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Civilization: Call to Power

October 28, 1998
Web posted at: 3:35 PM EDT

by Daniel Morris


(IDG) -- We've got big shoes to fill," says Cecilia Barajas, director of Activision's "Civilization: Call to Power." She's referring, of course, to the fact that those empty shoes belong to Sid Meier, arguably the greatest game designer in the industry's history.

"This may sound corny," she says, "but we feel we have an obligation to make sure we get this game right."

What's corny about that?

Activision settled its legal squabble over the rights to the Civ franchise and has emerged with "Call to Power," an ambitious extension of Meier's Civ universe as projected another thousand years into the future. The game will begin, as is traditional, with the establishment of a single agricultural village in the cradle of human civilization. As usual, you'll have to micromanage that first village into an empire of expanding cities and armies, picking up new sciences, military advancements, and cultural improvements as you go. Ultimately, your society's forms of government will evolve, too, to cope with the shifting cultural and political realities presented by the march of time.

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"Call to Power" takes off in new directions from there. Some new forms of government will make things even more interesting for fans of classic Civ. An ecoterrorist government values ecological integrity above all else and employs terrorist attack units to wreak havoc on polluting enemy civilizations. A corporate government run by big business will be able to unleash its lawyers on its foes-and you'll wish you'd been hit with a nuke once the lawyer unit brings your city's production to a halt with a literal flood of legal documents.

New stealth units will add a variety of strategies to gameplay. These powerful units can tip the balance of power with well-placed surgical strikes. An ecoterrorist Park Ranger can attack a polluting city and destroy it with a Genesis Device style attack, reducing the metropolis and all its citizens to a green and pleasant natural preserve. A Neural Ad unit can set up an attack against an enemy city that bombards the populace with subliminal advertising. The people's unconscious desire for products will drive them into mass unhappiness. Religious attacks can turn an enemy city's population into adherents to your society's religion, prompting them to tithe and drain your opponent's coffers. Your opponent will then face the nasty prospect of beating the religion out of his people, a campaign that can backfire very easily.

"We're going to have some controversial stuff in this game," says Barajas. "But it's in keeping with the real questions that have faced civilization. Slavery is a factor in the game, and early on it can be a big boost to your economy, just like it really was. The question will be whether or not players want to use it. A lot of them simply won't. It will make for some interesting decisions."

Slavery, Nazi fascism, religious subjugation, and other sticky subjects from the annals of time will be gameplay factors in "Call to Power," and they'll have definite ramifications in multiplay.

"Call to Power" will encourage peaceful, utopian players as well as militaristic ones by including an alternate "peaceful victory condition." If you can develop the scientific chops, it's possible to establish a base in outer space and find a wormhole into another space/time pocket. From it, you can recover alien DNA. If you can figure out how to clone an E.T. from this, first contact is made and your civilization wins the game.

Visually, Call to Power will be in a class beyond the venerable Civilization series. Art director Rick Glenn says, "Civ always worked well with that clean, uncluttered look, and we won't be changing that feel at all. The challenge is to keep that clean look while also bringing the series up to date."

To accomplish this delicate balancing act, Glenn is overseeing the painstaking animation of the 3D art to ensure an organic, flowing feel to all the units. Animated units will move with realistic effect over terrain and fight in animated combat.

Sid Meier's shoes yawn like canyons. But Activision's team is a crew of Civ junkies determined that "Call to Power" will live up to the name "Civilization."

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