When asked what he thought of Western civilization, Gandhi once famously remarked, “It would be a good idea”. No doubt if he could see the world today, he would still say the same thing although I wonder what the “Great Soul” would have made of civilization games on the PC? I mean imagine, if he could have released all that anger at the British Empire on a game, the history of India could have been very different…
Games based on building up, destroying or conquering civilizations remain some of the most popular downloads on the net, increasingly harnessing the power of multiple users to add to their reality and challenge. The Civilization series was one of the first to innovate this genre and considered the pioneer in turn-based strategy games. In 1996, it was even voted Computer Gaming World magazine’s number 1 game of all time and although things have moved on again since then, it still remains a copper bottomed classic. The last release was Civilization 4 but the game is about to be given a new lease of life with Civilization Revolution due for release on consoles in June.
Of course, the other classic civilization series is Age of Empires which has seen an amazing 7 editions and was the first history based real-time strategy game released in 1997. It’s often described as a blend between Civilization and World of Warcraft, the latter of which OnSoftware’s Elena is the resident expert. The other great thing about Age of Empires is that each series was usually followed with extension packs which added new civilizations to the game such as this one for Age of Empires III.
While Civilization and Age of Empires remain the standard that such games must reach, there have also been some respectable attempts at emulating them. One example is Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War which might not feature the depth or graphics of the big boys but it’s a much gentler introduction for those new to the genre. If you prefer your civilizations set in space meanwhile, then Galactic Civilizations II allows you to boldly go where no man has gone before as does the more watered down and user friendly Space Rangers 2.