Rom Player: PC
Synopsis: A history lesson that’s fun? Sid Meier proves it’s possible. As a successor to his immensely popular Civilization, he downscaled that concept and set it in the time of the discovery of America, up to the War of Independence. European conquistadors came to the New World, settled colonies, battled each other as well as the natives, and most importantly, grew filthy rich from trade.
First, pick one of the major European powers that came to the New World: the English, the French, the Dutch or the Spanish. Technically, the Portuguese played a prominent part too, but established history is bent and twisted a little to allow freedom of play. At any rate, it’s fun to for once see my own nation represented in a game (the Dutch). Each nation has been given an advantage in unison with their most remarkable talent during the age of expansion. Since there was great religious unrest in England, causing many to avoid religious conflict by boarding a ship to the New World, the English gain more free units over time. France was on better terms with the American natives, so the French have an easier time keeping peace with the native tribes. The Netherlands had a prosperous trade empire with their merchant marine, so the Dutch get more cash when they start trading commodities with the mother country. And of course Spain was having a hearty time slaughtering the natives and taking their gold, so the Spanish get a damage bonus when they attack the native tribes. The native tribes are also based off real life native Americans: the Iroquois, Cherokee, Arawaks, Incas, Aztecs, Apaches, Sioux, and Tupi.
Like in Civilization, groups of units are represented by single characters: soldiers, workers, ships. Only in Colonization, trade is a far more important element than battle. There are only a handful of military units: infantry, cavalry, artillery, frigates, galleons, man-o-wars (big warships) and privateers (pirate ships). The rest of the unit list is made up of various colonists and specialists – people with talents in production of food or crop growing, fur trapping, mining, the processing of commodities (like, tobacco into cigars), and political or religious figures: statesmen, who summon up feelings of independence among the colonists, preachers, who lure more religiously persecuted colonists to the New World, and missionaries, who introduce Christianity to the natives.
You start off with a ship that’s just off the coast of the New World, carrying one pioneer who’s capable of developing the land adjacent to your colonies (like settlers in Civilization), and one infantry unit. In Colonization, every unit except for an Indian convert or an artillery unit can establish a colony. Population increase doesn’t happen as fast as in Civilization, nor do you get as much land to exploit as in that game. You have to grow an abundance of food till a new colonist pops up. And that’s just one of your options. If the adjacent land allows it, you can cut wood for lumber, mine hills for ore, grow cotton, tobacco or sugar, or hunt the forest for animal fur. The raw materials you gather can then be used to develop construction material (tools or construction hammers – what were “shields” in Civilization), converted into more valuable products (furs into coats, cotton into cloth, sugar into rum), or just taken to Europe and sold on the market. Constructing new buildings allows you to increase production and colony defense. If you want a colony to grow, there’s only one way – stick in more colonists and put them to work.
As you explore more of your surroundings, you meet the native American tribes and other European powers. You can either make friends and trade products with them, or be a good little conquistador and kill the lot. Sid Meier strives to be politically correct, though – every Indian village you burn means a point less on your final score. Peaceful trade is your goal, though there’s no harm in taking out your European enemies. Besides, pretty soon they’ll be besieging your colonies anyway.
Producing and selling their own goods from the New World, your colonists will soon start feeling less European and more American. This starts making the king nervous, so he tries to enforce taxes on the goods you import from the New World. You can either choose to accept these taxes, or hold your own version of the Boston Tea Party (i.e, the Montreal Tobacco Party) and toss all the taxed goods in one city into the sea. This causes the king to boycott those products in Europe, preventing you from trading them (well, that’s not entirely true – check out the cheats for a programming error that lets you get by boycotts). Since the New World is starting to feel more independent, you need to collect a congress full of political figures called the Founding Fathers. By having your statesmen call up more feelings of independence in your colonies, represented by a commodity called “Liberty Bells”, you can attract Founding Fathers into your Continental Congress. All these are sound historical figures: Pocahontas, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Adam Smith, Jan de Witt and many more. Each Founding Father provides you with a certain advantage: Pocahontas prevents the natives from going to war against you too fast, Adam Smith allows you to build factories to increase production, Benjamin Franklin increases Liberty Bell production.
As you build a mighty trade empire in the New World, your population starts wanting you to declare your independence to the mother country. When you choose to do that, the king sends out his Royal Expeditionary force to quell the uprising, and the last part of the game, the War of Independence, begins. The king’s forces are really powerful units, but if you fight them on your own land, your units gain a bonus for fighting on the territory they know best. If you’ve been a good boy and kept peace with the native American tribes and European powers, you may get help from another country. If not, you can expect the Indians to attack you with guns and horses acquired from your very own king. If you lose your colonies to the king’s forces, you’re fucked and you lose the game. If you manage to defeat the Royal Expeditionary force, you’ve won your independence and you’re free!
Civilization fans might miss the excessive combat of the previous game, but this game has its own challenges. You can grow rich of both commerce and conquest. It’s a fun way to brush up on your knowledge of the origin of the United States, and it’s a real change from old Civ.
Best Cheats: Boycotts can be bypassed by using the “u” key instead of the unload command to sell your cargo in Europe. To activate the cheat menu, hold Alt and type WIN. On the colony screen, hold Shift use the 1-0 keys for various effects. The map screen has a cheat menu now. In Europe, you can use the Shift and 1-0 keys as well for different effects.
Game Play: 8
Overall Rating: 8
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