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Civilization III: Complete

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When Aspyr Media announced last October that it planned to bring Civilization IV, the latest release of the much-loved strategy series, to the Mac, the company also threw in a special bonus—a resurrected and improved version of Civilization III. Now repackaged as Civilization III: Complete, the new version not only runs on newer systems, but also includes two expansion packs that are new to the Mac.

Civilization is a turn-based strategy game in which you oversee the development of a civilization from the Stone Age all the way to the modern era—and even a bit into the future. You guide every aspect of your civilization, including agricultural growth, diplomacy with neighboring nations, the refinement of goods, development of culture, and the machinery of war.

To succeed, you must be careful to stake out a location that’s both strategically well-placed and rich with resources. Building cities on coastlines where you can create ports to facilitate the import and export of goods is important, for example. As your small nation grows, it will expand its borders and extend its influence to other towns and areas.

Meanwhile your competitors—computer-controlled or human—try to do the same thing. Eventually you’ll clash, and depending on how honed your diplomacy skills are, you may find an important trade partner, or a deadly enemy that you’ll have to fight tooth and nail to protect yourself against.

You can choose from a variety of civilizations—everything from Europeans to Native Americans to Babylonians. Each group has their strengths and weaknesses. For example, Americans can (with time) build high-powered warplanes that quickly take out enemies. Babylonians, on the other hand, get bonuses that reduce the cost of improving their scientific abilities.

Civilization III also includes two add-ons that never made it the Mac—Conquests and Play the World. The more noteworthy of these is Play the World. It adds a multiplayer component that lets you compete against other Civ III enthusiasts online—something Mac fans have longed for. This is the way Civilization III was intended to be played. Unfortunately, since the multiplayer support is not crossplatform, you’ll only be able to challenge other Mac players.

The Conquests add-on provides nine additional scenarios to play through—campaigns that will test your mettle in a variety of scenarios including ancient Mesopotamia , Roman times, Napoleonic times, and so on. Conquests emphasizes civilization-to-civilization combat. So if you’re a lover, not a fighter, you may not find much to like here.

Thanks to the work by Aspyr, Civilization III runs well on today’s modern systems—eliminating some of the clunkiness that dogged the older conversion. (You need a 500MHz G4 or more recent Mac to play.) The bad news is that there’s no upgrade discount for Mac users who bought the previous version of the game. You’ll have to buy the whole collection again.

Of course, all of this is really just preparation for the big event: Civilization IV, which should arrive this Spring. If you’ve already played through MacSoft’s conversion of Civilization III, I doubt you’ll find enough here to make it worth your money. But for strategy game fans who are new to the franchise, Aspyr’s conversion will be a welcome addition.

The bottom line

Civilization III: Complete is a good port of a great strategy game. Newcomers will find much here to enjoy. Too bad there’s no upgrade path for gamers who already bought it from MacSoft.

Civilization III advisorCivilization III scenario
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