The Civilization series has a lot in common with the James Bond Saga. They both have a new offspring once every couple of years, and despite presenting roughly the same content they are viewed/played religiously by fans. This year however, renowned game designer Sid Meyer and Firaxis Studios decided to offer us a remake of the classic Colonization, originally released way back in 1994, hoping to please the fans that were crying for a sequel ever since.
Instead of offering the chance to breed your own civilization from scrap like the Civilization series, Colonization takes on a historical theme, namely the conquest of the New World by one of the four colonial powers of the time: England, France, Netherlands and Spain (Portugal was again left out, even though it had a fair amount of influence back in the day). The player must choose one of these nations, set up a colony in the Americas, tend to it, make it profitable, gather an army and at the right time, declare independence and defeat the king’s forces sent to remind him who’s actually in charge.
Several game scenarios are available, including the standard North-American continent, but also South America or the Caribbean can be chosen, along with a random-generated terrain that emphasizes exploration. Furthermore several parameters of the game can be changed, such as economical issues or how aggressive the natives will be, but none of them change the gameplay fundamentally. We also have the option of up to 4 players in Multiplayer, be it via HotSeat, LAN, Online or Play by Mail. So if you have any friends to play with and who like this historical period, now is the time to challenge them.
Choosing one kingdom over another can be done according to personal preferences, or you can take into account what each nation has to offer. The Spaniards, conquistadors by definition, receive a healthy bonus when fighting the natives, the French on the contrary, get more advantages from dealing with them peacefully, the Dutch have some trade advantages and the British can recruit colonists faster from their homeland. Aside from choosing a nation you can also select one of two commanders, each with its own benefits, usually either economical or military.
The ship that sets sail from Europe contains one colonist and one soldier, along with some basics goods, and one of the first challenges will be to choose the site for your new colony. This is because selecting the right terrain can prove crucial for future development, and the free space is somewhat scarce, as the native tribes and the other European powers that arrive roughly at the same time can crowd you into small areas. If you don’t like what you see, it can be solved by a restart, of course, but you lose a bit of the exploration feeling if you do that. If, however, you choose to explore a little before settling down you will lose time. And time, as we will see, is truly invaluable in this game.
Once you’ve founded your first colony, the economic system you will have to control will be revealed. An easy to understand, but hard to master system. Basic resources, such as food to support more people or wood for buildings, can be harvested from nearly every site, provided you assign one worker for the job. A wide array of trade materials can be harvested depending on the terrain you chose for you town – cotton and sugar in the plains, tobacco in the hills or silver in the mountains.
These can be turned into finished products which can be sold for a higher profit – tobacco is made into cigars, sugar into rum, and cotton into garments. And what we have in the end is a fun, but frail balance between food, tools production and trade goods, as every activity requires one colonist, be it extraction, manufacturing, soldiering or priesthood.
The colonists used for these jobs are not just simple slaves, as they can have specialties, such as the expert fisherman or master blacksmiths, who can produce up to 50% more if sent to the right place. This is not mandatory, however, because you can send the master tailor to the silver mines if you wish to, but you should not expect miracle production quotas from him if you do.
There are some colonists that produce a bit less than usual, such as the criminals or the thieves, but this can be solved once you build a school and assign them to it, as they receive a free specialty once they graduate.