What a night! I've made sure to take little mini-breaks to keep from getting bedsores, but still, this is the longest marathon session I've had since San Andreas came out. How good is this game? Good enough so far that I'm planning on devoting my weekend to it. It's obviously too soon to tell for sure what its long-term viability will be, but my early response is one of optimism.
I'm seriously considering picking up a new graphics card. The game runs just fine right now, but there are some annoying graphical stutters and I'm not seeing any of the pretty animations. If you want some info on what graphics cards to consider, the fine folks at CivFanatics are putting together a good list at http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=133278. What I'm learning is that, while T&L is required for the game, the hip new thing is pixel shaders. I'm guessing that this is contributing to the audio choppiness in the game; my theory is that the CPU needs to perform these calculations which is interrupting it from playing the music. Speculation on the boards appears to support me in this.
Right now I'm approaching the year 1000AD. Here are some random thoughts/comments on my game so far:
- Despite my earlier-mentioned research flub, I managed to beat everyone to Polytheism and thereby founded Hinduism. Once a year, the faithful make their pilgrimage to Berlin and pray to Ganesha.
- The first civ to discover particular techs founds the associated religions; Meditation founds Buddhism, Monotheism founds Judaism, etc. While the religions have real names, within the game they each have the exact same effects so nobody will be offended (unless their religion is omitted, of course).
- Speaking of which, I know I'm alone on this one, but why would they leave out Zoroastrianism? It may not have many adherents today, but it was an enormously influential religion in the early world and still shapes our thinking today about God and the Devil. That will probably be my first mod. Who needs Taoism, anyways?
- One thing I'd wondered was whether you could found multiple religions. This seemed unlikely, since most of the religious techs are directly linked (Mysticism leads to Polytheism AND Meditation, etc.), so a civ could pretty easily grab a bunch of these. That turns out to not be the case - when I discovered Code of Laws a few centuries later, Confucionism was founded in Munich.
- I think it's naturally balancing, though. Other early techs are absolutely critical to research (you don't start the game able to build roads, or irrigate, or work ocean squares), so someone who grabs early religions will lose out on a lot and their growth will be stunted. (Well, at least their physical growth.)
- Besides that, you can only have one state religion at a time. My Confucian holy city generates gold and happiness for me, but only my Hindu cities reap the benefits of being the state religion. And yes, cities can follow multiple religions, but you'll need to individually spread it.
- It's even causing some headaches for me. I got a missionary when I founded Confucianism, so I converted Athens. Later, Alexander adopted Confucianism as his state religion, and his temples pay tithes to Munich. Good, right? Wrong! He is upset that I am following the heathen religion of Hinduism and our relations are rapidly deteriorating.
- I briefly touched on this before, but I should specifically call it out. In Civ 4, you need technology for pretty much everything. You need Alphabet before you can trade technologies with other civilizations, and Animal Husbandry before you can make use of Horse resources, and Mining before you can build mines. This is less restrictive than it sounds, it simplifies the earlier game somewhat and makes it easier to set priorities. (Hint: You want to be able to trade technologies.)
- The AI behaves differently than before. Part of it might be that I'm playing on Warlord, but they seem to be less aggressive and smarter. Six of the seven civs are on the same continent, and they've been aggressive about staking out the best spots; I just spent several hundred years looking for some unclaimed habitable space near the ocean so I can start building ships. The civs seem to be gradually consolidating into two coalitions. There's the Greek-Incan axis, and the American-Mali-Indian alliance. I'm friendlier with the second group, but the Greeks control a crucial trade route so I'm appeasing them to ensure my marble supply remains stable.
- There haven't been any wars yet, but they're coming! Despite my tribute Alexander is getting increasingly angry, and he'll need to strike at me or the Americans if he wants to grow any larger.
- Combat has always been one of the least interesting parts of Civ to me (I know others disagree), but there's a lot here to get excited about. Early in the game you have both barbarian and wild animal units to practice on without fighting other civs. The game also features an experience and promotion system not unlike that found in games like Myth. At certain XP levels you can pick promotions. These range from generic boosts to your unit strength, to nifty special abilities like Woodsman (extra strength & movement in woods and jungle), Medic (heal other units), City Raider (strong bonus for attacking cities), Amphibious (attack from sea), etc; there are about 30 promotions in all. Again, I don't fight much so I haven't gotten many promotions, but it's nice to know that the system is there.
- On a related note, they let you upgrade your units at any time you could build their replacements. So, if you have a Warrior, you can switch him to an Archer or Axeman for a small fee. Best of all, they keep their promotions. By the endgame, you could have some super-units with amazing abilities.
- Returning to more civilized matters: they FINALLY have a decent automated worker system. I've controlled my settlers/workers manually in Civ 1, Civ 2, Alpha Centauri and Civ 3, simply because the AI would always do idiotic things like put irrigation on hills or build roads to nowhere. I'd read that they had improved it so I gave it a try while keeping an eye on them. It's actually doing a good job. Frankly, probably better than I could do, simply because there are so many more terrain improvements this time around (cottages, windmills, pastures, etc.)
- Great People is another addition, and is pretty cool. So far Moses and Homer have been born in Berlin, and Chuang-Tzu in Munich. (Those two cities keep coming up. I have two more recent cities on the other side of Greek territory, and Cologne is a small port city.) I used Moses to found a Hindu shrine, while the other two got together and started a German Golden Age.