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What don't you know about Civ IV?

Erm, dunno. Luckily, Firaxis is on hand to tell us. Plus: screens and movie for your viewing pleasure

According to Firaxis, there's eleven things we don't know about it's strategy game Civilization IV. And because we don't know about them, the developer's more than happy to spill the beans and enlighten us, gawd bless 'em. So if you're a hardcore Civ fan and plan on flogging your prize cardigans at the local jumble sale to drum up the cash to buy it when it releases in a couple of weeks time, absorb with glee the things about Civ IV you didn't know about - well, until now that is. Oh, and there's also a trailer downloadable below that you might like to take a look at too.

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(And yes, we know the first five have been out in the wide world for a few days, but the final six are new so here they all are grouped together below).

1. Most Accessible Civilization Game Ever: The team at Firaxis has added a lot of new gameplay elements to Civilization IV, but one of the most subtle additions is in its interface, which for the first time in the series follows many standard strategy game conventions. Most players will just start playing and get right into the game without ever realizing it, but in Civilization IV you can actually left click on a unit, and then right click on the tile you'd like that unit to go to (or attack, as the case may be). That's something that RTS games have been doing for years, but Civilization has never actually done before, due to its board game roots. Other interface additions include more changes to make it in-line with RTS titles (the mini-map is in the lower right hand corner, other info on the left, etc.) and the ability to see the odds of any battle (left click on a unit, then right click and hold on the unit you wish to attack), so there's no longer any guesswork involved.

Also new are recommendations for units and technologies to research. When you're given the option of researching a new technology, you will now see one or two recommendations showing multiple ways to play the game. You're also given recommendations for creating new units in cities. It may tell you that a Warrior is the best option for a military route, or you could build a Settler for expansion. These can of course be turned off, if you know exactly how you'd like to play the game.

2. Unprecedented Detail: Just because Civilization is more accessible than it's ever been doesn't mean the game's been dumbed down. On the contrary, for people who are crazy about stats and figures, there's a ton of that to be found in Civilization IV. There are lots of new advisor screens, where you can see where all of your units are on a global map, or look at raw statistics like the average life expectancy of your people (versus the world average), your gross national product or approval rating. But you can also completely customize how your government works, so if you want a theocracy with a free market economy, caste system and universal suffrage, you can do just that.

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3. Awesome Multiplayer: Civilization IV is the first game in the series that was designed from day one to support multiplayer. The result is that Civilization IV is the best multiplayer Civ game ever made, with new multiplayer options like simultaneous turns (adding a more RTS feel to the game), a turn timer (to force those slowpokes to hurry up with their turns), and turn limits, where the points leader at the end of a set number of turns is declared the winner. Worried that someone might drop out halfway through the game? Just turn on Takeover A.I, and if that person leaves, the game continues, with the A.I. replacing the player. And if that player decides to come back, he can take control again at any time. The Firaxis dev team and testers have been playing Civ IV multiplayer games for over two years now...and it just keeps getting better.

4. Super Powerful World Editor: The earlier games in the Civ series had a world editor, but with Civilization IV it's gotten a whole lot better. The built-in world editor lets you fire it up at any time and change the map while you're still playing it (naturally, this is flagged as cheating by the game, so you can't do it in multiplayer). The new bitmap converter lets you import BMP files and turn those into Civ maps, letting you download a topographical map (or a picture of your favorite celebrity) and have the game extract sea levels, mountain ranges and other information straight from it.

5. More Music, Audio: In Sid Meier's Civilization IV, every different civilization has units that speak its native language. That may not sound very difficult for the French, English and German civs, but it was definitely a challenge finding someone to record Nahuatl for the Aztec civilization or Quechua for the Incas! Also, Jeff Briggs, Firaxis Founder, President and CEO, composed, arranged and lead the sound team to fill Civilization IV with more music than ever before - including an original orchestral score accompanied by era-specific music from the masters, that changes as your civilization ages and becomes more advanced.

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6. Unlimited Modability: Civilization was one of the first major games to be user-extensible, and Civilization IV takes this to extremes. In addition to the built-in world editor, the game is built with the open source Python scripting language, allowing users to easily modify most features. For more hardcore modders, the SDK will be released in early 2006, and will give players the ability to change virtually everything about the game, from the way the AI behaves to the position of the camera.

7. Really Awesome Multiplayer: There are so many multiplayer possibilities with Civilization IV, that this requires two entries in the list. Aside from all the neat tweaks to keep things going smoothly, there are now lots of new gameplay possibilities. Team games are now easily set up, and teams have new ways to communicate with each other, from annotating each other's screens (you can literally draw lines to tell people where to go - think of strategizing in football) to sending little pings to alert teammates of important events happening around their map. Support for voice over IP allows players to talk to each other while they play, whether it's for genuine communication or just plain smack talking.

But that's just the start of the multiplayer possibilities with Civilization IV. The new "Double City Elimination" option means if you lose two cities, you're out. "One City Challenge" means you can only have one city. The "Always War" and "Always Peace" games limit you to one or the other. All of these can be mixed and matched to create exactly the kind of multiplayer Civ game you want to play.

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One particularly hardcore game can be created by playing with teams and handicaps, so that you have two teams: one with a single person set to the easiest difficulty setting (giving that player a major bonus in all areas) and one with several other people on normal (or one of the harder levels, if you really want to make things interesting) trying to take him/her down.

Also fun: a really small map with a lot of players. Twelve people playing a game of Civ is great when there's a lot of space. Put them all on a map the size of Rhode Island, and see how long it takes to get ugly, as still developing civilizations battle for what little space there is.

8. Custom Games for Single Players: With the Custom Game feature in Civilization IV, you can basically play a multiplayer game all by yourself. All the same options available in multiplayer can be used in single player games against A.I. You can even play with the A.I. by turning on Random Personalities. With that on, you don't know how the A.I. is going to react. Gandhi the Conqueror? Genghis Khan the Pacifist? Both could happen. And of course, you can play a multiplayer game with two people and 10 A.I. civs, replacing them as real people join in, or start a multiplayer game where all the other players are A.I. and people can take over whenever they like.

9. Play At Your Own Pace: Civilization IV introduces multiple game speeds, so you can play a quick, normal or epic game. If all you want to do is a quick game in an hour or two, you can do that (yes, it really is possible to play a full game of Civ in a lunch hour!). If you want to spend two weeks building the ultimate civilization from the dawn of time, you can do that too. It's all up to you.

10. Movies are Back: Civilization IV sees the return of wonder movies, a fan-favorite feature that the team wanted to bring back with a bang. Now when you spend 50 turns building the Pyramids, the Hanging Gardens or the Great Library, you'll see a CGI cutscene of the construction of that wonder. And there are more than just wonder movies this time around...when you discover a religion, you'll see a movie about that. When you win the game (however you choose to do it), you'll see a movie celebrating your victory. It's all part of making the best Civ experience to date.

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11. Choose Your Destiny: With Civilization IV, there are now six different ways to finish the game. There's the Time victory, given to the player with the highest score in 2050 AD. The Conquest victory, given to the player who successfully eliminates all of their rivals. The Domination victory, awarded when a player has a 25% lead in population over their next rival and 65% of the global land mass. The Cultural victory, awarded when a player owns three cities with legendary culture status. The classic Space Race victory, given when a player completes all the components necessary to send colonists off into space to found a new colony on Alpha Centauri. And finally, the brand new Diplomatic victory, where after the forming of the United Nations, your civilization is voted to head up the organization. Considering how difficult it is to maintain friendly relationships with all civilizations (especially given that they're likely to be fighting among themselves), this is quite possibly the most challenging victory in the game.

Civilization IV 'Hanging Gardens Wonder ' trailer
Download here (23Mb, QuickTime)

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