Good Old Reviews: Sid Meier's Colonization

Good Old Reviews: Sid Meier's Colonization

Sid Meier's Colonization

Continuing Sid Meier month, Good Old Reviews looks at the New World empire building sim Colonization.

Sid Meier's best known franchise is clearly Civilization, the turn-based strategy series of empire building that continues to define its genre. What fans might not be quite so familiar with is Sid Meier's Colonization, a spin-off and spiritual sequel set in the New World during European settlement and available at GOG for $5.99. Unlike Alpha Centauri, Colonization appears almost identical to its older sibling, trading fledgling empires for struggling colonists in a smaller time-frame of human history. On my own playthrough however, what I found was a complex game of settlements and resource management that confronts players with the challenges of pre-independence North America, and asks whether it could have turned out differently.

Colonization opens in 1492, as Europe's empires launch colony ships on missions of discovery and exploration. The player has been appointed as Viceroy
for any newly discovered territories by the King, and is ordered to claim the New World before the another monarchy does the same. As you'll quickly discover however, victory in Colonization isn't about ruling over a king's absence. To win the game, you must develop a self-sufficient society, renounce your monarch, and survive a War of Independence that will strengthen or break your new country.

After choosing a home nation (England, France, Spain, or the Netherlands) and watching a brief introduction, Colonization opens in a similar fashion to Civilization. I started out with two units on a ship crossing the ocean, and prepared myself for the rush to secure land and resources. But as soon as I made landfall, the stark differences with Civilization became quite clear. Instead of an empty landscape and hostile barbarians, I faced a continent fully populated by eight Native Tribes, each with their own units, cities, and territories.

Your first response to the Natives will have a significant impact on the early years of the colony. Each friendly Native settlement provides opportunities for trade and skill training to make your cities more productive. In those terms, maintaining a positive relationship seems like a no-brainer, but Colonization doesn't make it easy easy. As the colony expands, tensions with these tribes will increase, even the point of open attacks on colonies. Not all roads lead to violence; when my city borders overlapped those of a tribe, I opted to simply purchase the land and add it my resources. Alternatively, players can use missionaries to convert Natives into colonists, or take the tragic route of attacking settlements and obtaining riches directly. To its credit, the game penalizes your final score for attacking Native tribes, but you'll still be rewarded with land and wealth in the short term. It's a unique moral dilemma that Civilization didn't account for, and its still a welcome addition here.

The next thing to surprise me was Colonization's emphasis on micromanagement, even compared to classic Civilization titles. I often found myself inspecting colony projects, monitoring resource prices, and screening immigrants by professions every time that my ships started a trek to Europe. When I wanted to create soldiers, I had to first construct muskets to arm my troops. If I wanted to trade with another settlement, I needed to load ships and wagons with supplies before sending them to a destination. Day-to-day life within your colonies isn't any simpler. Every job, whether weaving, farming, or forest clearing, requires individual colonists to be assigned to the task. Specialized units are more productive, but if you ever find yourself short on blacksmiths, other units can fill the station until you hire another.

Colonization's relationship with your chosen empire is the main driving factor of the game, and not always a pleasant one. At first, your capital acts as a bustling trade hub where you can buy and sell resources based on fluctuating market prices. Since Local settlements offer far fewer goods by comparison, I was left to wondering what exactly was so great about Colonization's options for colonial independence. Of course, as history showed, there's another side to the story. Monarchs will quickly start making unreasonable demands of colonies, forcing Viceroys to accept difficult orders or risk reprisals. For example, rejecting tax increases will spark a "Resource Party" that boycotts you from Europe until tributes are paid. It's even more challenging when wars break out in Europe, automatically forcing New World colonies to fight each other. After a while, I started getting seriously annoyed with this so-called King meddling in my affairs, and suddenly the merits of rebellion began to seem more pronounced.

All the features above played a big part towards immersing me in Colonization's world, despite a difficulty curve that occasionally pulled me back out. As with any classic PC title, reading the manual is strongly encouraged to avoid common pitfalls, while playing on the easiest difficulty activates your in-game tutorial. At that point, if you can handle Colonization's heavy-handed micromanagement, then you'll discover a game with Civilization's depth and a pioneer-era charm that will challenge, entertain and perhaps even get you thinking about the events that inspired it.

Due to some changes in GOG's scheduling, we had to postpone the review of the mystery game promised last week. Come back next week when its identity will finally be revealed.

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This strikes me as a game that could use a modern reboot.

The Gentleman:
This strikes me as a game that could use a modern reboot.

Quite so. Though I'm pretty certain that a game with this level of turn based action, dept and hidden pitfall traps, as the article puts it so nicely, would find many fans today anymore.

... Welp, time to install it and kick some spanish butt..

The Gentleman:
This strikes me as a game that could use a modern reboot.

You mean like the one they made in 2008?

Colonization, like Master of Magic, is a great variation of the Civ-style game. The 2008 remake is also very good and stays mostly true to the original, but I still prefer playing the original, because it has more charm. Probably also nostalgia.

Hiname:

... Welp, time to install it and kick some spanish butt..

Hey! I'm spanish, and I shall not tolerate having my butt kicked! ;)

Nomad:

The Gentleman:
This strikes me as a game that could use a modern reboot.

You mean like the one they made in 2008?

So, is it better than the original? Steam has it for $20, and some reviews say it is better than the original, while one says the original is better.

Also, I think I know the mystery game: Sid Meier's Turn-Based Strategy Game Development Simulator: On Ice

Maaan, I played that game A LOT when I was a kid and started it up every now and then for nostalgia.

Aardvaarkman:

Nomad:

The Gentleman:
This strikes me as a game that could use a modern reboot.

You mean like the one they made in 2008?

So, is it better than the original? Steam has it for $20, and some reviews say it is better than the original, while one says the original is better.

Also, I think I know the mystery game: Sid Meier's Turn-Based Strategy Game Development Simulator: On Ice

There are extensive mods (like The Authentic Colonization http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=440319 ) that indeed make it a better game. The base game has some flaws like easy, abusable tactics, but with the mods you'll have a great, deep colonization game in front of you (or so I have read). You can also wait for a sale, I got Civ IV + Addons for I think 5-7 euros.

I played the civ4 colonization addon when it was new, and it was a complete joke. It didn't really feel like the old Colonization at all. It lagged like absolute hell, and the resource management felt tacked on. I hated it at the time, but maybe it has improved since then.

Personally, I think the original is hands down the better version, and if you forgive the graphics it still holds up today. If they wanna make a true sequel, then I'm interested, but another mod/addon? no thanks.

Sounds good, with a high potential for an rpg game for a group.

Love this game. Sure, it doesn't feel at all like any of the other civ games - but that's ok. I love scouting for good settlement spots, with a good mix of food-lands and cash-crop land around it, preferably around rivers.

Sounds like an old gem. Will have to give it a go.

I own the new version and its really fun, if don't know how different it is from the old version but I generally dislike old pc games so I probably like the new one more.

Aardvaarkman:

Nomad:

The Gentleman:
This strikes me as a game that could use a modern reboot.

You mean like the one they made in 2008?

So, is it better than the original? Steam has it for $20, and some reviews say it is better than the original, while one says the original is better.

Also, I think I know the mystery game: Sid Meier's Turn-Based Strategy Game Development Simulator: On Ice

I think the original was far superior.

One of the problems of the new version is that the more cities you have, the more powerful your home-nation (the one you have to fight for independance) gets exponentially. This means that the game is easy mode if you have one or two cities and becomes very hard if you try to build 8 or more cities.... and part of the fun was building a huge colonial nation, akin to mexico, united states or brazil.

Also it's economy was a little less interesting than the original.

It did have an interesting founding father's system, but it wasn't enough to make it worth replaying, which I believe is the prime value of a sim like this, being able to play it more than once and have a good experience with it.

Elf Defiler Korgan:
Sounds like an old gem. Will have to give it a go.

You won't regret it.

I don't think I've ever heard of this game before.

dunam:

I think the original was far superior.

One of the problems of the new version is that the more cities you have, the more powerful your home-nation (the one you have to fight for independance) gets exponentially. This means that the game is easy mode if you have one or two cities and becomes very hard if you try to build 8 or more cities.... and part of the fun was building a huge colonial nation, akin to mexico, united states or brazil.

Also it's economy was a little less interesting than the original.

It did have an interesting founding father's system, but it wasn't enough to make it worth replaying, which I believe is the prime value of a sim like this, being able to play it more than once and have a good experience with it.

Hmm memories are tricksy things. When I have seen people criticize the remake, I have wondered what the differences are. I only noticed slight changes to the upgrade system of military units, and of course the founding father system.

The economy seems almost the same to me, except for some changes in the underlying calculations. In the original I seem to remember prices of export goods always going down hard and staying down. In the remake I thought I noticed more variations in the fluctuations.

The expeditionary force in the original grew as well. But maybe the remake is more brutal. I don't remember if the original had linear growth based on time, or on population.

I also had the feeling that the remake doesn't make as interesting maps as the original, maybe they are smaller.

Both versions suffer a bit from the fact that a small focused colony is always superiour to a large one.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with Colonization. I love the setting, the detail and the feel of the games. But after playing for a while they suffer from lack of focus and micromanagement overload. Maybe I should try the mod mentioned here.

Wasn't there some PC-nazi loon, perhaps a developer, banging on about how this game should be banned? I forget who but he was gorging himself on generous helpings of white guilt; real shuddering paroxysms of self flagellating far left wing glee.

Anyway, it's a great game, everyone should play it. The remake is pretty damn good btw, although looking at some of the posts and the disections of the way it works, some player might be a bit better at it than me!

Bostur:

Hmm memories are tricksy things. When I have seen people criticize the remake, I have wondered what the differences are. I only noticed slight changes to the upgrade system of military units, and of course the founding father system.

The economy seems almost the same to me, except for some changes in the underlying calculations. In the original I seem to remember prices of export goods always going down hard and staying down. In the remake I thought I noticed more variations in the fluctuations.

The expeditionary force in the original grew as well. But maybe the remake is more brutal. I don't remember if the original had linear growth based on time, or on population.

I also had the feeling that the remake doesn't make as interesting maps as the original, maybe they are smaller.

Both versions suffer a bit from the fact that a small focused colony is always superiour to a large one.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with Colonization. I love the setting, the detail and the feel of the games. But after playing for a while they suffer from lack of focus and micromanagement overload. Maybe I should try the mod mentioned here.

Yes, nostalgia is a tricky thing. But I discovered colonization very very late. After starcraft. And I didn't discover starcraft until it was out for 2 years, year 2000.

And I still pull it out of the old archive of games and play it once in a while.

It's not really that the remake is more brutal in expeditionairy force, it's that the curve is far bigger. There's a gigantic difference between what you face as 1 city or 5 cities or 12 cities. This meant that a good strategy was making no more than 3 cities and developing them as much as possible. In the original, it wasn't so punitive to create many cities and actually a good strategy, because small cities produce less alarm and require less food.

I guess for me the fun wasn't so much in the challenge (contrary to most games), but in the possibility to create a sprawling colony and imagining what the country would be like in the future, from rural villages based on mining and agriculture as well as education centre's where people go to learn.

Of course this is subjective.

Colonization is the game where I kinda loved the micromanagement. Alpha centauri is another. Civ 2 I used to love but can't play anymore, it's too dated now.

I think that sid meier and brian reynolds really had their finger on the pulse of these games at that time and that creating a bunch of these games had put them in the zone of creating excellent replayability in these games.

For colonization, I definitely get what you're saying. At some point you're hitting a kind of wall. You're just creating rally points, doing menial kind of tasks. Most of the exploring is done. You don't really get to do anything new with your money.

I always run into that too, when I play colonization. What I then do, is let the game sit for a day. Then look at it and think what goals I'll try to achieve. Like looking at a giant city infrastructure map and thinking how it might be worth it to tear down some old stuff to create a new, better structure. Maybe create a lumber city to supply a bigger city, so that the bigger city can focus on other things. Abandon a city that has little value and use it's colonists to train into the military. I guess I really like those kinda decisions.

dunam:

I always run into that too, when I play colonization. What I then do, is let the game sit for a day. Then look at it and think what goals I'll try to achieve. Like looking at a giant city infrastructure map and thinking how it might be worth it to tear down some old stuff to create a new, better structure. Maybe create a lumber city to supply a bigger city, so that the bigger city can focus on other things. Abandon a city that has little value and use it's colonists to train into the military. I guess I really like those kinda decisions.

I find that this is generally a good idea to do in strategy games in general. It's easy to lose track of overall goals when focusing on the micromanagement. Games have a compact time scale, so we don't get the same time off to change perspective as we would in real life.
I also like those larger decisions, and they become more apparent when you get some distance from the game.

Nomad:

The Gentleman:
This strikes me as a game that could use a modern reboot.

You mean like the one they made in 2008?

1) Utterly terrible game. Like, broken-on-release, patched-months-later terrible. Some of the mods help a lot (The Authentic Colonization is very good, and some of the mods that build off it as well), but...not a good game.

2) Both the original and the remake are pretty socially disgusting. A game based on colonial conquest whitewashing to the degree that both the original and the remake do is really terrible. A game set in the American colonial period that doesn't mention slavery? Unconscionable. ("But but but it'd make people mad"--good. Make them mad. Make them think.)

 

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