when war breaks out, and you need units quickly. In earlier Civs you could quickly turn your production from buildings to military units and have them ready in a turn or two from the production you had stored up. Now you have to build them from scratch, and that makes it important that you maintain your military at enough strength to deter aggression.

A big change is in the role of Religion. In earlier Civs, Religion played its part as “the opium of the masses”. You could build Temples and Cathedrals, but what they did was keep your population happy. In Civ IV Religion starts to matter more. There are now seven religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, and Hinduism. There is no preference given to any one religion, and they tend to all work pretty much the same, though in later versions of Civ that changes. But in Civ IV Religion does affect game play, particularly in the Diplomacy aspect since another Civ that follows the same religion will get along better with you, while one following a different religion will be slightly more hostile.

Diplomacy is another area where Civ IV advanced. You can now do more things in the diplomacy than just declare war or ask for peace. You can trade goods with another Civ, you can form alliances, you can enact trade embargoes, promise military aid, and so on. Furthermore, you can now see how your actions affect other Civs’ attitudes to you, and adjust your decisions accordingly. Your standing with them is on a numerical scale, and you see that, as an example, you lose points for continuing to trade with their enemy. Then you can decide if that is a problem and what you want to do with it. And the United Nations can pass global treaties (e.g. nuclear non-proliferation), and opens up the Diplomatic victory.

Great People are an elaboration on Civ III’s Great Leaders idea. Now there are 5 different categories: artists, merchants, prophets, engineers, and scientists. And each one grants bonus abilities.

And the Victory conditions have expanded. There are now 6 possible Victory conditions:

  • Conquest – Eliminate all other Civs
  • Cultural – Have three cities with legendary culture
  • Domination – have a 30% lead in world population and a 65% share of the world
  • Space Race – Build a space ship and be the first to reach Alpha Centauri
  • Diplomatic – Be elected as World Leader in the United Nations
  • Time – Have the highest score when time runs out (approximately 2050 AD)


Civ IV Warlords

This expansion was released in 2006, and brought in some added features. Vassal States can happen if one civ dominates another without actually conquering it. The vassal state continues to exist, but its policies, including going to war, are largely controlled. And Vassal States are counted as part of the Dominant Civ for the purposes of a Domination victory. Then there are the usual expansion items. More new Civs in the game, some new leaders, some new techs, new units, new Wonders, and so on. And of course, new Scenarios, such as Chinese Unification, The Peloponnesian Wars, and The Vikings.

Civ IV Beyond the Sword

Released in 2007, Beyond the Sword introduced some new concepts, such as Corporations, developed the Espionage aspects much further, and adjusted the Victory conditions for Space Race and Diplomatic victories. And of course like all expansion it added new units, buildings, leaders, technologies, and so on. Plus the usual batch of Scenarios.

Civ IV Colonization

This is a complete remake of an earlier game. Brian Reynolds had done the first version of Colonization in 1994 using the first Civ engine (Civ I). It has not aged well. So they did a complete remake of the game using the Civ IV engine. I did not particularly like the first version, and never bothered with this remake, but it is there if you want it.

Summarizing Civ IV

Civ IV is in many respects a road map for how Civ would develop further in the next versions. Features that are introduced here, such as Religion and Diplomacy, will become much more important in Civ V and Civ VI. So while they are not as fully developed here, they are sign posts to the future. Civ IV is the favorite version of many players even now that Civ V and Civ VI have come out, so there is something good going on in this game. (See below for some opinions on this).

Obtaining Civ IV

Civ IV is available on Steam as the complete Edition, with all 3 of the Expansions, for $29.99, or you can just buy the base game alone for $19.99. I think the Complete Edition is the better deal. You can also get it for the same price at Good Old Games.

And this is a good place to perhaps discuss why you would want to buy from Steam vs. GOG. They each have strengths and weaknesses, in my view. Steam gives you all of your games in one fairly easy Dashboard, and is available on a variety of platforms, including Linux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. However, the game has to be compiled to run on your platform, and many games are Windows-only. And you can have it installed on multiple devices (although only one at a time can be actively in use), and if you get a new device it is easy to transfer your games by installing them from the Dashboard. The downside is that you have to be connected to Steam online to play anything. But another plus is that many indie games, such as ones I purchased through Humble Bundles, offer Steam codes you can redeem to put the game on Steam. And new games will almost always appear on Steam. I have gotten every Civ VI expansion on the day of release on Steam and do it all from my computer.

Good Old Games offers games with no DRM, and there is no requirement for an online connection. You have to download the games to your device, and then install them locally. Since there is no DRM, you can install them on several computers if you wish, but if you get a new computer you have to download each game and install it manually. And as the name of the site suggests, they don’t have the latest games, or even relatively recent games. For instance, the latest version of Civ that they have is Civ IV. You won’t find Civ V or Civ VI on here as I write this, although perhaps they will get Civ V whenever Civ VII is released.

I have games I have purchased on both Steam and GOG, and have been generally pleased with both.

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