Civilization III: Conquests

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: 2K Games


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PC Review - 'Civilization III: Conquests'

by Velvey on Dec. 23, 2003 @ 12:33 a.m. PST

Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Firaxis
Release Date: November 4, 2003


Civilization: Conquests is a game that divides gamers asunder like a Mesopotamian mace. That is to say, you are either relishing the release of this expansion or you probably could care less. Just as Civilization is a game that divides the deep strategy minded from the strategy lite camps. Conquests adds some great battles with preset conditions that really stand out in history. Conquests also includes the Play the World expansion along with some improvements to the game overall. You will need to have Civilization III to add this expansion to the original game. This is worth mentioning as many expansions released recently include the original game as well. Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna and Age of Wonders Shadow Magic come to mind as they include the original game with the expansion.

So if you're reading this you may be wondering what is new? Basically you have nine conquests in history to choose from. Each of these has unique experiences as there are many preset conditions and tech tree tweaks. Each conquest has its own set of rules as well. Some have locked alliances and others give you certain aids and disadvantages relevant to your culture and historical conditions. Also included are fifteen new tribes with a unique unit for a total of thirty-one tribes. The overall epic game has been updated and the included multiplayer expansion, Play the World, seems to work better than when it was originally released. Firaxis claims this is partly attributed to the DirectX 9 updates that handle networking and multimedia better. There are many other additions and improvements like civil engineer, policemen, feudalism and fascism government types, new wonders and new victory conditions. All of this boils up a stew that is to hard to resist for the Civ gamer. Most likely if you are reading this you are still considering whether or not to buy the expansion. If I can save you time, leave now and install immediately.

For those who want to know more, let's find out more about the game. If you're unfamiliar with Civilization III and just reading through to find out more, you may be wondering if nine conquests is enough to constitute and expansion. Nine may not sound like many scenarios/campaigns for an expansion pack. What is important to know is that one of these conquests can take you hours to complete. With nine scenarios there are enough new challenges to bend the bonds of any relationship with the outside world, or your significant other. You may find yourself playing just one conquest scenario in the same time it would take you to burn through an entire game of Warcraft III or other real time strategy titles. Some of the conquests included are: Mesopotamia, the Rise of Rome, the Fall of Rome, Napoleonic Europe, and WWII in the Pacific. Mesopotamia for instance was home to all seven of the great wonders of the ancient world. In this scenario the game ends as soon as all seven great wonders have been built or when a side amasses 5,500 victory points. Victory points are doubled for each wonder built. In the conquest scenario Age of Discovery you play as one of five European powers; England, France, Spain Portugal or the Dutch. As you explore the new world and Africa you set up plantations and mines to exploit wealth. As you bring back treasures you score victory points and add gold to your treasury as long as you can avoid privateers from overtaking your travels.

As you can see each scenario has its own victory conditions and really adds some challenges that are fun to attempt. Civilization fanatics will still find the open game play that they tend to prefer with all the new upgrades that Conquests affords. You also have some nifty additions like trebuchets to batter down enemy's walls and disasters like volcanoes to interrupt your progress. A nice little touch on the game map is added. As you bombard your enemy you will see craters left on the map.

All in all conquests is a very welcome addition to the Civilization III game play. If you are a Civilization fan you will find much to keep you busy. If you are new, it is highly recommended that you take the tutorial in Civilization III first. You will need Civ III to play anyway so you will have some proving grounds before you play Conquests. If you are new, beware that you will find a very thick manual that will guide you through your learning. The Civ III manual is 200 plus pages. There is a learning scenario but it will not be enough to give you the control of the game you need. The in game tutorial, as with deeper strategy games, quite frankly is weak. This is an area that I believe would help new recruits to the genre and gain more appeal. Unfortunately, with the lack of a sound or comprehensive tutorial, you will need to read to really understand the game. For this reason alone, many will not choose to learn Civilization III or enjoy the benefits of Conquests. The tutorial in the Civilization III manual is fairly thorough as it spans a few chapters. On the other side of it you will be ready to go out on your own. The problem is that you literally have to imagine the tutorial in your head because you won't be playing it. You will be reading and imagining you're playing. This is just unfortunate as many are willing to sit through a good in game tutorial if it's moderately entertaining but they are unwilling to read how to play. Many tutorials actually take place in a pre-scenario exposition and bring you into a bigger campaign when you are through. This would have been a good idea if Firaxis and Atari were interested in acquiring new citizens to this fine game so they could gain new wealth and could have more shields to spend on major upgrades to their economy. But I digress.

If you are a veteran to Civilization III, as most people interested in Conquests will be, you have but a few mouse clicks after installation and you are on your way. Choose the conquest you want and make sure to check the civilopedia and the tech tree to see what is available for your particular scenario. Once you have done that you will be on your way to some gaming fun. In the Rise of Rome scenario I found trying to recreate the expansion and victories of Rome very engaging and quite challenging. If you are a veteran and you really need a challenge you can choose Sid mode. Need I say more? The unique units that each culture gets is definitely a nice spin and you will find yourself consulting your Conquests manual and civilopedia many times to see what you are up against. The manual is 80 pages long, compared to Civilization III's 200 plus pages, but has more than enough information to help you through the game. If you are a veteran you will only need the manual as reference.

Once again Atari and Firaxis serve up an outstanding product and a very welcomed addition to an already great game. I found myself locked in for hours at a time and wanting just one more turn to try and fend off or conquer my enemies. The tactical level of this game is brilliant and the strategic significance of many of the Conquests scenarios really up the ante in terms of involvement and fun. This game, along with Civilization III should come with a warning label; 'beware, you may loose control by becoming obsessed to the point of loss of sleep loosing track of time.' It's addictive enough to send your personal life into a complete tailspin. As most people know that have paid the price of admission for Civ III, the hours devoted to learning this game are paid off in a major way. As I played through Conquests and the recent Patrician III, something became more obvious to me; the deeper the learning curve the more addictive the game can be. If you truly want to serve yourself up with some strategic greatness, add Conquests to your game rotation soon. I'm guessing your rotation will come to a standstill and the only record playing will be a little tune by Sid Meier.

Score: 9.0/10

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