Genre: 4X, Turn Based Strategy
Year: 2005
Developed by: Firaxis Games
Published by: 2K Games
Platforms: PC
Feeling Like: Ancient History

It can’t be 16 years, can it?

I guess that tracks. My main experience with Civilization 4 was attempting a full multiplayer match in my 3rd year at Bigelow House. Our network was spotty at best, so first person shooters weren’t a stable possibility. But we didn’t need a blazing fast framerate or worry too much about connection drops with entry number 267.

For all intents and purposes, it’s a board game. A masterful example, mind you, one with moving pieces, colorful landscapes and endless possibilities. The rules seemed simple, but the multitude of ways to conquer the map were staggering. Unless you had a deep insight into tech trees, geographic advantages and city management, you didn’t stand much of a chance progressing past the Stone Age.

I’d feel a lot more confident in my assessment if we ever actually finished a game. For such a fantastic experience, multiplayer was also a source of much aggravation. Anytime we booted up a session, we’d try to self impose rules about how long turns should take, or what we would do if somebody disconnected, or had to go to class. You know, because matches would last HOURS. I’d have a Gamecube game on standby to play when it wasn’t my turn.

It goes with the territory. The pathos is so dense and the gameplay is so meticulously designed that I think we’d be cheating the developers if it didn’t demand marathon sessions. The varied civilizations and geography means no single game is ever the same. I never really “got gud” at any Civilization; I was always a passive appreciator, rather than a fervent zealot. Sure, I appreciated the history and the wonders and the relaxing soundtrack, but the research tree led to so many strategic possibilities that it made my head spin.

Part of me just wanted other Civilizations to leave me alone while I try to build every single Wonder of the World in a single spot. Other cities be damned, I need the Great Wall AND the Hanging Gardens of Babylon next to my Stonehenge, s’il vous plaît. Not that my advisors ever encouraged me to do this, but hey, it’s my Civilization and I’ll run it into the glorious ground if I want!

What I’ll remember the most about Civilization 4 is Baba Yetu, the magnum opus of the entire series’, soundtrack-wise. If you haven’t seen the intro, you simply must. It’s delightful, and encompasses everything that I’m trying to convey about the game, and the franchise. It’s not just me telling you that it’s great, it won a freaking Grammy! My sister, who never plays video games, told me it was her new favorite song. After I told her it was from a video game, she was perplexed. It can’t be. It doesn’t have bleeps or bloops. It sounds sophisticated, classy. Welcome to 2005.

I wish I could go into more detail. I wish I could regale you with dozens of humorous anecdotes, but I can’t. My time with it was shockingly limited to a few campaigns and a few multiplayer matches in the Maritimes, but it was all I needed to know that the series had yet to let me down and it scratched an itch that nothing else can.

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