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No. of Recommendations: 16
Hi all, to atone for my shameless OTing recently I thought I should give you a good old-fashioned game review....

I heard a few weeks ago that this game was coming, a follow up to the classic Colonization game of the 90s, and got pretty excited. I had enjoyed the first game, or rather, I have vague memories of enjoying the first game, but didn't think that I'd played it all that much for some reason.... I thought nothing of it, and went online to salivate over all the previews and try to find reviews. There were surprisingly few reviews, but I did read a couple before plunking down my cash and they seemed very positive. It seems I did learn something from all my stock purchases recently - more due diligence is necessary!

You can tell where this is going right?

So, anyway, game arrives, installs just fine and diddly. No worries getting it up and going. Obviously I don't need to read the manual, as the game is based on Civilization IV's engine, and I played the original. I dive right in at a medium difficulty level, and fortunately there's a very sparse tutorial system which tells me what I should be doing in rough terms. Okeydokey, go and found a city - try to make an army type person to go explore and meet/bash the natives but for some reason I can't find the "units" section of the build menu! Further investigation reveals that there isn't one - the only thing you can build are buildings! (and ships and cannons later...). To get a soldier, a pioneer (worker) or a missionary, you have to pull one of your little people from the fields, hand them tools, guns or a funny hat and send them off into the wild. This is a very significant change from Civ IV where you can just pump out military units as fast as you can build them and only Settlers cost population. In Colonization though, any sort of unit can found a new settlement (except ships and cannons, because that would be daft. If it's a dragoon who does the founding then their horses and weapons appear in the town's stores when you create it, so you can up sticks again whenever you like, or another one of your chaps can come along and pick them up. So it seems the best strategy is not to have a standing army as such, but to stack up great piles of guns and horses (well, probably best to avoid stacking the horses as such, but you know what I mean) and just allow your citizenry to spring to the rescue whenever danger lurks nearby.

Luckily there isn't generally much danger lurking nearby throughout most of the game. You'll get into the occasional tiff with the natives if you keep settling too close to their villages and don't pay them off, but it's rarely a problem unless it's very early in the game and you haven't remembered to put a stack or two of guns in each settlement. It's also possible to fight your neighbours and competitors, the other settlers from Europe, but they haven't yet been aggressive towards me. I have however wiped one of them out and taken over their cities, which frankly seems like a really good idea given how hard it is to get your population (and thus your potential army) up through legitimate means. You can get new people three ways:
1) Grow your own - accumulate 3000 food in a colony and one appears.
2) Convert natives - send a missionary to a native town and they'll disappear and found a mission. Every now and again a native will declare their love for Jesus and come work for you. They're less capable than your own colonists, but you can train them up into any specialty you like and they'll be just as good - proving it's not genetic, it's education!
3) Buy/inspire them from Europe - You can either buy specialists from Europe or wait for them to be inspired by your preachers and offer to come over on their own.

The economy is pretty simple - you produce resources, build a building to convert them into end products, and sell the end products to Europe, or sometimes to the natives for reduced prices. You need to keep building/buying bigger ships to carry your loot back to Europe as it really starts to mount up.... In fact, if you're as inept as me, you tend to lose a lot of your production to lack of storage. Whoops... To make life a bit harder the king periodically raises your tax rate on everything you sell to Europe. You can reject any tax increase you like by chucking a whole bunch of some product into the sea - but if you do that you can never, ever, trade that product with Europe again. So, best not to do it with guns or tools which you'll generally be a buyer of, or any of your main exports.

There's a strange "liberty" system whereby you can set people to work in your town halls (or build printing presses or newspapers to speed it up) and they'll produce Liberty Bells which magically increase your Rebel Sentiment. Rebel Sentiment has the handy effect of increasing your production of pretty much everything, so it's a good thing. Except that the king doesn't take kindly to it, and adds men/munitions to his "Colonial Expeditionary Force", so that's a bummer.

The only way to win the game is to declare a revolution, and exterminate the king's army. Which seems a bit harsh frankly. For one thing, I'm a brit, and have no desire to throw off the yoke of our rightful rulers just because some uppity colonials get narked about their tax rate - it would be nice if I could come to some sort of negotiated settlement! Also, the king's army is MASSIVE!! Holy cow. It's bigger than my entire population sometimes! So if you're going to have a revolution (which, I suppose you'd better) then you need to have all your towns well fortified and stocked with guns/cannons. Unfortunately, the game doesn't seem to give you enough time to do this properly. Or rather, it didn't give ME enough time, because as I've already mentioned, I'm apparently inept.

So, that's the gist of it. Is it any good? Meh. Not really... Much of the game is spent micromanaging your internal trade routes to get lumber and cotton etc from the productive interior to the coast for export to Europe, then manually loading the stuff onto ships (well, clicking and dragging, not actually working as a stevedore...) and sailing them to Europe. The rest of your time (well, my time) is spent hitting enter to get a new turn in the hopes that something will happen. Basically the game is tremendously boring and long winded right up until the point that it becomes unbelievably brief and exciting when you're wiped out by the king for your damned uppitiness. Which is as it should be obviously, but it doesn't make for an exciting game.

Given the population constraints on you, and the cost of losing even a single unit (assume you paid about 2000 gold for the person, plus 400 more for their guns and 200 more for their horse) is about equal to many many many turns worth of profits on European exports. War is a tremendously risky and expensive proposition, and it's easy to lose a few vital cogs in your machine if you get caught unprepared. As a result, you generally shun conflict until the big final boss battle. I suppose the trick is to keep your hand in by suppressing and slaughtering the natives, just as in real life, only I've not really felt it was a good idea until now - you don't get to keep their settlements, they're simply burnt to the ground, which seems a bit harsh. Also, there's no option to play as a native and kick out the white dudes which I think would have been a much more fun game.

So in conclusion - pass. It's not a very good game. It's not even much of an improvement on the original (not that I remember all that well apparently) - I guess they just updated the graphics etc. Unbelievably, even on my ridiculously quick machine it slows down in the late game noticeably and annoyingly. Blah. I'm annoyed now, I had such high hopes for it! The Pirates! remake was excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it, this one is either a pale imitation, or was never actually a good game in the first place (which I suspect is the case...).

p.s. Look a crown! Holy cow! Who'd have thought it?
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