Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Civilization IV

July 10, 2006


What are we going to do today?

The same thing we do everyday, try to take over the world.

Civilization satisfies the megalomaniac dictator in us all, bringing us the satisfaction of guiding a group of people from the dawn of man to the near future.  Take the helm of the Roman Empire as Julius Caesar or America as George Washington (though it is a little weird having America start in 4000 BC).

Civ is a turn based strategy game.  Meaning that you take a turn, build units, buildings, attack, and such. Then the computer takes a turn.  You allocate money to research and culture (with the proper tech) as well as expenses of maintaining cities and buildings and your standing army.  You can build worker units that can improve the tiles around your city by building farms, cottages, roads, and the like.  It can be a little complicated, though not nearly as much as its predecessor Civ 3 (which had much more micro managing).

I like this version of Civ quite a bit, the interface and rules are much simpler.  There is no pollution that causes junk to show up on tiles like in previous games, cities get a health stat and a unhealthy stat if the unhealthy is greater than the healthy then the city is smelly and people will get pissed.  There are no riots anymore, pissed people just don’t work.  As in Civ 3 each city gets a cultural boarder which tells you which land you control, as your cities grow in culture, their boundaries expand.

There are several ways to win the game its not just all war all the time (though you need some standing army or the ai will attack and overrun you).  Diplomatic is super gay, so I’ll just skip that.  You can build the spaceship like in previous games, first one to blast off to Alpha Centauri wins!  There is the cultural victory where you get three cities to legendary (i.e. an ass load of) culture.  Then there are the two war victories, domination (60% of the land mass is under your cultural boarders) and conquest (you eliminate all other Civs, this is possible because you can choose to destroy a conquered city rather than keeping it).  You can also win by default when time expires (apparently the world will end in 2050). 

I thought the AI was good not great, it still has to cheat to win and does a lot of really dumb things.  The diplomacy is much better as you can actually see why they are pissed at you.  There is a new feature of having religion (no religion is better than any other) which can add a cool dimension to international relations (i.e. kill the infidels).

Some advice if you are playing: Try to learn the hotkeys and shortcuts, it will save you boat loads of time.  Don’t automate the workers, they build too many farms and not enough cottages.  You can automate them later in the game but make sure you have the option to not replace existing improvements.  Don’t expand to quickly, if you build/conquer too many cities too fast you will have too much maintenance cost and your economy will drag thus bringing down your research and other things (wait until you can build court houses and other economic buildings before expanding too much).

Overall, this is a high quality game, simple and elegant.  An epic boardgame in the way that the original Civ was intended.  It is simply one of the best turn based strategy games ever made.  There is something about having your tanks roll over the pitiful musketmen or knights that is extremely satisfying.    I would recommend this game to Civ vets and newbies alike.  It is hopelessly addicting and leaves you wanting just one more turn…

 Civilization 4

rating: 9/10


Console Wars Part I

May 24, 2006

Console WarsOK, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) just got finished about a week and a half ago.  I have since been glued to sites such as GameSpot, GameSpy, and IGN.  The reason? Console Wars.  The seventh generation of video game consoles is shaping up to be a heated battle between current market leader Sony, relative newcomer Microsoft, and the old veteran Nintendo.  Apparently, the old dog has some life in it yet, as Nintendo was the clear consensus victor of the E3 2006 battle.  I will endeavor to break down the war as it stands right now.

Sony and Microsoft, with the PS3 and Xbox360 respectively have taken the show "Pimp my Ride" to heart, especially Sony.  These two systems are loaded with super powered processors (IBM is the clear winner here being the maker of both chips) that are more powerful than many PC's on the market.  When you compare the systems they are pretty much the same, with PS3 being just a little more powerful in every category.  I don't know whether that will add up to much, but there it is.  The problem?  Sony has priced the PS3 at $499 for the toned down version and $599 for the better one.  And since getting the $499 one means 40GB less hard drive space plus no wireless internet connection and no HMDI output that pretty much means $599 if you want to get the most out of the PS3 (especially since it may become necessary to have HMDI in order to view Blu-Ray movies at their best).  Sony is trying to pull an electronics coup by including Blu-Ray drives in their system.  Since Sony owns Blu-Ray, if it takes off as the next storage medium Sony will make an incomprehensible amount of money and will probably take over the world.  By force feeding us Blu-Ray Sony can guarantee that a large number of Blu-Ray players are out there.  I don't know how many it would take to be successful, but I am guessing if even half of the number of PS3's get sold as PS2's were then they would be in great shape.  Maybe it would take even less.  (As an aside it would appear at this moment that Blu-Ray is the favorite to win the storage wars, but that is another article).

I actually like Microsoft's approach, they have made a console that is a little less powerful, got it out to the market a year before the competition and did not make the price too high.  Now, the reason they have a lower price is because they do not have an HD-DVD drive included in the system like PS3 does with Blu-Ray.  I expect that when the peripheral drive comes out later this year it will push the price of buying a 360 and the drive to close to what the PS3 is.  They were wise to give the consumers a choice in the matter though, and I think it will pay off dividends for them in the long run.  They will definitely pick up more of the market this time around, the question is how much.

Ultimately, this war will be decided by the games, who has what exclusive killer app for their system, which series will defect and join the other side.  We have already seen some signs of this.  One of the biggest announcements at E3 was that GTA4 would be released on both PS3 and 360 simultaneously.  While San Andreas, the latest game of the series was released for both PS2 and Xbox, PS2 received months in advance.  I don't know how big of a deal this is actually going to be.  The analysts seemed to think it was a big blow to Sony.  Apparently they think that a bunch of people would go buy PS3 just to get GTA4 a couple months ahead of time. I'm not sure I buy into that thinking, but we'll see.  At first I thought that 360 had a better line up of games at E3, but I am not so sure now.  It turns out that Bioshock, the consensus best game of the show and spiritual secret to the classic System Shock 2, is not exclusive to 360 and PC as I had thought, but will in fact be on PS3 as well.  Gears of War (360) is impressive, but I don't think any more so than Assassin's Creed (PS3).  Obviously, 360 will have more a lot more games than PS3 when it comes out, but that is to be expected considering the head start it got.  So here we have Gears of War, Halo 3, ES4: Oblivion, and some other not so big titles vs. Metal Gear Solid 4, FF13, Assassin's Creed, and some others.  I think I'll call that a wash for now.

In the next installment, I'll look at the Wii and then tell you what I'm planning to do for my next gen console.