Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization Review

It took me awhile to finally complete the game successfully (and unfortunately, only on the easiest difficulty!) but now that I have finished the game at least once, time to write up the review!

Colonization Gameplay Video

Sound (3/5)
The audio used in Colonization can be considered to be average, considering there hasn't been that much effort put in trying to get new sound effects - all sound effects heard in the game is re-used from Civilization IV. This isn't a bad thing although it means it won't stand out from the crowd either (some unique sound effects to the game that are more relevant to the actions they represent would've been better).

Music (3/5)
The development team have chosen to take the same approach to the music as they did with Civ IV by employing historical pieces and similar sounding music that would fit in the era (i.e. 15th-18th century). There aren't really any complaints about the music since the authenticity helps to immerse you in the time, however being a Colonization fan of way back, it would've been nice if they could've redone more of the old themes, since besides the military themes (after you've declared independence) there's only one tune that has been remade for the new Colonization. Thankfully, a modder has rectified this problem already and added an original Colonization music pack here!

Graphics (5/5)
The graphics for the Colonization remake may not be exceptional when compared to some recent RTS games or even RPGs but when it comes to the turn-based genre I'm pretty certain this remake is up there. Everything has been upgraded and consequently that means you'll need a new video card that supports Pixel Shader 1.1. There is now much more detail in the maps - zooming in close to your colony will verify this and the water effects are magnificent.

Plot (4/5)
The plot to this game (if you can call it that) is that you are to basically relive the colonisation of the New World, build up an economy, declare independence from your motherland and then fight the War of Independence. Like Civilization, Colonization derives much of its content on actual historical events and this makes the game quite educational in some regards. The only problem with the game (and if you want to listen to some really negative comments about it, check this article out) is that even though it's historical it doesn't quite tell the whole story (with the transporting of African slaves for example), although Firaxis have always tried to avoid being too controversial (their disclaimer in the manual with the addition of religion to Civ IV is an example) in order to retain their focus of giving their games sufficient historic detail to make the game fun.

Old Colonization fans should rejoice since it's a new take on Colonization! While the overall mechanic to the game remains the same there are however some changes. For those of you who haven't played the original, Colonization is a game set during the Age of Exploration and Empire where you start off with a small band of settlers on a ship on its way to the New World (i.e. the Americas). Here you will settle your first colony and start building some more. There will be native peoples that you will encounter and you can choose to respect their beliefs and wishes, or raze their villages to the ground. You can also earn lots of money by exploiting the resources to be extracted from the New World and even value-add some of them by building factories. For example, you can turn cotton into cloth, sugar into rum, tobacco into cigars and furs into coats which would offer you more money than the base product if you decide to trade them. Once you've got an economy going, your population is booming and (most importantly) you're manufacturing heaps of guns, then it's time to get rebel sentiment up in your colonies and declare independence (since if you don't your King will tax you like crazy on any exports you sell back in Europe). To be successful in the game, you need to defeat the King's Royal Expeditionary Force which he will send once you have your own version of the Boston Tea Party.

Okay so that's the game in a nutshell, so what has changed? Well money for starters. In the old Colonization money wasn't too important except for buying stuff from Europe. Now however you require it to build improvements since your pioneers, the land-improving units in this game, no longer use up tools to modify the terrain - overall this is probably a welcome change. Also you need money to pay off the King every so often but besides that, money still remains pretty useless, except perhaps earlier on in the game. Also most importantly the combat part has changed quite considerably. Now the game's combat is similar to Civ IV and unlike in the original Colonization where you could get Continental Forces (which are basically units that are as good as the King's REF forces) the new Colonization has your normal units not as powerful as the REF troops from the start. Also in the old Colonization you could train veteran soldiers and artillery had 2 "lives". This makes combat considerably more challenging and you need to be in the right mindset. Whilst in the old Colonization if you had a good economy you could generally win, now not only do you need a good economy but good battlefield tactics too. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but makes the game much more difficult.

Another issue with the new Colonization (that has translated from the old) is that there is a lot of micromanaging in this game, even more than Civilization IV since you have to do a lot of trading. Although some measures have been implemented to alleviate it like colony governors that automate production priorities for example, they don't seem to work too efficiently from my experience so you'll end up wanting to do things yourself anyway.

Replayability (4/5)
As with many Sid Meier games, the new Colonization is quite replayable. You've got 8 leaders to pick from which confer different benefits to you and you can try different approaches to winning. Would you rather gain production bonuses from Founding Fathers and rebel sentiment early on? Or would you prefer to lay low so not to incur the wrath of increased numbers in the Royal Expeditionary Force back home? It's up to you.

The only downfall to the game's replayability is its difficulty. I used to play Colonization heaps as a kid and I'm not exactly a newbie at Civ IV either but it was a struggle to win even a single game on Pilgrim difficulty (which is the easiest). Considering that you'd only spend less than 10% of your game actually fighting the War of Independence (which is at the end) it can be a bit heart-breaking when you've spent several hours building up your country only to have it conquered in a few turns - a good way of discouraging you to play again!

It's hard to fault the UI since a lot of it is borrowed of Civilization IV. The City screen is similar to the old Colonization however (more or less) with the addition of a couple of neat features to help speed things up. For example, now you can specify trade routes and assign wagon trains to them which means there's less micromanagement involved in sending goods back and forth to your colonies. However, this still doesn't get rid of the problem of the overproduction of goods that can't fit in your warehouses and it results in warning messages every go. This isn't too bad if you've only got maybe three colonies but if you end up with say 20+ colonies, each turn starts to become a bit tedious. I encountered no bugs while playing the game too which is also a plus.

Unfortunately, like many games nowadays it appears that Colonization is bundled with the dreaded SecuROM for its DRM. However, so far, I've heard no news of it having activations placed on it (which occurs in other games like Mass Effect, Spore and Far Cry 2) - so fingers crossed it's only a simple disc check.

Overall - 71%
The new Colonization, although not a totally faithful remake, is pretty close to the mark and offers some fun gameplay for new and old players alike. However, the difficulty of the game maybe off-putting for some and the old-school micromanagement may seem annoying too. However considering the price is half of what you'd pay for a full-price game, you really can't complain too much and if you want to play a game that simulates the colonisation of the New World and the War of Independence, there's no better game out there than this.