Top critical review
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So many missed opportunities
on 21 December 2002
Having been a major Sid Meier fan ever since his Railroad Tycoon days, I was looking forward to this title with an anticipation bordering on fanaticism.
Alpha Centauri had been my favourite game ever since its release, and had swallowed up more of my waking hours than I care to admit... I was expecting Civ III to be more of the same.
Alas, it wasn't.
The problem was that after the innovation and scope of Alpha Centauri, I was really expecting Civ III to be 'Alpha Centauri on Earth'. What I wasn't expecting was for it to be a linear progression from Civilization II. While this is a sensible progression, after the inventiveness of Alpha Centauri it just seems like a major step backwards.
The governments and units are restrictive and do not allow for much customisation. The civ specific units are a nice touch, but badly implemented... some civilisations get their units earlier in the game, giving them a huge advantage over late bloomers.
There is no design headquarters... an unforgiveable oversight considering how much it added to Alpha Centauri's appeal. There is no social engineering, which means you are restricted to the rather dull government choices provided for you.
The AI is disturbingly confrontational... it's a surreal experience to have Ghandi picking a fight with you.
The resource model is clever, but flawed... only manually designed maps seem to have a decent balance of resources to make a game playable. The randomly generated maps lack this and they are not fun to play.
The culture model is inspired... an excellent addition to the game. Alas, it came at the cost of so many fine features that could have been added from Alpha Centauri.
It's not all doom and gloom however... it plays as well as you would expect the sequel to Civ II to play. It just don't play as well as a progression from Alpha Centauri should... the wasted opportunity jars more than anything actually in the game.
Oh, and the lack of inbuilt support for multiplayer is just criminal. I know there is an expansion pack for this, but it's hardly an unusual piece of functionality to include in the main game.
It can be absorbing... with the patches from Infogrammes it is actually a rather fun game. The provided maps on the website are likewise fun... but the game itself is a real disappointment considering how great it could easily have been.