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Civilization: Call to Power

Windows – 1999

Also available on: Mac

Alt names 文明帝國:權傾天下, CTP, CivCtP
Year 1999
Platform Windows
Genre Strategy
Theme 4X, Managerial, Turn-based
Perspective Isometric, Bird’s-eye view, Free-roaming camera
Released in United States
Publisher Activision, Inc.
Developer Activision, Inc.
4.74 / 5 - 27 votes

Description of Civilization: Call to Power

For it has arrived… After much waiting, Civ:CTP, has finally arrived. The last game to carry the Civilization name lies some four years behind us (if you exclude the multiplayer addition to Civ2) and the shoes Civ:CTP has to fill are huge. The big question is whether the classic could survive the separation from gaming gurus Sid Meier and Brian Reynolds. The problem with rating a game such as Civ:CTP is where to begin! This game has changed almost everything in Civ2, from the battle system to the way you build a terrain improvement. Well, first things first — the animations are what you see when you fire up the game. The intro sequence has, I believe, been available online for a while, but that does not make it any less stunning to fly through time from 4000 BC to a space city and the image of an alien in the monocle of what looks to be a very intelligent man. Rarely have I taken as many looks at an intro sequence as this one, it really is quite stunning, even if it does not run smoothly on my “mere” 6x CD-ROM. Once you get past the intro sequence, you’re set to start your game. Multiplayer or singleplayer are the choices and, as shocking as it may sound to gamers today, this was not the option with Civ2, where multiplayer was added in the Gold edition made available in 1998. Now the choices are Internet play through Activision’s servers (spread all over the world), a TCP/IP LAN or an IPX LAN. A check on the Internet servers showed that there were few people (20) playing, at least on the launch date — one can hope the servers will get busier as people buy the game. When wanting to start a singleplayer game you are able to customize most facets of the game, from the obvious difficulty setting to the ratio of land to sea and similar map issues. If you favor a humid climate you can set that and expect many swamps and grasslands. Turn the humidity down and you’ll see deserts and similar climates dominate the world that you fight over. Also definable are the amount of special resources, known as goods, the uniformity of the land, the heat level and the ratio of islands to continents. Once you’re done playing God you must decide who it is you want to lead to global domination. The available civilizations stretch from the Americans to the Zulus, the Welsh to the Vikings. Somewhere in there you are bound to find your own country in some shape or form (for me it would be the Vikings I guess), but the ability to choose a custom civilization is lacking. The land of Larsia for instance, populated by Larsians and ruthlessly dominated by Lars. Muahahaaa…but no such luck, my very own nation will have to wait, and the Americans will have to suffer my reign until then. There is hope for those with slightly advanced computer skills — you should be able to manipulate the text files upon which the civs are based and change a civ to suit your personal requirements, but this is too advanced for many if not for most. Here we go again… While many of the controls and surroundings have changed, the basic story is still the same: You start the game in 4000 BC when humans decided they no longer wanted to roam the lands and instead settled down. Symbolized as a single settler, this gives you the ability to found one city with one worker inside. Assigning him to work the squares around the city will produce either food, minerals or gold, which in turn generates, respectively, more workers, production or profit/research. Production must be assigned and the choices are in the categories of units, city improvements or wonders of the world. There are more choices in each of these categories than in any previous Civ -game. A city improvement will improve your city. Whether it be through the happiness of the people living there (with a Temple), the productivity (e.g. an Oil Refinery) or the science/gold output (a Computer Centre or Bank). Units are the likes of a Phalanx, Legion or Archer in the early game and later on when you are advanced enough you are able to build tanks, stealth bombers and future war units. Similarly, early on the wonders of the world are the Sphinx or the Labyrinth while Hollywood and a Star Ladder are available later. Mommy, I want a hill to ski on… Just like your cities, the area around your cities can also be improved. Terrain improvements used to be created by settlers in the previous Civ games and SMAC used former units for this task. Civ:CTP has eliminated the need for such a unit and instead you are now able to improve any terrain within a certain distance of a city or a previous improvement without a unit doing the building. The resources for this improvement is allocated on a civ-scale — you set a percentage of your production which is used for these improvements. The elimination of the settler unit is actually not an entirely good thing, as it makes for less flexibility. It is not possible, as far as I can see, to have bigger cities allocate more of their production to Public Works than small cities, and thus it is impossible to make the differences between cities smaller this way. The terrain improvements themselves are updated from Civ2, now available are objects that lets you see squares that are not near your units (much like the sensors in SMAC) and now include improvements to both sea and space. Moving on… As time passes you will move ahead through the ages. Starting with the Ancient Age you move through Renaissance, Modern, Genetic and end in the Diamond Age. This signals pretty well the shift that Civ:CTP represents in the Civ genre. From the previous two games that end in the modern age or a few hundred years beyond, Civ:CTP moves into the future and this is evidently where much of the design-team’s focus has been targeted. Early in the game, with a few cities, many turns will pass without you having to touch or adjust a thing beyond clicking the end-turn button. There is an auto-cycle feature in the game that keeps hitting End turn for you until something happens, but the alienation that happens at this early stage is unfortunate. You are left with a feeling of looking at a game that plays itself and that you are not in control of. The game gets more demanding as you get more cities and units, but early on there is often nothing to do except wait, something that was never the case with the previous games, and something which damages the game’s ability to “capture” you. Instead of being immersed in watching your civilization’s first few steps towards greatness you are left looking at the years spinning past and wondering what’s on TV. Knowledge is power… Technology is what defines the units, city improvements and wonders you can build. The amount of gold that you apply to research defines when you will discover a new tech and you get to choose which tech you want next. Previously, in Civ, Civ2 and SMAC the discovery of a new tech would result in a display of information about the technology and what it makes available. In Civ:CTP another bad design decision has left this out of the game, instead the message reads something like: “Congrats, you’ve discovered Iron Working. What now?” Maybe I realize from the first two Civ games that Iron Working leads to the availability of Legions, but I don’t have a clue what Cryonics, Nanoassembly or Conservation means for my civilization and the opportunities I have. I wish that in this game there had been a big fat screen showing the great pictures that Activisionactually did of their techs for the great library, the great library text and a tree showing where I am and what lies ahead. SMAC has this in a small way but not to the full extent, Civ2 I believe had a tech tree and some text. The discovery of a new tech signals advancement in the game and it is regrettable that it happens this way. Activisionseems to be aware that this is unfortunate and they have included a very nice poster of the tech tree on one side, every unit, improvement, government and more on the other. It’s extremely useful, but does not compensate fully for the lack of a tech-description upon discovery. You’ve got to wonder… There are more wonders than before and they are almost all new from the previous games. Digging into the list reveals the Forbidden City, Galileo’s Telescope, The Internet (good one, that), the National Shield and the Eden Project. Wonders are built in cities and can only be built once by one civilization unlike a city improvement. The effect will be the same as a City improvement, though usually affecting your entire civilization. Building the Chichen Itxa means that you eliminate all crime in your civilization, much like the courthouse eliminates crime in a city. Civ:CTP has included new wonders from the old games and recycled a few. One new wonder is the Eden Project whose effect is to destroy the top three polluting cities of the world, without discriminating which is yours and which is your rival’s! If you are an advanced civilization, odds are that at least one of your cities is in this top three and you will be building a wonder that destroys your own cities. The wonder is, in my opinion, not too smart and serves as the opposite of what a wonder should do; rather than improve your civilization, it destroys a part of it. While the morals and ethics are fine (in that the wonder means that our planet now comes before anything else) the wonder has no effect on your people’s happiness and this leads to a thoroughly useless wonder that is potentially dangerous if built (so clean up your cities before building it… -Ed.). Time to study… The Library is where you can get all the information you need about a game concept, unit or technology. It is usually accompanied by a little spinning image and both historical and game-related text. In boxes to the left are the requirements for the object in question, i.e. the technology needed and to the right is a list of what it makes available. This is great information, and ought to be displayed whenever a new tech is discovered. The details of every technology is available even if it has yet to be discovered, making it possible for you to plan ahead with a certain goal in mind. In Civ2 you were able to “ask” your science advisor when selecting a new tech to research, which tech would lead towards a certain goal in the shape of a unit, tech or city improvement. Sadly, this is not possible in Civ:CTP. Management decisions… It is easier to manage your cities in Civ:CTP than it was in Civ and Civ2. There is the option to create different templates that you can use for your cities. You create a build queue and this can then later be applied to a city either in this game or in a future game. For many this will be a very useful tool, as the first things built in a newly founded city are almost always the same: A warrior, a granary and then a new settler for instance. While this is helpful, it would be easier with a system like in SMAC where you assign a governor to fulfill a purpose of improving your city in a certain direction. The timeline and the speed with which it moves in Civ:CTP means that it’s not likely you’ll be able to use a queue for very long as new improvements become available very fast and a build queue can not involve units or buildings which are not yet available. War! One of the truly new things about Civ:CTP is the battle system. In Civ, Civ2 and SMAC you were forced to attack one unit against another, without being able to combine more than one unit in an attack. For many, this was the major problem with the games, and Civ:CTP has found a new system. You can now join up to nine units in an army and have them attack as one. They will be put in three lines with a maximum of five in each and never more units in the 2nd or 3rd line than the one in front. The front line will have the best assault or defense troops, depending on your part in the battle and the second line has the ranged weapons. The attacking army’s ranged troops shoot first, followed by the defender’s long-range troops. Only front line troops take damage, and after both long-range lines fire, the front line of the attackers and defenders engage in melee combat. After the first such round, you regroup (or rather, the AI does it for you) and start over until one side is eliminated. While a retreat option would have been nice (not to mention realistic), the new combat system is excellent since it both allows for more depth in the combat and also lets superior technology dominate the less superior. In Civ2 if you had a rifleman, odds were he could handle a lot of older units without taking too much damage because of the unit vs unit system. Now, provided your opponent amasses enough forces, you can’t rely on technology alone. One advanced unit, say a Machine Gunner isn’t likely to defeat five Samurai, because of their superior numbers. One problem that is not really worked through is the issue of aircraft. I believe in bombing my opponents into submission, but I’m sorry to say that this is not possible in Civ:CTP. I tried my luck with four stealth bombers (my air force’s pride) against five old units and to my horror I got my ass severely kicked. Apparently, the units are no good in melee combat (huh?) and got killed. Had I bombarded from a distance, with token melee units in my attack force, I would have survived. Still, why the B2’s dove low enough for the musketeers to hit, I’ll never understand. The whole issue of aircraft is troubling and must have caused a few grey hairs on the Civ:CTP design team. In my opinion, airplanes fight on their own battleground much like the sea and dry land are different. While, granted, they do attack units on the ground or on the water, they do so from the air and there are certain ancient units which should not be able to hit an airplane while the airplane will have no problem hitting the unit on the ground. How this is best portrayed in the game I can’t say, but my feelings are that units from the pre-modern age should not be able to hit airplanes. While this could lead to a race to reach airplanes first and then bomb your opponents without being subject to harm, that could be countered by having airplanes be available a bit later or be a bit harder to obtain. So Sue me! Accompanying a new battle system is a set of units that go beyond the traditional forms of war. Lawyers, slavers, clerics, corporate branches and ecoterrorists are units which take from your opponent or fight in a way that goes beyond the traditional attack vs. defense. A corporate branch can infect an enemy city and gain a certain percentage of its gold, while a slaver can grab citizens and make them work as slaves. While especially the latter to most, if not all, countries would be considered and act of war, it is not. There are several ways to prey upon your opponent and it does have its advantages. One corporate branch unit is expensive but it can infect many cities and cripple an opponent’s economy while benefiting yours. The units are many but they don’t all seem too well-balanced. The slaver is available at the start of the game and the problem is that at this point, the loss of just a single citizen is as devastating as the loss of a city can be later in the game. The abolitionist is also a problem as she is not available until later in the game and you thus do not have a defence against the slaver besides expelling the unit. Expelling him may sound easy, but he is unfortunately invisible to you unless you move a unit into the square he occupies. Going up, going down… Civ:CTP also moves into new areas for a civ-game — the bottom of the sea and space. It is now possible to build space colonies in stationary earth orbit and colonies on the bottom of the sea. While I have yet to try a sea colony, I did manage to build a space city in a game played on the beta-version. Building the star ladder wonder I got an automatic city at the top of this wonder. The problem with this is that the star ladder with accompanying city is available before terrain improvements in space are. So my Memphis was stuck with one worker who could not produce anything and the city was thus frozen until I discovered the tech that allowed me to build food pods and assembly bays up there. It’s not the smartest of design decisions and the Star Ladder ought not to have been made available until space cities in general were. Similarly, the Labyrinth wonder which grants free caravans can also be made available through research (Ship Building) before Caravans in general are (Trade). The creeps… Bugs are a part of every game I have played for years and this one is no exception. Problems with the new battle system have, on occasion, resulted in me not having all units acting as defenders. On one occasion I was rushing a phalanx to help the defense of my city (one legion) but the only unit defending the city was the phalanx and the legion just disappeared when the city was lost. Reports online speak of other minor bugs and problems with the CD-check. In order to start a new game, the CD must be in the drive and apparently this is failing for some people. Also reported are slowdowns on supposedly lesser PC’s, even some at the size of mine (see above), but I never had any problems on the three machines I tried the game on. All in all, the bugs are not too bad, but at a level where I would still expect a patch or upgrade soon. The balance… Critical to any game is its balance. It does not matter if you have a great-looking game with splendid graphics and interesting gameplay if it’s not well-balanced. Civ:CTP ‘s balance is questionable at best. While there are a few complaints about other balance problems, the main one seems to be the way the game favors numbers over technology. While it may be a good thing that a single hi-tech unit can’t beat five older units, there must be a line somewhere and it seems that Civ:CTP does not draw it in the right place. There is not enough bonus to having a higher technology unit over older technology and many people do not find this to their liking. Sr. Product Manager Peter Karpas of Activision has been very helpful on Usenet and he has promised to tell us why the team thinks it’s not unrealistic for pikemen to kill tanks, but I doubt the reasoning will be all that sound and in touch with the reality of combat. The end… In Civ and Civ2, the game ended when your spaceship arrived on the distant planet of Alpha Centauri to found a new civilization. Indeed, this is where SMAC picks up, governing this colony. Civ:CTP has tried to be different from its predecessors and instead of a spaceship, the end game now involves creating something you procure through a very advanced tech at a “special location” (I won’t say what, as that’s a bit of a spoiler). But it’s a costly affair and takes time and all the while the special location, which appears at a random spot on the map, must be guarded by your forces. It’s a nice, original ending to the game that could prove thrilling, especially in a multiplayer game. Technically… Graphics are very nice, ranging from 640×480 to 1280×1024. The wonder movies look good and are all interesting. The sound effects are nice but not spectacular. I actually like the music; it provides great background for the game, at least in the initial stages. The minimum install of 320Mb (and 80Mb swap file) is a bit steep, but according to Activisionthey did try running more off the CD but the slowdown was “unacceptable”. The interface has changed from Civ and Civ2 as well. Left-clicking is dominant, and if you think you are going to be moving units with the keyboard, think again. A single left-click moves your units and this leads to a lot of inadvertent movement. It is somehow an unnatural way of moving units and doesn’t feel right(at least to people familiar with other Civ games. There is an option to use right-click mouse mode and people report that this is much easier, but I did manage to get used to left-clicking. The verdict… Which leads me to the part that I somehow do not want to write about: the way this game feels. It is impossible to describe but the initial two Civilization games as well as SMAC had a very certain feel to them, a feel of excellence. Somehow, that same feel is not in Civ:CTP. Now, I played several betas and they were a bit flawed (if not terribly different from the final version) and this could possibly have affected my judgment. It is as if the answer to my initial question of whether the Civilization name would survive the shift away from the two gaming gurus of Meier and Reynolds must be a “no, it could not”. This game is still a very good one, and worthy of your money if you still want to build and conquer the world. But the shoes Civ:CTP tried to fill were indeed huge, and the outcome is a good game that simply does not have it, whatever it is. This is a game that with the right support and maybe an update of the unit abilities could be great, but it is not currently on the same level as Civilization and Civilization 2 or maybe even Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. For most games that sort of praise is out of reach by miles and for Civ:CTP to have come as close as I believe it did is no small feat and shows what a good game it could actually be. Your best bet might be to wait a while for the big patch/update, at which point we’ll bring you a second opinion review.

Review By GamesDomain

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