As the old saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well screw you, old saying. Civilization was by no means broken, but the fourth version of this seminal, "you're the boss of humanity" simulation fixes it up in a whole host of ways without messing up what made the others so much fun.
Like its predecessors, Civilization IV begins thousands of years ago, at the dawn of humankind. You take control of one small group of nomadic tribesmen, which you must mold into a mighty civilization that dominates the entire planet. You control every aspect of your people’s lives: what buildings they construct in their cities, what form of government they practice, what gods they worship, what technology they research and who they make war against. To win, you’ll have to conquer the world (or unite it diplomatically), create a magnificent culture or be the first to reach the stars. It may seem like a daunting task, but once you get in there, you’ll find it’s not as hard as history’s greatest leaders make it sound.
Fans will notice right away that the world is now in 3D, a huge graphical improvement that allows you to see as much of your empire at once as you want. Players new to Civilization will just think it’s really cool. Other major additions include the religion system (choose carefully, since your neighboring countries might not like heathens) and Great People, who will appear in cities producing a lot of culture points. These historical figures can be traded in for bonuses on their own, or you can combine several of them to spark a Golden Age in your civilization.
And that’s just scratching the surface. A streamlined interface, a non-linear tech tree, impressive AI with 18 personalities, a new combat system (no more spearmen defeating tanks), amazing multiplayer features and narration by Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy all give the new Civ plenty of both flash and substance.
They're all rewards for fans of the series, but even if you’ve never played a Civilization game, you’re in for a treat. There's never been a better time to jump into the strategy genre and conquer the world.