Title  : Civilization II
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation, Windows
Publisher  : Activision
Game Rating  : 9.2
Review by  : Ken Gagne

Many a fantasy author has described what curses absolute power and immortality can be. Activision shows us the other side of the coin with Civilization II, a Sony PlayStation game developed by MicroProse. 

Civilization puts players in control of — you guessed it — a civilization which they must manage from the year 4000 B.C. to A.D. 2020. Throughout the ages, various scientific breakthroughs will be made, starting with simple discoveries such as pottery and writing — prerequisites for advancements such as the steam engine, refrigeration, and atomic theory. The ultimate goal is to be the first country to launch a spaceship and colonize another planet. 

Players can choose their nationality, from American to Chinese to Aztec, as well as the size of their fictional world, the number of roving barbarians, and other factors. There are other, competing civilizations, as many as seven. Wars, treaties, and technological trades are all possible responses to encounters with the neighbors. Governments must be chosen and changed when appropriate: for example, monarchy is good for developing countries, but you'll probably want to switch to a republic or democracy eventually, though don't discount the benefits of feudalism, despotism, and communism. 

Civilization is complex enough to offer total control of the world, without bogging down players in tedious minutia. Food shortages must be dealt with, but not to the point of grain allocation or such. Years pass by as many as 20 at a time, and there are no seasons or natural disasters with which to contend. 

The graphics are nothing new. Simple, pixelated maps and icons are the main source of interaction. There's the occasional grainy video to announce a Wonder of the World, or when consulting with the groveling, laughable Council of Advisors. 

The four background musics from which to choose, though simple and repetitive, are not a nuisance. Sound effects are bare, with clashing units (horsemen, spies, marines, etc) creating a small ruckus. 

Control is not problematic, but could be more efficient. Switching icons or scrolling around the world occurs slowly. But there are few problems in using the main functions. 

An online "civilopedia" offers a handy reference, while the council offers advice helpful to beginners. Civilization is never afraid to point out a good site for a new city or irrigation. 

Despite such help, Civilization is a taxing game. Even with all options set to novice levels, playing a full game can take more than six hours, though the scoring system doesn't give points for dedication. There are so many different ways to approach every game and every problem that it's easy to get pulled in. Progress can be saved, but at the cost of a whopping ten blocks — 2/3rds a standard memory card. 

Civilization brings the tactics and strategy of computer titles to the PlayStation with engrossing, addictive gameplay. Civilization: a minute to learn, a lifetime to master, and a history to write.


This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 01-Feb-99