Any history or anthropology professor will tell you that civilization began with the city. Civilization II Gold is no different. You begin by founding a city at the dawn of recorded history. The game then progresses turn by turn until someone conquers the world or wins the space race by constructing an incredible spacecraft to bring settlers to a nearby star.
From Caesar to Einstein
In the sixty centuries spanning those two events, Civilization II requires you to manage your cities and your civilization. Do you hurriedly attack you neighbors and try to capture their land, or do you form alliances and trade with them? Will they attack you? And who is quietly constructing a utopia on the far side of the globe, unhindered by you or your neighbors’ interference?
There are also long-term management issues that all desktop monarchs and Magellans must face. You have to decide what form of government is best for your people. You must manage your resources and economy to maximum effect. Finally, you must keep your people happy. A citizenry tends to revolt if left unhappy, oddly enough.
Civilization II Gold has a lot of rules. However, it’s easy to pick up even the most minute details just by playing the game. There are hints and helpers scattered throughout — and as you gradually learn how to play, you can turn them off. Additionally, the 272-page rule book is well-written, readable, and–most importantly–well indexed.
The game’s graphics are attractive and informative. The game is played on a grid representing the world, one you look down on from a 45-degree angle. (Movement can be tricky for older Civilization players and others who are used to looking directly down on the world.) There are also dozens of satisfying and fun QuickTime movies that mark momentous events in your civilization’s history.
One of the Major additions to Civilization II Gold (when compared to previous Civ games) is network play. While computer-controlled civilizations are fairly challenging as opponents, playing against humans (via TCP/IP or on a local network) is great fun. You can also play against a mix of humans and computer-controlled opponents if you like.
You can chat with other human players and maintain diplomatic relations with them. You can also change the game rules in multiplayer games to move the game along more quickly if you want to finish in a night. But if you can’t, you can save multiplayer network games and continue them later on. Players can also come and go, with the computer taking over control of civilizations that have lost their human players. New humans can also take over computer-controlled civilizations. Even if a game’s host leaves, the game can continue — Civilization II Gold will transfer host authority to another computer.
You can also play a “hot-seat” version of the game, where human players share the computer and avert their eyes during other turns. Hot-seat play is not as lame as it sounds. Person-to-person diplomacy using your “vocal-area network” in this type of game can be great fun.
Also new to Civilization II Gold are a pile of game scenarios, as well as a powerful scenario editor to create your own scenarios. Some of the scenarios are basic, modeling a specific period in world history or a standardized set of events. Others are remarkably creative, allowing players to develop magical and mythical civilizations.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
All in all, Civilization II Gold is an impressive refinement of the Civilization series. Whether you’re new to strategy games or are a hard-core Civ fan who wants to play over a network, Civilization II Gold delivers. If you already have Civilization II, the only addition in the gold version is network play and a few scenarios. If you’re happy with the basic game and don’t want to play any humans, stick with what you have.