Sid Meier's Civilization - In-depth Written Amiga Review With Pics

 Sid Meier's Civilization
Amiga, 1992 (Original DOS 1991)

*Alphabetical list of writings
*Game best played/seen in NTSC mode with 4:3 aspect ratio

Just one more turn. No greater lie was ever told to oneself in the throes of a late night strategy gaming session. The clock hits midnight and before you know it the sun creeps its rays through the blinds, necessitating an immediate kick to your own rear. Forced to save the game and get on with your life, you'll nevertheless continue pondering the best moves to make upon your eventual return. Should you manage to obtain a smidgen of shut-eye, invasions of the dream world inevitably sneak their way underneath your bedtime covers.

Few computer titles were as addictive prior to Civilization, and those which have done it best since have often been the subsequent releases in this same series. The premise was simple; Take a primitive civilization encompassing only basic knowledge and skills in the year 4000 B.C., and guide them beyond the 21st century. Build an empire to stand the test of time. Simple concept, but no easy task. Perhaps no game has stood the test of time quite like Sid Meier's magnum opus. 
^Epic masterpieces require epic introductions, a history of Earth

No two games of Civilization will ever be alike. This is owed both to its strategic nature, as well as some of the best random land generation you're likely to come across. I have always marveled at the new and unexplored worlds this game has created for me, but if playing on the historical Earth is more to your liking, that is also an option. When starting a new game you will be treated to an appropriately ambitious introduction, telling you the basic story of... well, everything. Many magazines of the time were not fond of the games intro, complaining that it could not be skipped. Unfortunately they failed to understand that behind the scenes your world was generating, and could actually be skipped just as soon as it had finished that task.

It's easy for fans of these games to dismiss the prior games in the series, being as each new entry will add more layers upon the previous title. While I feel they are losing perspective by ignoring the titles that came first, I also understand this tendency as I've certainly gotten into newer entries. One thing which has always disappointed me with the newer games compared to this original, is how none of them feature an introduction which matches the grandiose nature of the game itself. They're short, uninspiring, and feature whatever cheesy CGI was common when developed. They are introductions that I could watch one singular time upon purchase of the game, and from then on shall always escape out of. With this original game, I want to see the introduction when starting anew.
^Easier difficulties have a built in tutorial, our first city, initial exploration

Further in comparison with the newer installments, layers of complexity may add to the enjoyment of those games for those already fans of the series, but having the basics which make the series great presented in its simplest form may just be the place for those new to the series to first start. At least I could certainly attest to that. For me it started watching my father play this game on our Amiga, eventually toying around with it all by myself and having a blast. Many game sessions were had on the various versions of Civilization II, along with the third chapter, the first experienced after my father had passed.

Neither is it as simple as only adding on top of that which was already there. Various fundamental mechanics have changed throughout the series, meaning there is unique gameplay elements to experience by playing various incarnations of the game, and I do feel the original is worth your time, if only to get that slightly different taste. In other Civilizations I've always preferred starting on my own medium sized continent, spending a good chunk of the game building up my cities with no outside influences, no wars to wage. Here I rarely could hope to get these circumstances, unless I started on a small island. If you're starting on any good sized land you can expect that you'll be sharing that land with others. I was forced to consider the early war machine, pumping out lines of chariots so I could develop my starting location alone.
^Science and early war

Competing civilizations, at least on harder difficulty levels, were all too eager to start war themselves, even when they had little hope of victory. My usual strategy of peace until later in the game could not be depended upon, and I was forced, to my eventual liking, to approach things differently. Even considering how war prone my particular playthrough seemed to be going, Civilization is by no means just a war game. Many different things need to be delicately balanced or prioritized. Should we have our first cities expand as quickly as possible by building  more settler units? Should we build those units but stall on the founding of new cities in order to improve the land on our existing ones? Should we instead build city improvements to help our scientific endeavors, or those which will keep our people happy so that they may be more productive?

Science is an integral part of Civilization. Nestled in the back of one of the finest manuals ever written is a fold out scientific tree. Certain discoveries will lead to others, will you go straight down the line in order to obtain nuclear weapons as fast as possible? Or should you shuffle between many advancements to get a healthy balance? If we want to expand and conquer overseas we'll need to research sailing units, we'll be requiring stronger offensive units and those which can best defend them. Changing governments offer many rewards such as increased trade (money), production, and science. But they'll increasingly stifle your ability not just to wage war, but to simply have any kind of military unit leave the city in which it was built.

^Improving our cities

A single city alone cannot produce ten cannon units to send off to war if you're a republic, as each military unit which is not in its home city will cause a citizen to become unhappy. A democracy increases this to two unhappy citizens which may lead to civil disorder, causing stagnation in city production. A war monger you may wish to be, but you'll still be forced to research practical everyday life improvements such as cathedrals or coliseums in order to keep your populace content while you conduct those wars. Perhaps you'll embark on constructing one of the wonders of the world, such as the hanging gardens. This wonder will add one happy citizen to each of your cities, meaning a more productive workforce when militaristic units are waging war or simply exploring.

Most wonders of antiquity or the middle ages will have their benefits cease at some point in the future. You may wish to delay certain scientific discoveries until a comparable alternative arises to replace them. Others may be of interest because they'll never expire, such as Bach's Cathedral. An early island bound civilization might find benefit to the lighthouse, increasing movement overseas, while Women's Suffrage could make war more feasible under representative governments, reducing or eliminating penalties associated with units which are not in their home city. Though the senate may simply overrule your planned war and sign a peace treaty without your blessings. ^Scouting new lands, improving the standard of living

While I found no personal use for them in this playthrough, I know some are fond of the espionage route. Diplomats may be created to establish foreign embassies, which will help you learn the strengths and weaknesses of your rivals. They can attempt to steal technology, destroy city improvements, and even bribe individual units or entire cities into joining your empire. Caravans function in a similar manor, but for trade purposes. I found these units especially worth while in my mid to late game playthrough of this title, a unit I rarely tended to use in other games. These units may be used to speed up construction of city wonders or improvements, but when used for the benefit of trade they may add up to significant gold added to your treasury.

One side effect of harder difficulty levels is how after a city reaches a certain population its new citizens will start coming out automatically unhappy. If the number of unhappy people exceed the number of those happy, the city will fall into civil disorder. The quickest way to deal with this issue is to take someone out of the workforce and have them become an entertainer, but this of course leaves valuable areas of the land undeveloped. I found the construction of temples to be needed early on, along with other improvements that dealt with happiness. Sometimes it's best to simply outright purchase an expedited construction of these improvements so they'll be finished in the next turn. To do this you'll be needing money not only to buy the project, but to support it, as all improvements siphon away currency each turn for maintenance. This means improvements which deal with trade like the marketplace or bank will also need attention so that you'll be able to afford others.
^Status screens, working on the railroad

Each individual city can have individual trade routes established with up to three other cities. Those closest to the city are usually not available to trade with, and the further away a city is, along with its population heavily influence how much money you'll get per turn for that route. Using these units properly can add a good ten to twenty five gold to your coffers per turn, times that by three for each individual city. In this playthrough I shied away from becoming a democracy, due to the unhappiness associated with military units. The cost of this was literally in the pocket book, as I wouldn't get the benefits of trade with that form of government. Instead I opted to be a republic and increase my trade through these other methods. I also stayed a monarchy longer than I anticipated, again needing these trade methods to keep things going in the upward direction until I was more prepared to become a republic.

The key to the game is growth. You get to decide the ways to focus that growth, but you must be growing in some way if you're wanting to survive. Peace is possible but you'll have to grow your starting cities strong so you can defend them and show others you're not to be messed with. Gain the technological advantage over others and show them what a tank can do to a spearman. Grow. Create roads, irrigation, and mines as far as the eye can see. One particular scientific advancement I was steering toward was the railroad. Just as building roads in the surrounding city squares increases trade, along with giving units using them three times their usual movement rate, railroads will increase the production from individual squares and let units on them move indefinitely.
^Mid-game war, into the industrial age

In my case I felt that was a particular scientific advancement that would benefit me to prioritize acquiring. I can still remember being a kid and having no clue of the true uses for roads and railroads. I would build them back then, but usually just in straight lines to connect one city to another. I can recall the senses of safety railroads brought given how you could have units go on a patrol loop. A read of the manual or glancing at the extensive in-game encyclopedia will be a requirement for new comers. Spacing out cities in order to best utilize the land around them without encroaching on another city must be considered. There are various types of terrain offering various benefits from the start or only later on.

Rivers make fantastic locations for cities, offering a good chunk of food, trade, and sometimes resources. But the further increase of trade by building roads can only be achieved on a river square after the invention of bridge building, another priority for me once I remembered this. Certain grassland squares show a resource symbol on them, also making excellent city choices. Pay attention to the special symbols some terrain hold, as gold, oil, or gems can offer substantial benefits to those who utilize them. Other terrains have little or no benefits, at least at first. An area surrounded by jungles or swamps would make a poor city site until you turn that terrain into forests, plains, or grasslands. Most terrain can be further improved via irrigation or mining, but others may be destroyed.
^Modern times, modern warfare

Once you enter into the industrial age things start speeding up, or rather, slowing down. Time in the game starts off ticking away at twenty years per turn. Eventually this slows to ten, five, two, and finally by modern times to one year per turn. It can seem strange at first to see a new city go from needing ten turns to construct a temple in ancient times to suddenly need forty in modern times. But when considering the years that are actually passing, it starts to make sense. With the industrial age even the most remote tundra bound city can become productive. Factories and power plants can more than double city production, but at the risk of polluting the environment.

Eventually certain improvements can lesson these impacts, such as mass transit or a hydro-electric plant, but pollution will always be a concern from here on. Railroads become all the more important in order to quickly move settler units to the site of pollution in order to clean it up. Pollution will cause individual cities to see less development from infected tiles, but all pollution can see ramification on a world level. Global warming can occur if pollution levels stay too high for too long, flooding coastal areas and turning them into swamps, and creating deserts from formally rich grasslands. You may be the first with nuclear weapons, but will the use of them backfire on you when there's nobody there to clean up your mess? ^Cleaning up our mess in the late game, my entire world pieced together

The Amiga version of Civilization was the first port from the DOS original. It was ported by the U.K. division of Microprose, though because of its American DOS origin it's best seen and played in NTSC mode. Some reviews of the time period were unimpressed with the Amiga port, noting washed out colors or certain installation issues. I feel those reviewers were being far too harsh, still thinking in 1992 that the Amiga version of anything should crush DOS. I feel the main gameplay screen looks beautiful, and I prefer it over DOS. Again, the introduction screens have not only carefully chosen custom palettes, but are in fact reworked images from the DOS version. They are not the same pictures, several differences showing between them. Of course when music and sound effects are considered, the Amiga blows away all the soundcards that were actually used by people, and I even feel it's better than the MT-32.

While certain areas of the game do give off a feeling of the Amiga version having been rushed, such as the end cut scene, you still have the Amiga version being the obvious best original port. It crushes the ST version, you have computer controls unlike the SNES version, and plenty of people were playing this in DOS not using VGA, but instead EGA where the Amiga shows there ain't no shame in being number two. It's yet another example of Microprose showing the Amiga much love if you ask me. You may want to look out for a newer revision of the Amiga version, as I did note occasional guru's upon exiting the program, and certain memory intensive screens (like the palace) not always showing up correctly on my hard drive setup. None of these issues detracted from the game in the least bit, it's one of the finest strategy games ever and it's here on my beloved Amiga. In fact at the time I  had no idea it was anywhere else than on my Amiga, first experiencing it there and falling in love, as did my father. Judging from American and British sales charts at the time, plenty of others did as well. Civilization shows up as the best selling American Amiga game for several months in 1992, ranking in as the 14th best selling U.K. Amiga game when brand new. ^Climb aboard the A.S.S. ShotRetro, end cut scenes

There are three ways to end a game of Civilization. There's the obvious and heartbreaking way, which is to have all your cities defeated. Here a nice cut scene will unfold telling of how archaeologists of the future have stumbled upon evidence of your past civilization, where you vow to someday return! The manual claims the most difficult ending to accomplish is for you take over the entire world. This is probably true, though there are certainly strategies to ease this task. Still, as the most difficult ending achievable I certainly can't say it features the best ending, even the losing ending seems to have more effort put into it. Upon defeating all civilizations a cut scene showing all your previous foes and the year they were defeated show up, labeling you the conqueror! The game will also force you to quit at this stage, even if there were more personal goals for you to accomplish.

From my stand point it's always been a bit more difficult to juggle various competing civilizations while engaging in the space race. The ultimate goal for the game is to send mankind off to settle another world. This takes time, the best technology, and a whole lot of devotion along with resources to create the space ship that will take them there. Depending on the technology of others and their priorities, you may be in a race with them to accomplish this first. Reaching Alpha Centauri produces the best in-game cut-scene, and again despite what the manual says, I seemed to have gotten a higher score by going this route.

^A history of my world

I feel the best scores are likely to be achieved through the space ending while waiting as long as possible to launch the ship. Time will allow you to continue growing your cities, improving them to make more people happy, all of this factoring into  your final score. Upon finishing the game through the space race you may be entered into the hall of fame, but you'll actually have the choice to continue playing the game (with no further score saved). I always enjoyed this factor, as it lets you have that feeling of the personal accomplishments large open world games grant you. Still, keep in mind that if you were to defeat everyone else, even at this stage, you will be forced to end the game at that point.

Civilization is historic, it's a legend. Over the years I've wasted countless nights to it or its sequels. Here, in 2020, there was no difference with me coming back to where it all started. There are minor issues with coming back to the original. Combat can certainly have you scratching your head when a spearman from the B.C. ages manages to crush an ironclad steam ship. Hitpoints would become a welcomed feature of the next installment. Still, this just causes you to think of new strategies, they are a welcome change of pace, and a fine glimpse of computer gaming history. Step up to the challenge and take on the number one game of all time from Computer Gaming World, you owe it to yourself to play through history.

I hope you'll check out my video review for Civilization, where I show off the aforementioned CGW #1 placement, take a nice look at the rich manual, read off a few reviews from when the game was new, as well as share some more personal memories. Readers of this article may also enjoy my articles for Pirates, World  Circuit, or King's Bounty.


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