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November Computer Games Magazine

October 9th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

This months CGM has my review of Shrapnel’s naval strategy game Salvo! and my preview of Civilization IV. It should be on a newstand somewhere near you.

Salvo! is one of those games that gets a few things right, but then promptly loses them in an antiquated interface and a scenario set that relies on volume more than variety. For all the battles and settings and campaigns – and there are lots of them – there isn’t much to distinguish one from the next. Part of that is the nature of the subject matter. How much can you do to separate one battle between square rigged ships and another? I would have preferred a game with fewer identical battles and a much more information ready interface.

My Civ IV preview reveals the perils of the print medium. When the article was written, the game was still pegged for a November release, and I say so in the piece. Now we know that we will see Civ very soon.

The screenshots given us don’t do much to convey why you should be excited about yet another Civ. They show that the 3D view is much improved from earlier shots, but there’s not a whole lot else there. Turn based strategy games don’t photograph well in any case.

I walked into the hands-on session not particularly enthused about Civ IV. I was looking forward to it, of course. But like many fans of the Meier idea factory, I was concerned that they were going back to the same old ideas over and over again instead of breaking out and doing a game we hadn’t seen before.

By the end, I was a convert. Some of this might have been gaming journalist Stockholm Syndrome. When you are surrounded by developers and other writers, all excited about what they are seeing and doing, it is easy to get all wrapped up in the enthusiasm. This is one reason why I think reviewing games at corporate sites is unreliable and, probably, a bad idea. Previews are a different animal.

I don’t think it’s all groupthink, though. Civ IV is a major improvement over Civ III. There are new annoyances to distract you – barbarians have cities again, wild animals will eat your workers, etc. – but the old ones that made the game less interesting are gone. No more foreign settlers crossing your land unless you give them permission. Corruption replaced with empire management costs. MP no longer a pain in the ass.

Plus, it looks like it will ship with some historic scenarios – something we had to wait for Conquests to get in Civ III.

Ultimately, I think The Movies (previewed by Cindy Yans in this same issue) will be my number one must-see game of the season. I never got much of a chance to play Civ IV in single player since the whole reason for the visit was to show off what they had done to make it a multiplayer game. There have been stories that have alluded to much greater compression of the later time periods, and I wonder if the openness of the tech tree means that the gunpowder rush will become the only viable strategy. From what I saw and experienced, though, I don’t think I will wait till Xmas to send my legions into Tenochtitlan.


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