Civilization IV

Sid Meier's classic strategy series is back to steal your life

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Essentially key faiths get founded in certain cities as soon as the relevant technologies are discovered - they then spread either through missionaries or trade routes regardless of national boundaries. Because of this a state religion isn't necessarily universally shared among your nation and neighbours (at one stage Will is Still Cool was Christian, Mos Eisley was Muslim and those pesky Buddhist Romans were upping the ante and trying to get me to convert to their way of thinking under threat of violence). Remember, a happy nation is a unified nation, but you're a better strategist than me if you can get it.


Cohorts 'n' combat have also been slightly upgraded this time around, and are liable to give established Civ hacks a mild shock when they march into enemy territory - so pay attention at the back. These days, units get promotions depending on how much action they see, and there's a massive range of bonuses that can be lavished upon them so you can tailor troops to your whim - city defence specialists, hillside guerrillas, woodland warriors, all that malarkey. Because of this your freshly researched musket-men won't necessarily trounce a bunch of blokes with pikes - and an added level of chin-beardery strokage is ushered in. Should anyone be watching the battles over your shoulder then they will laugh and point (it looks like three wobbly toy soldiers poking a horse until one side falls over), but for us armchair generals the import is the difference between life and death - especially if your wobbly horse is pushed over by someone you know through the magic of Civ IV's fabled multiplayer.

This is most definitely the field in which Civ has been most errant in times past (Civilization III: Play The World being nothing short of a buggy and untested demonstration of computer gaming evil).

Now, however, it's been nailed: simultaneous turns, variable game speeds, the ability to join a game on the hop by taking over an AI opponent and game dynamics that leave you despising your best friend. Quite frankly, you needn't buy another game for the entirety of next year - Civ will suffice, and it gets deeper each time you play.

It's a game that's part of the establishment rather than one of the endless parade of fleeting moonlight installations that come and go with the seasons. A much-loved part of the PC gaming furniture that's been passed down from ancient times that we'll leave to our grandchildren when they're ready. Then they can hate the Romans too.

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The verdict

Don't trust the Romans

  • Absolutely stunning turnbased strategy
  • Unrivalled emotional attachment
  • Intriguing new layers of gameplay
  • As complicated as you want it to be
  • Simpletons will moan about the graphics
  • Might lose you your job and family
Sim / Strategy