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The 3 Best Civilization Games

Having just written about the three worst Civilization entries, and shedding one or two virtual tears over it because they are all great games at their core, it is my absolute pleasure to now present to you the three best Civilization games.
Turn-based strategy is one of the oldest genres in computer gaming, and the three games mentioned in this very article are not only the top of the class within their franchise, but also part of the crème de la crème of their whole category.

The third-best Civ entry goes to Civilization III.

Civ 3 was revolutionary for the franchise, as it was the game to introduce borders and cultural victories. This was an important step forward, as previous Civ games allowed you to place your cities everywhere you pleased, as long as they didn’t directly border other player’s cities. With borders, which could be increased with culture points in later iterations (even going as far as flipping enemy cities because they were so impressed by your cultural achievements) and conquests, the player was given more incentives to play tall, rather than wide.

Cultural victories meant that the player wasn’t forced any longer to either colonize space or eradicate all competing civilizations in order to win, which made for a more immersive and shall we say, realistic representation of competing civilizations in the modern world. After all, the USA, IRL, certainly achieved a cultural victory in the 20th century.

A fully developed Civ 3 map didn’t look pretty, but it was oh so satisfying.

Leaving the real world behind, the second-best Civilization franchise award goes to Civilization II.

Whilst not the feature-laden behemoths that later Civilizations would be, the game does not only still hold up to modern standards (there’s still a small but active multiplayer community around, almost 25 years later!), but it’s also the entry that solidified the concepts that the first game presented us with, making Civ 2 the true ancestral game to the franchise.

Civ 2’s improvements over its predecessor included details like an enhanced AI that didn’t blatantly cheat anymore, and wasn’t able to produce world wonders out of thin air. The game also moved from a top-down view to the isometric view that is a staple of Civilization since, and generally speaking, tweaked almost everything gamers enjoyed about Civ 1 to near-perfection. All things considered, Civ 2 wasn’t as flashy and revolutionary as Civ 3, but it most certainly is the quint-essential Civilization game without which later iterations would never have had the success that they did.

Graphically, Civ 2 was a huge jump forward for the whole franchise.

But now, ladies and gentlemen! The pinnacle of Civilization! The masterpiece for the ages! The grandmaster of Civilizational Matters! It’s here! It’s… well, it’s no surprise at all, because there’s only one game left.

That game is, of course, Civilization IV.

To me, Civ 4 embodies the best of both worlds. It adheres to the very immersive gameplay principles of earlier titles, whilst making the transition to a more modern gamer mindset beautifully, all without compromising in terms of complexity or ‘gamifying’ its core.

The player in Civ 4 had a wide range of victory conditions, ranging from complete annihilation of all enemies to dominating them, the aforementioned cultural victory, scientific victory, as well as the new diplomatic victory. The diplomatic victory option involved a Civilization getting voted in to lead Earth into a glorious future by the United Nations. Cultural borders grew via different means, 32 different trade goods were scattered all across the globe, and for the first time, the player could found their own religion.

I will die on the hill of greatness that is Civ 4. I won’t build a road on it though, that takes too long.

These features along with a tweaked combat model that didn’t play like the positioning puzzle of newer Civ titles, made Civ 4 the most comprehensive and complete game of them all. The already great state of the game was later improved by adding espionage and corporations to the game world, which resulted in additional playstyles that are unprecedented to this very day.

Civilization 4, I hail ye! But then, I also hail every other entry of the franchise. I will admit that I fear for the future of the franchise; at least should Civ 7 continue building on the foundation of Civ 6 rather than better, earlier franchise entries, but apart from that… I don’t think the Civilization franchise is tied to any bad game. Instead, it consists of only good games, whose main differences are the amounts of goodness contained within them. Sweet, Gandhi-with-nukes goodness.

-Falko (Follow me on twitter)