Quality strategy gaming and Sid Meier”s “Civilization” are almost synonymous. Consistently rated as the best strategy game series of all time, the “Civilization” games brought a level of detail and sophistication never seen in the genre back in the mid-“90s. It is no surprise, then, that “Civilization III” is even more addicting, fun and challenging than the previous two games.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Firaxis

“Civilization III” allows you to control an empire and compete for world domination against up to seven other nations. Political, cultural and military strategies play an enormous role in your success as an emperor failing to excel in all three is a clear-cut recipe for defeat. When the game starts out, the player selects from a number of customizable options, such as the temperature and size of the landmass to play on. Choosing your civilization, such as the English, French, Russians, Aztecs or Germans then becomes a crucial task: Each empire has strengths and weaknesses that clearly alter the outcome of the game.

If you”re familiar with the first two games in the series, then “Civilization III” is familiar territory. Once your settler units decide on a suitable plot of land to build a city, you watch your empire grow before your eyes. Aiding you in your task are six advisors who manage the intricacies of your domain, such as foreign affairs, trade, military, finance and culture. Unlike the previous games, the advisors are animated and colorful it gives the illusion of a real person making important decisions. Each makes recommendations on how to improve your empire and none are afraid to tell you if you”re doing a bad job.

Micromanaging your empire is a daunting task. The more cities you build, the more you have to keep track of. Depending on the difficulty you choose, added variables such as riots in your cities, barbarian attacks and corruption in city governments can impede your progress. Luckily, “Civilization III” has made it easier than ever to streamline your duties as an emperor. You can zoom into each city, which brings up a new screen that allows you to queue the production of buildings and military units. This concept, a carryover from the “Civilization: Call to Power” series, allows you to concentrate on the larger, more salient aspects of your empire and ignore some of the intricate mouse clicking.

Since the game starts in ancient times and spans way into the future, it”s not unusual to have one game that lasts thousands of years. Watching your empire flourish and evolve through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and into modern times is truly amazing. The designers have paid particular attention to the changing architecture of the buildings and city structures over time. The player can, for the first time, obtain an aerial view of each city and see each building. Though this is a purely asthetic component, it still gives “Civilization III” a “Sim-City” type of feel that is welcoming to the player.

The game truly enters the stratosphere by its phenomenal level of authenticity. Each opposing civilization”s leader, whether Queen Elizabeth or Tokugawa, displays prominent physical and personality traits that are both historically accurate and humorous. Intimidating the enemy plays a large role in how “Civilization III” is played. Clever politics can be the saving grace of a leader and an effective way to hold off enemy attacks.

In addition, wonderful period music is merely a backdrop to a game that is likely to usher in a whole lot of late night procrastination and legions of fans.

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