Review: Civilization III

This week just before I finally got sick of ‘things’ I bought Civ 3. Even though it is a bit older by now, after I have waged war against the Romans and the Russians, I believe a review is in order.

My Civ History

In highschool I played the first Civilization which I got on 2 floppies from a friend. I played and played and played. The ripped game crashed a lot and initially I had no idea how to play because of course there was no manual. Still I got quite good. This was the first game I ever played to such excess that my parents tried to keep me from playing it. The infamous quote from that era was when on our way to the supermarket I said to my friend, who also loved Civilization but drove me nuts the way she played: “Uh did you save before we left? I think I forgot my money.” At school all the guys talked about The Game and the best strategies for winning. Often I knew better. But they wouldn’t let me in on their conversations. After all: I am a girl and computers were not for girls. Luckily and sadly that time is long past.

While I was still in school (just before graduation) Civilization II was published. Again I got a ripped version of the game and started playing like mad. The graphics were simply revolutionary. The game concepts more refined and beautiful new stuff added. I even dared to play in god-mode a few times though usually Emperor was quite enough for my taste. Later at university when the expansions were out and the special special edition came out we finally bought an original version of the game and played and played and played. Funny that I remember one thing the most: you were able to choose your language but it never worked. I played several of the scenarios that were with the expansions. My favorite late game unit was the howitzer but I still remember how I once won through diplomacy. I got extra points for keeping the world peaceful. If you play emperor mode you have to play rather aggressive and the AI does not appreciate that.

Then the Time of the Long Wait came. Several Civ Clones were released among them Call to Power which I never got. When Civ III was released I was busy playing Warcraft III or Morrowind or whatever. Then I talked to Alex about Civ 3 and he said the game was really worth buying and so I did and now the old “just one more turn” has got me back. Let me tell you why.

The Review

For 39,90 € I got the Gold Edition which includes the Play the World expansion. I have not installed the expansion yet. This review is only about Civ 3 by itself. First some negative point I must make: it did not run on Rolland’s computer. Some kind of graphic mode switch caused the monitor to get hickups. On my computer it installed flawlessly (but I have currently no sound and the computer tends to turn itself off because it overheats!)

To the actual game: The look is a bit more modern of course. There are animations and everything is a bit more polished now. The basic look has not chaneg though. I would have hoped for a bit more in that area. Why? I don’t know because thinking about it: the concept does not really gain that much from how good the game looks.

So far I have played two games one in a middle sized world with 6 opponents during which I quickly discovered that all territory was taken and with my slight science advantage I would probably win in the long run and the second I am still playing. It’s a larger world and I expanded very quickly. Currently my Japanese are waging war on the Russians who tried to build cities inside my territory. I just took Moskau from them and now they are begging for peace. The French are a smaller problem, Marseille has already joined me after the rebels threw over the local government 🙂

My overall impression was put into words by Rolland while he was watching me play: “This looks all the same to me, there is nothing new!” To which I answered: “I first thought so too, but ….”

Yes at first I was a bit disappointed because everything seemed the same as before. But here are a few “but not quite the sames”:
– diplomacy: much more intricate and Alex told me that the AI isn’t quite as unreasonable as it used to be. I noted that the AI isn’t quite so quick to start a war anymore.
– you cannot just buy so many things anymore. World Wonders cannot be bought anylonger at all.
– many many of the units have changed and all the races now have special units. I like the Samurai.
– I love the stuff the advisors tell me about how the other races are afraid of this or that unit or how my people are impressed by another culture.
– a very good one: cultural influence. Your civ has real borders and as your cultural influence grows so do your borders extend. I am building cities and put temples in just so I can claim more territory faster.
– I think time passes slower in game so that I can now actually play through the different ages instead of running straight to get howitzers ….
– I like the difference between settlers and “Bautrupps”
– queuing buildings in the city takes care of a lot of micromanagement issues.
– each civilization has two characteristics now which influence the way such a civilization is played, such characteristics are: religious, scientific, militaristic, expansionist … (this time I chose my civ because of its characteristics not because I didn’t want to play against the Babylonians)
– I like the concept of the “Golden Age”: if you fulfill certain criteria that fit the characteristics of your civilization a “Golden Age” my start. That means for 20 turns your people are producing twice as much. Really nice and brings you way ahead of other civs.
– and you can give units a destination now, so you don’t have to move them all over the place yourself.
– it seems that military units don’t belong to a city anylonger, so it doesn’t matter where you place them.
– you can make lots of money by handing out technologies to other civs …. (my latest coup: giving Chivalry to three different nations and receiving and average of 15gp for 20 turns from them plus a nice sum in advance, well I am playing chieftain level right now.)

One negative point: now that I am quite a large republic I am having a lot of unhappy citizens and I cannot quite find out what the causes of their unhappiness are. (I think it might be that the cities grew too fast too quickly, I forgot to build cathedrals and I am at war with the Russians.)

All in all Civ 3 induces the same addictive behaviour as its predessors. The concept of the game and all the basics remain unchanged at large but a lot of detail has been improved and as far as I can tell by now most everything has gotten better. If I find any reason to complain you’ll hear from me again. Oh yes: I am too old, I need my sleep and I don’t have time for “just one more turn!”

Addendum 04/03/26 I have to add one last thing: if you didn’t like the game before it is very likely you will still not like it now. I was a fan and still am and this morning I got to work late (as in 9:45a.m.) because I had to expand my Japanese empire.

More reviews can be found on the net. There is another review and a german one and just one more plus this one and if you want more search for them yourself.

By Yashima

Writer of code and stories


  1. Good to hear that you like Civ III. It is really a fantastic game, although I must agree I still have not yet found out all subtleties.

    About Unhappyness : Under certain governments (like republic, democracy and feudalism), people get after some time sick of being in war, resulting in unhappy citizens. If the war takes too long, it might even happen that your government goes into anarchy by itself. Another problem is that if you have too many cities, under certain governments corruption becomes an overall big problem. But I am not sure about when the critical mass is attained.

    I can also recommend to buy and install the Conquests expansion, you get even better gameplay, new cultures, new wonders, volcanoes etc. PTW is subsumed by Conquests, so you don’t need to install it if you install Conquests.

    Oh, and the difficulty is much harder than Civ2. I usually play at monarch level, which is about just right. Harder levels may become quickly frustrating.

    One more turn…

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