LGR – Sid Meier’s Civilization – DOS PC Game Review

LGR – Sid Meier’s Civilization – DOS PC Game Review

[Ancient Egyptian MIDI music] [typing] When I think about games that have sucked the most man hours
from humanity over the years, Civilization is darned near the top of my list. There are very few games that can reliably turn the early morning into late
night with you barely noticing, and it all started with Sid Meier’s Civilization, released by Microprose Software in 1991 for MS-DOS PCs. “Build An Empire To Stand The Test Of Time,” and bury giant Egyptian sarcophaguses
underneath twentieth-century cities simultaneously. While “Civ,” as it’s often called, went on to appear on most
every popular system of its day and spawned its own little
gaming civilization of sequels, its origins are pretty humble. Back in the 1980s, game designer Sid Meier wasn’t exactly a household name yet. Sure, he’d made some pretty
sweet military combat simulations and left his mark on the industry with his game Pirates! But it wasn’t until Railroad Tycoon in 1990 that Meier and fellow designer Bruce
Shelley cemented themselves as game design royalty. A top-down sandbox game
taking some cues from SimCity and combining economics with asset management, Railroad Tycoon was fantastic and really set the stage for something more ambitious. That something turned out to be Civilization, a game partially inspired by the
Avalon Hill board game of the same name, along with even more elements
drawn from the 1987 computer game Empire: War Game of the Century. Instead of ruling an industry,
the goal in Civ was to rule the world, starting in the Stone Age and working
your way through the rest of time. It not only helped establish strategy and
god games even more than Railroad Tycoon, but it went on to sell millions,
spawn a huge franchise, win tons of awards and ensure the name Sid Meier was synonymous with quality gaming. Inside the box, you get the game on
two high-density 5¼-inch floppy disks, technical supplements and addendums
specific to the system you have, and a nice thick instruction manual covering everything you need
to know about the gameplay, historical context for the
real-life stuff found in-game, and a fold-out technology tree showing all the sweet crap you’ll get to research. Once you start the game, you’re given a main menu consisting of options, letting you start a new game, load a saved game, view the high scores, play on an approximation of Earth, and customize your own planet. Though there are a variety
of customization options, you’ll play on an Earth-like planet
no matter what you choose, though the layout will be
randomized each time you play. When you’re done playing God, Civ begins at the beginning– the very beginning– not long after the planet came into existence and the continents began forming. It then proceeds to unnecessarily
tell you the story of how life formed. How things evolved and what
the first vestiges of civilization were. I say “unnecessarily” because it
really has no bearing on the game itself, but it’s still nice to look at, and even a bit educational. Although it’s not exactly Carl Sagan. Plus it’s a chance to enjoy some of the
memorable soundtrack by Jeff Briggs. [MIDI music plays] After approximately three to
five billion years have passed, it’s 4,000 B.C., and it’s time
to choose your difficulty level. This not only changes requirements
for advancement and AI complexity, but also when the game ends for scoring purposes. Next, to decide how many
computer-controlled civilizations you want crowding up your
world and fighting for resources, then choose the historical
tribe and leader you’ll start as. Personally, I’d choose someone with an awesome beard and proceed to give them an equally awesome name worthy of such an impressive facial manscape. Your starting tribe also determines
what technology you’ll have knowledge of, so there is some strategy here beyond who would make the best
testosterone-infused lumberjack. You’re then provided with some insight
into what each part of the screen does, which is incredibly useful for new players. In fact, despite how complex the game is, Civ is surprisingly noob-friendly with its frequent hints and tips, as well as things like the Civlopedia and easy-to-understand tech tree. But basically it’s a top-down,
turn-based 4X strategy game that plays a bit more like a board
game than a computer game. Although the 4X term came after this
game had been around a couple of years, it mantra of “explore, expand, exploit and exterminate” most certainly applies here. While the game is an open sandbox
that lets you do what you want, most of what you do comes down to exploring the map, expanding your territory, exploiting resources and exterminating rivals. You start with a single settler unit, and using either the keyboard or the mouse, you’ll need to find a suitable
spot to found your capital city. Note that every time you use up
the allotted moves for your units, you need to end the turn and allow some time to pass before you can move again. Go ahead and start your first city,
name it whatever you want, watch your settlers move in and do their thing, then choose the next course of action. There are any number of possible things to
look at here in the city management screen, but since each city can only do one thing at a time, and it uses up valuable turns
and resources to produce units, it’s pretty important that you choose wisely. You have advisors that’ll give you
an idea of what needs to be done, but it’s totally up to you as to whether
or not you want to listen to them. Near the beginning, it’s pretty straightforward, though. Scout the area, make sure your cities are protected. There you go. Eventually you’ll run across native settlements, barbarians or other civilizations. Settlements are often helpful and can provide things like extra units and resources, though, sometimes, they’ll unleash
a horde of barbarians instead. Barbarians are just trouble and will cause no small amount of
aggravation until you exterminate them. And other civilizations… well that’s, uh, that’s up to you to handle as you please. They can be a bit testy. Along the way, you’ll have your
civilization’s smart people doing things, researching everything from the wheel to engineering to the freakin’ Manhattan Project. And managing your cities also
becomes quite vital to your game, since they’ll need roads, mines, walls, markets, entertainment, and who knows what else to
make sure the people stay fed, wealthy and not in the mood to start an uprising. You’ll also have a chance to apply taxes on luxuries, as well as upending your existing
government with a revolution in order to bring something like monarchy,
democracy or communism into play. And what would any worthwhile
civilization be without some wonders, which not only look wondrously cool, but bring in extra prestige and wealth for your cities, since there can be only one of each type. For a while, this constant march forward in time, researching stuff like philosophy
and being ancient hippies, is all well and good. You even get to choose upgrades
for your own personal palace when your people decide you’re awesome enough. But eventually push will come to shove and someone will want to crap on your parade, usually in the form of arrows to the face and burning down your precious hippy empire. The combat side of things is pretty straightforward. Research upgrades, make units in your cities, and send them on their merry, pillaging way. Units can attack adjacent units, and generally whoever has the better overall stats wins. The only two ways to win the overall game, though, are to stay alive until the colonization of space begins or wipe out all other civilizations completely. Depending on which goal you have in mind, you will either want to beat them
into submission with your military or use diplomats and diplomacy to make peace and maybe send in spies to steal
their technology in the meantime. Or if you don’t really give a crap and
just wanna play and see what happens, then go right ahead. That’s the beauty of Civilization. Although there is a quote-unquote “goal” or ending, the game doesn’t end unless
you are totally annihilated or you put a stop to the game yourself. Since everything hinges on looking forward to that one next move or set of moves, there’s a strangely compulsive attribute to the game that pushes you to play just *one* more move. If you’re strategically-minded even slightly, Civ tends to engage you on a level
that few other games are able to. You always want to see what the addition
of a new technology will mean to your people, or how things would be if you could just
take one more settlement over on your island. And for me at least,
the appeal of taking over the world as the Aztecs or the Russians is highly appealing, since I love playing with what-if
scenarios and alternate history. I mean, just the idea that the Germans
could have had nuclear capability in the 18th century is just twisted
and awesome at the same time. And there are few games that
let you play with such ideas. And the element of randomness in
the game is implemented in such a way that it really doesn’t feel random,
it just feels natural somehow. Every game ends up being completely unique and it’s not really done in a forced way, so it’s always a pleasure to play again and again just to see who can take over
ancient Egypt with battleships first. Sure, there are some things that could
use ironing out to make a better game. For instance, it’s too easy to lose early water units by using the Go To command
since their pathfinding is stupid, and the AI sometimes seems to
cheat its way to getting wonders first, even if they seemingly don’t have enough production. There’s also a major lack of diplomacy options, so there really aren’t too many choices if you don’t want to play a very aggressive game, especially on higher difficulties. But these and other complaints are things
that were addressed in later Civ games, so whatever. For the first game in the series,
I’d say it’s pretty extraordinary. When I first played this back in the mid-’90s, I was blown away with how awesomely unique it was and how huge the game felt. And even going back and playing it today, I find it to be very satisfying to play for hours on end. Even if it’s a lot simpler than the modern Civ titles, there’s something to be said for simplicity, and that something keeps me coming back to this one. And I really was surprised at how accessible it all still is, especially for an old DOS strategy game. Since games in this genre can often feel overwhelming with their giant rule books and huge tech trees, Sid Meier’s Civilization is just awesome, and I’d highly recommend giving
it or any of its offspring a shot if you haven’t already. If anything, it’s worth playing just
to answer the age-old question of what life would be like if a bearded Babylonian Duke
Nukem took over the world. [MIDI music plays]

62 thoughts on “LGR – Sid Meier’s Civilization – DOS PC Game Review

  1. this game looks like the exact opposite of the definition of the word "simplicity". It looks confusing af with those cards wandering around a world map and there's way too much text overall.
    There is no better game of its kind than Empire Earth! This game even rules AoE 1 & 2!

  2. Honestly the game logic and graphics are incredible for 1991, that was so long ago I literally was still an embryo at the time!

  3. Nice review… You also should do a review of Master of Magic from Microprose. It's Civ with some great additions like turn based battles. Also, I played it on DosBox on Android. It plays like done for mobile. The big buttons (caused by the low resolutions back then) and the turn based game play makes a great mobile game out of it.

  4. One of the greatest games of all time.

    I remember playing emperor and using an exploit to irrigate and build roads across my entire continent before even establishing my first city.

  5. It’s been downhill since CivIII, and while 4 and 5 padded it out with UI and extra stuff, VI has worn out this road and ruined the game for me. I wish they would go back to the scale and tightness of 3, the features of 4 (and civics of 5), the look of 5, and a functional AI.

  6. I have to admit that PC version of music sounds very flat compared to Amiga version
    Amiga version seems to have a lot more of bass punch and more vibrant trebles

  7. I still play this game! use an emulator though. my Dad cracked it once that allowed me to increase my money 💰 and tech . #originalCheatMode thanks Dad 👍

  8. I remember finding and playing as the hidden Carthaginian civilization when playing on Earth. You started on the coast where Carthage was.

  9. "Civilization II" is still the best, as it look simple enough, in between 16bit and 3d, and has same feel as first one.
    I think many games was like that. Second one always is just radically improved first one, and starting from third is just trying to reinvent bicycle and "wow effect".

  10. I never realized how much I miss the periodic reports of "The Most ___ Civilizations in the World" and also "We Love The King Day"

  11. Bit of trivia about the music and text during the "world building" phase. That was put in place to give the player something to watch and listen to as our 8086-80386 was crunching numbers and actually making the world.

    It was realized it would take several minutes to make a world, so they put that in to keep us entertained and not think it had locked up.

  12. I'm guessing the fonts look so horrible and blocky in the game because you don't have some necessary screen fonts installed…

  13. As a kid I discovered that if you pressed enter at a specific point in the start sequence you would begin with 2 settlers. That was sweet!

  14. I miss acquiring technology on city conquest feature in late civilization games. Also civil disorder that shut downs cities is more realistic.

  15. This game was evolutionary. No one really knew what was coming from Microprose and Sid when this launched and it dominated the industry for quote some time. It belongs in the Pantheon of games that manage to rise above the others for their impact and effect.

  16. i was so addictet to this game. i barely understood english and hdn`t any clue over many functions. but i got highly overdosed

  17. I just realised that the settler icon is actually a cart…. I always thought it was a guy with white horns and a huge mouth.

  18. there was a lot more excitement in this game, because it was close to real life. Everything was getting better until the "three" version. Then the slow decline of "Civilization" began. And it lasts until today. Will it rise?

  19. Starting tribe has no effect on what techs you start with. That's just based on how hard the land around you is and randomness.

    The long historical intro was mostly because it took almost that long for the game to generate the map and it was better than a blank screen.

  20. I had & played all those games. Blast from the past – thanks. I heard that the Civ map program was the same that was latter used by the first World of Warcraft (which I also played).

  21. I'll never forgot how some 20 odd years ago, I was playing CIV and at turn 20 or so (I forget the difficulty I was playing at) a Bomber came flying past my capital, which I had just founded some 19 turns prior. I picked up my jaw from the floor, after 2 mins of staring at the screen, lol. Damn cheaping AIs!

  22. Civ was the first game I bought with my own money :p (along side with Shadow of the Comet, point and click adventure).. and man.. I had a blast playing that game! And as a young kid.. learned alot about History!

  23. Empire, Wargame of the Century has a reboot on Steam. Getting it ASAP thanks for reminding me that it was my favorite game in 1989.

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