Sid Meier’s Civilization 4: Colonization

October 15, 2008

Sid Meier is known for supplying PC gamers with deep, satisfying, and infinitely replayable strategy games, and Civilization IV: Colonization is his most recent offering. Some of you may remember Colonization, a classic game based on the American colonization and subsequent revolution from England. The original was a beloved classic and this reimagining is a worthy successor.

First, it is important to know that Civilization IV is not required to play Colonization (although if you enjoy strategy games you’ll probably already have Civ IV and its expansions). The title makes it seem like an expansion pack, but in reality it is a full game that happens to use the Civ IV engine. Civilization IV: Colonization differs from Civilization IV in that Colonization is a zoomed-in and streamlined view of the Civ IV experience.

Much like Civilization IV, Colonization begins with you controlling a single settlement and gradually expanding outward founding new and specialized colonies. Instead of myriad victory conditions (space race, cultural, etc.) the only way to win Colonization is to create a thriving and profitable colony, rebel from England’s tyrannical rule, and defeat the armies of the crown to win your Independence. You’ll need to manage food, commodities (sugar, tobacco, etc.), and finished goods production. You’ll also need to keep on top of keeping your colonies profitable while keeping your English benefactors satisfied as well. Give in to too much tribute and you won’t be able to amass a large enough militia to win your independence, but spit in their face and you’ll have English troops traipsing through your yard before you’re ready for them.

The mother land isn’t your only concern, however. There are native tribes – some friendly, some less than friendly – and other European powers installing colonies with whom you’ll compete for resources and (most likely) battle so it’s important to establish a small army early on to protect your interests. When you eventually revolt (not if) you’ll have a chance to set your civics options by establishing your newborn country’s constitution. Different options come with different bonuses (slavery, for example, gives you a big boost to materials production).

Civilization IV: Colonization does have a fault, and that is its learning curve. Even experienced Civ IV players will take a few games to get used to the faster, more focused gameplay. There are a lot of plates to keep spinning, and if you let one fall too early in the game it can be nearly impossible to recover. It goes a long way toward driving home just how difficult and hard-fought American independence is, but it also serves to push new and lower-level players away. On the plus side a game of Colonization takes around four hours instead of four days so playing those five or six games to get up to speed won’t eat up anywhere near as much time as Civ IV‘s first few skirmishes did.

Civilization IV: Colonization is a deep and entertaining take on the American Revolution that provides a more focused goal and takes some stress off of the player due to its reduced decision set. The only way to win is to declare your independence and defeat the crown, but how you go about getting there (or failing to get there) and what choices you make in establishing your government present varied and interesting gameplay possibilities that any strategy fan will appreciate.

Score (x/5): 5/5
ESRB: E10+ – if your child can have fun with Civilization games then no content in-game could be considered inappropriate
Plays like: Civilization IV and Colonization combined
Pros: interesting concept, requires a great deal of strategy to win, great replayability
Cons: steep learning curve

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.