Civilization: Call to Power has history in its corner
(IDG) -- "What time is it? But I just started! How can it be time to go to work again?" That thought, or something very much like it, has been the sentiment that best describes all things Civ. From Sid Meier's Civilization to its Brian Reynolds-designed sequel, the name Civilization has meant profits for the publisher and time lost to players everywhere.
In a legal battle with Activision over the Civ name, MicroProse came out the winner, but the companies reached an agreement that allowed Activision one-time use of the name. And thus, Activision has given us a new spin on the property, with Civilization: Call to Power. From the looks of it, especially the gameplay, this is the Civilization III we've all been waiting for. Sure, Sid and Brian gave us a new planet to colonize, but their wonderful Alpha Centauri lacks one critical element of previous Civ games: the glorious backdrop of recorded human history.
The story is our story -- the human story (at least, Western History's story). Nurture your Stone Age dwellers across the millennium: see them build great wonders, conquer neighboring aggressors, and make compromises with attacking armies. And watch your cities grow into the future. Civ II covered 5,000 years of history; you get 6,000 here. As an Activision PR rep told me, "It's an Activision game -- it's gotta have Mechs!"
"Everything that was addictive about Civ II, and more" seems to be the byline the developers took with this game. You'll get New Wonders of the World to build, new units to use, new time periods to experience, enhanced AI, and multiplay from the word go.
The new units are especially exciting. The Corporate Raider can actually set up next to a base and funnel cash from enemy coffers to yours, while the Televangelist can convert enemy cities to your side, or just arrange for them to pay you tithes. The Lawyer unit can actually halt production in a city -- very useful if done while your opponent is building a Wonder, or for gaining an edge in the Space Race. The Slaver unit can find slaves for your empire (a controversial choice, but historically accurate), while the Abolitionist unit can be sent into a slave-dependant enemy empire to incite all kinds of problems. Of course, thanks to these and other new units, you'll get the chance to practice some vastly different strategies.
A host of new unit abilities also affect the strategy. For example, you can set up waypoints and build queues to facilitate base growth and unit management. You can also have some of your troops "stand down" so you don't have to support them, with the option to activate them later (they take a few turns to become active) so they can respond to an invasion. Units can patrol, and even make preemptive strikes against invaders.
Also expect new government styles and new financial concepts such as actually paying wages to your workers. This feature will give you a nice option while you are coping with unrest and waiting for the happiness-inducing Coliseum to be built: you can just give your people a temporary raise!
Wisely, Activision didn't muck up the simplicity and elegance of Civ's interface. Instead, the designers have streamlined things considerably. You can now allocate city resources outside the city-management screen. In fact, virtually all of your city management can be done using tabs that run on the bottom of the screen. Settlers now show the future city grid, which makes it much easier to see if that natural resource is included prior to building a city. The "go to" command, which never really worked well in Civ and Civ II, now uses a green line and a red line to indicate where a unit can and cannot move, respectively. Finally, we don't have to endure those pop-up menus anymore -- you know, the ones that announced when something good or bad has happened in your cities. Now we get message icons that pop up on the righthand side of the screen.
The graphics are brand-spanking new. Though they're not 3D-accelerated, they are gorgeous, and much more colorful than those in previous installments and even in Alpha Centauri. Wildlife will make an appearance, both for aesthetic value and even as an impediment or resource. All of the units are detailed pictures, and most even boast animation.
Alpha Centauri is an unparalleled achievement in strategy gaming, but Call to Power will provide us with the joy of seeing history unfold before our eyes. That makes both titles worth your gaming dollars. Civ fans ought to have both on hand, plus some accrued vacation time from work. You're going to need it!
Flying the unfriendly skies of history
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Strategy guide: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
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