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Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Colonization – first look

Fortunately, Dan Jose produced more lumber than it could use. The lumber itself was next to worthless, but I found ways to turn it to my advantage: I built a trade wagon and began running wood to Dan Francisco. This freed up the colonist who had been harvesting lumber there, so I put him to work distilling embargoed sugar into freely traded rum. The first shipment of fine colonial rum brought in a huge wad of cash, since refined goods are much more valuable than raw materials. Another problem solved with alcohol! But this solution would only last so long - exporting too much rum would cause the price to fall, and sooner or later the king would find a way to tax me.

As I expanded further up and down the coast, I began to diversify my production - I harvested cotton that I wove into cloth and tobacco that I rolled into cigars. I mined ore that a blacksmith converted into tools (this broke my reliance on the old world for tools), and later, as gunsmiths converted tools to muskets, I could even defend myself without aid. To increase the efficiency of these tasks, I recruited master planters, weavers, blacksmiths, and gunsmiths from Holland, and upgraded my buildings for increased bonuses. All the while, my colonies were generating another resource: liberty bells. Once these symbols of independent spirit accumulated to a certain level, I was allowed to recruit the first member of my Continental Congress: Cyrus McCormick’s presence boosted food and sugar production, letting me step up my rum operation.

With four colonies and a thriving industry, I got cocky. What do I need these natives around for anymore? All they do is take up space, and if I pillage their settlements, I’ll take home some treasure! I had more soldiers now - some even mounted as dragoons - and had purchased artillery from Europe. All of this against a bunch of natives with spears? No problem! Well, that’s where things started to go awry. The first few battles went well, but I’d underestimated the numbers of the natives, and my soldiers soon found themselves overwhelmed. Worse, some braves defeated a soldier and stole his gun, making the battle much more difficult. They started raiding my colonies, killing colonists, and stealing goods. That meant it was time to bail before the developers saw me getting my butt kicked.

As a huge fan of the original version, I am very impressed by Colonization’s loyalty to the old design. Aside from a few details, such as the natives behaving more like player factions, pioneers expending gold instead of tools, the way the Continental Congress works, and the addition of multiplayer, this really is good old Colonization reborn. Say what you will about innovation - some old games were so great, they deserve to be updated with modern graphics and features, and this is most definitely one of them.

Jun 24, 2008

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