Top critical review
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Updated remake but missing the original's charm
on 12 November 2010
I loved the original Colonization, so I bought this with great anticpation only to find that it was not as good as the original game. The premise of the game is much the same as the original Colonization. You play as English, Dutch, French or Spanish colonists discovering and settling the New World, trying to survive and make a living, and finally declaring independence from you hated king back in Europe and successfully defeating him in an epic war that will see the birth of America. The tech tree is replaced by Founding Fathers and various colonist types which you must utilise to turn a profit. One of the early complaints about the game is that the creators did not take the opportunity, when updating and remaking this game, to add a Portuguese faction, which also had a significant influence in colonising the New World. There have been some notable changes to the interface, including swapping the traditional sidebar for the horizontal bar, however various advisor screens remain in the menu bar at the top. Movement is no longer directed through left click, but has been moved to right click, which initially feels awkward and takes some getting used to. There are also a lot of buttons and new features to explore and get the hang of.
The graphics are really top notch. As aforementioned, this new version uses the same engine as Civ IV, meaning some of the latest computer game graphics around. Just to pick out one feature, I was stunned with the rendering of the sea in the game - it moves in lots of different tiny points, it ripples, it reflects your ships sailing on it, and it is illuminated and shadowed adding increased depth and realism. On the other side of the media, C4C is complemented by new music as well. It sounds all fine and authentic, but the problem is that it fails to capture the gamer's imagination, unlike the musical score of the original Colonisation with its catchy military tunes, town jives, and soothing native harmonies. Also, whilst the colours used are now very realistic, I think Firaxis and 2K have missed the point that in the original game the brightly coloured landscape and units were part of its fun and appeal.
I must make special mention of the European king, who is surely one of the greatest villainous characters of all time in the history of computer games thus far. Whilst some computer game antagonists horrify you with their deeds of pure evil, and others frustrate you and elude you with their dastardly genius... no other villain will succeed in hacking you off quite like the underdeveloped, two-dimensional character of the European king in this game. He's the guy who makes your life unbearable. You're trying to scrape out a living on a few shekels here in the New World, build a whole new civilisation from scratch, and you can forget about creature comforts, and then good ol' Kingy comes along and demands lump sum donations and extortionate taxes. He's fat, he's lazy, and he's unstoppable. If you say no to him, he simply refuses to trade in one of your New World products, leaving you without cash and potentially ruining your New World enterprise. The most you can do is grind and toil away in preparation for the day when you can declare independence and free yourself from his shackles forever.
The coding in the way the king interacts with you and how liberty bells and REF additions work has been radically revamped. Firstly, the frequency and amounts which the king demands payment from you has been ramped up. Whilst this does increase your drive to throw him off, it can be totally crippling for your economy, meaning you never have enough cash to fund your war of independence. Secondly, the triggers for the king increasing the Royal Expeditionary Force have been completely reworked. Now, the king adds to the REF not whenever you refuse his requests, but depending on how high your liberty bell production is - liberty bell production, of course, is needed to declare independence and gain Founding Fathers. As a result, in your efforts to gain Founding Fathers to make life in the New World a bit easier, and gain enough rebel sentiment to declare independence from your hated king, you're actually at the same time increasing the size of the king's own army that he's going to send against you, to the point where he builds up an impossibly large force. The only method to get around this so far is to not produce liberty bells, thus giving up all hope of the bonuses the Founding Fathers bring, and focus completely on building up guns, horses and as many colonists as possible, and then only start liberty bell production when you are absolutely ready for the revolution, going on a sprint to be able to declare independence before the king has enough time to build up the REF to ridiculous levels. This feels like a very clumsy way of doing things. Finally, as if being insanely outnumbered by the REF wasn't enough, it turns out that all those years of building up ten military units in each of your settlements were completely pointless anyways, because the king's artillery receives a massive bonus when attacking settlements! Even if you've built the city's defences up to fortress level! It's crazy but you're actually better off leaving your cities undefended and moving your troops to open terrain, and then counterattacking when the king marches into town!
A personal irritation of mine - the maps are insanely small. Even when you set the map on Huge size, the biggest you can get, it's tiny! I can't see any reason for this - the original game allowed you to play on truly large maps. As a result the map feels cramped, with not enough room to build more than three or four settlements, hardly the foundations of a New World nation. My own feelings about the game were that whilst it had been very thoroughly updated for the modern gamer, with all the bells and whistles and snazzy latest graphics, this new remake of Colonisation just isn't as good as the original. Playing this game made me want to go back and play the original again instead of getting frustrated with the impossible problems in the way this game actually functions.