Sid Meier's Colonization Review
Colonization is a turn-based strategy game from Sid Meier, Bryan Reynolds and Jeff Briggs. It was first released by Microprose in 1994, then as a DOS version, and then later for Windows, Mac and Amiga in 1995. The goal of the game is to colonize the New World and ultimately achieve Independence from Europe. When Colonization was released, three years after Civilization, it introduced some new game concepts -- harvesting and manufacturing goods for trade being the most important one, but also the new concept of interacting with the native tribes in addition to the other European Powers.
You can either play on the original America map, or you can choose one that is randomly made. There are five difficulty levels, from easy to hard: Discoverer, Explorer, Conquistador, Governor and Viceroy. Four European powers compete with each other to attain dominance in the newly discovered territories and to be the first to achieve Independence. The four powers are: England, France, The Netherlands and Spain. In Colonization it is necessary to micro-manage your colonies and their colonists, and with this in mind, let us take a closer look at the game.
It all begins in the year 1492. Each player starts with a ship and two units -- a soldier and a pioneer. Once you have discovered new land, your units can make landfall and found your first colony. Now you have to start harvesting food and other raw materials such as lumber, tobacco, cotton and iron ore. Your colonists need food to survive, and food is provided by farmers or fishermen. Carpenters will provide your colony with new buildings as long as there is enough lumber available to them -- lumber is provided by lumberjacks or by ordering pioneers to cut down forests around your colonies.
Some colonists do not have any special skills, but they can attain special skills by working on specific tasks or by learning from the native tribes which you will encounter in the New World. These special skills make them more effective at harvesting materials or producing goods, which are then shipped to Europe to be sold there. The money you get from these sales is spent on recruiting new colonists, training professionals in Europe's universities, buying military units, ships, tools, trade goods, muskets and horses. These new units and resources are then brought back to the New World with the aim of furthering improvement and expansion. Once professionals arrive in the New World, they can use the resources gathered there to produce luxury commodities such as cigars, rum, fur coats and cloth, which in turn are sold for even higher prices in Europe.
However, there is more to it than establishing new colonies and constantly improving them, gathering materials and producing goods. You also have to interact with the natives. Build a good relationship with them or prepare yourself for trouble. A good relationship with the natives can bring great benefits in the areas of trade and education. The natives have been cultivating their lands for ages and can teach you some very valuable skills. Some of the larger indian settlements, namely the Inca and Aztec cities, are loaded with silver. By bringing in Trade Goods from Europe and other commodities, you can make a great profit to further improve your standing in the New World.
Then, of course , there is the inevitable clash with some of the other European powers. They are your competitors and their aim is to colonize and develop as much of the New World as possible, and in the end to achieve their independence ahead of you. Needless to say, you need to keep the security of your colonies in mind -- build a strong defense on land and at sea. Building a strong defense will cost you, so in order to achieve this you will need a strong economy.
The ultimate goal of the game is to achieve independence from Europe. In order to do that, you have to invoke a rebel sentiment in your colonies. This is done by bringing Elder Statesmen into your colonies and assigning them to work at the Town Hall. Building a Printing Press and a Newspaper improves their effectiveness greatly. In time, a majority of your colonists will demand Independence from Europe.
The King, however, will not let you off that easily. After you declare independence, he will dispatch a force to the New World to silence the rebels. Hopefully by now, you have built a Continental Army capable of withstanding any attack, and at last achieve your well deserved Independence.
Colonization is a perfect strategy game in the sense that it offers quality gameplay without being too complex. Sometimes the focus on graphics and in-game mechanics can take some of the attention away from the actual gameplay experience, but not so in Colonization. Colonization is simple, but by no means without depth. You have to deal with different aspects such as expansion, production, trade and fighting, all at the same time. Dividing your resources among these different areas -- achieving the right balance -- is really challenging. In addition, the historical aspect of the game, the Founding Fathers, is quite informative -- a feature often seen in Sid Meier's games.
Finally, be warned. Colonization is highly addictive. Get used to the phrase "just one more turn". When you find yourself repeating that phrase over and over again, and you probably will (!), you may rightfully call yourself a true Colonization fan.
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