Tag Archives: civilization through the ages

Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization 4


And so we reach the arguable zenith of the Civilization series, the peak from which there is only a slow decline into senescence and eventual barbarism. Civilization 4 is actually the game that triggered this whole chain of posts, as I was looking for something relatively meaty to play over Christmas that would run on the Macbook I had with me while I was visiting family. It was meant to give me something to do in the evenings in between coding, reading and writing. Instead it ended up sucking me for two games in a row, like it was just released yesterday instead of almost fourteen years ago, and it’s the only one of the series where I barely notice the seams. Civilization 4 may well be ageless — Civilization 5 has aged far worse than 4 has, for god’s sake — and that’s entirely down to Firaxis’s drive to imbue the game with some of the character it had lost in Civilization 3’s relatively sterile treatment of the world, and an absolutely stellar piece of design work on the part of the game designers, especially lead designer Soren Johnson.

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Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization 3


Civilization 3 was the first Civilization I actually bought with money. It was released in 2001, and by that point I wasn’t having to rely on bootleg copies or swiping my brother’s Civilization 2 CD when he wasn’t looking; I was still in sixth form1 but had a small amount of disposable income thanks to a rather unpleasant summer job, and so I wandered down to Dixons2 the lunchtime of release day and bought what might actually have been my very last big-box3 PC game ever.

It was a big disappointment.

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  1. Note for any non-British people reading: the sixth form covers studying for your A-Levels between ages 16-18. At the time it was the thing you did if you wanted to go to university, but these days the government keeps people in education until they’re 18 to keep the unemployment figures down.
  2. Note for any non-British people reading: modern British high streets are derelict wastelands thanks to the rise of online retail, but twenty years ago they were in rather ruder health and you could find shops that sold things outside of clothing and food. Still, even back then Electronics Boutique and HMV wouldn’t venture outside of the cities, and so if you wanted to buy a PC game in a smaller town you had to fall back to Dixons, a seemingly-omnipresent electronics retailer who would at least carry the biggest releases for a few weeks as part of their PC section.
  3. Note for any non-European people reading: big-box PC games died earlier in Europe than they did elsewhere (I understand they held out in the US for a few more years before eventually succumbing there too), and by 2001 most new games were being shipped in smaller DVD-style keep cases.
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Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization 2


To me, Civilization 2 has for many years been the Bigfoot of the Civilization series. You can find the original Civilization on abandonware sites quite easily, and once you’ve got it you can run it via DOSBox with zero fuss. You can buy Civilizations 3 and 4 on Steam, and they both still work fine apart from the missing Gamespy functionality and the occasional crash to desktop. But Civilization 2? It’s not available on GOG, but acquiring a copy of Civilization 2 via alternative methods is just as easy as Civilization (so long as you’re happy with losing the music, the wonder videos and the advisors, anyway); however, it was a Windows-native game released in 1996 — in other words, that awkward period where Microsoft were still sorting themselves out in terms of drivers and APIs for Windows-native games. Consequently it doesn’t play nicely at all with modern versions of Windows, and since it doesn’t have a commercial release on a digital distribution platform it’s entirely reliant on dedicated fans to drag it into a state of semi-compatibility. Getting it to work on Windows 7 was a bit tricky, but doable. Getting it to work on Windows 10 was nigh-impossible until a new fan patch was released towards the end of 2017 that specifically addressed Windows 10 compatibility; up until I found out about it I was seriously considering installing Windows XP on a virtual machine just so that I could play Civilization 2 again.

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Civilization Through The Ages: Civilization


Over the Christmas break I found myself playing through Civilization 4 for the first time in about ten years. It did a lot of neat stuff that I’d just plain forgotten about, so I decided to play through all of the Civilization games to see how well they held up today and how the series had evolved from one iteration to the next, and then write something summing up that experience so that I’ll have something to refer back to when I inevitably forget again.


Civilization has the distinction of being the very first game I played on a proper IBM PC. This was way back in my school computer room in 1995, which was an environment that was far too cheap for Windows 95 and the flashy multimedia games that came with it, and so the four year-old Civilization was the best we could manage on the 386s we had available. By this point I’d played newer, better-looking games on the Atari, Archimedes and Megadrive (not to mention Doom and Command & Conquer on some weird PC card hookup jammed into an Acorn RISC PC), and Civilization looked positively primitive by comparison. It didn’t matter. I was instantly hooked.

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