Civilization III: Conquests Review (PC)

Remember how disappointed you were with Civ3: Play the World? Worry not, go out now and buy Conquests, its all that PTW should have been and a lot more besides. That’s it, the easiest review I’ve ever written.

Conquests doesn't really offer any visual improvements, but still looks good.

The interface is still intuitive and lets you get things done quickly.

Hmmm, I can hear some muttering, I suppose I’d better expand this a bit then.

C3C attempts (and succeeds) to add a certain ‘something’ to the unique & loved gaming experience that is the Civ series. Rather than just add a load of new civilisations & units, C3C also brings in the pre-set scenario element that really does stretch the tacticians amongst us to their limits so be prepared to enter the weird world of the Civ time warp, develop huge bags under the eyes and watch relationships with loved ones fade into the background as this insidious expansion starts gaining a hold.

As you may well gather from the title, the new scenarios involve conflict & domination (lets face it, playing ‘diplomatically’ & avoiding conflict can only hold the interest for so long – about 5 mins. in my case) and all follow on historically from the Mesopotamian era right through to WW2. So here we go with a quick breakdown of each of them.

Mesopotamia (surprise surprise ) This is most like a traditional C3 game; starting at the dawn of time, your aim is to build the Seven Wonders of the World. Naturally, the other nations within the scenario are all striving to reach the same goal and the first nation to complete the seventh wonder will be declared the winner. Adroit timing of the Wonders’ construction can greatly benefit speed production so care needs to be taken to get the ‘edge’ required.

The Rise of Rome So, you want to be a militarist eh? – You’ve got it! You really do experience a sensation of total power in this scenario as your legions start expanding your territories until meeting the roadblock that is the Carthaginians. The Legions themselves have the ability to lay down roads, making expansion that much easier and, as they grow in experience, they turn into veritable powerhouses that can be advantageously manoeuvred & placed exactly where they are needed. Basically a struggle between Rome & Carthage, the ‘smaller’ civs of Persia & Macedonia also feature & should be ignored at your peril.

The Fall of Rome So, having spent ages creating your empire, now you need to tear it apart – an inspired move. Uniquely, you will be playing as a barbarian leader in this scenario; the objective being to ‘liberate’ eight cities from either side of the now split Roman Empire. The real fun in this one is that the different ‘sides’ of Rome each have differing tech trees, meaning the tactics involved in the battles will vary greatly leading to an even greater gaming experience.

The Crusades This scenario struck me as somewhat odd; it is an era well represented in other strat games, even to the ‘done to death’ limits and I was a bit wary of playing this. Don’t get me wrong, it is highly playable and at points, incredibly frustrating, I just had the ‘read the book, got the T shirt’ sensation. Basically, playing as the Christians involves trying to get a relic to Jerusalem while being beset by Vikings & Muslims, intent on killing the kings of any rival nations. Having to fight off enemies on 2 fronts saves this scenario from plunging into the pit of mediocrity.

Skillfull usage of the tech trees will net your civilization an advantage...

There is pletny of new content for you to explore in this expansion.

Mesoamerica Ho Hum, 3 civs competing for a cultural victory on a small Pangea style landmass. But wait, what is this, you can capture enemy workers and sacrifice them to the gods for extra culture points, ah well, that’s gonna make for a much more interesting game. One of my preferred scenarios – Murphy’s Law (if it can go wrong, it will) could well have been written for this. Protect your workers at all costs!

European Age of Discovery Your diplomacy skills will be tested to their limits here. You start of wedged into a tiny piece of Europe with naff all space ‘tween you and rivals. Africa & America are available for colonisation but getting there will be a problem due to the opposition of rival nations. There is a lot more to this scenario than first meets the eye making this possibly one of the more replayable conquests.

Feudal Japan Ahhh, now we are talking. I’ll admit it now, I’m a sucker for anything Samurai – I make the models, read the books & play anything I can lay my hands on relating to this era (all praise to the great god Shogun: Total War) so, unsurprisingly, this is my out & out favourite scenario .In a nutshell, rise from a feudal lord to become Shogun of all Japan. All the factions are accurately & geographically represented here, and I just adore the changes in the land bonuses – in Japan you can find spices, jade, sake etc. etc. and your peasants & military units all look the part. Diplomacy can save a lot of bloodshed, but then who cares. The arrival of gunpowder via ‘gaijin’ boats changes things dramatically as your forces soon discover that the bullet is mightier than the sword.

Napoleonic Can you survive as all of Europe unites against you? This will stretch your tactical & diplomatic skills to their limits. This scenario follows history accurately and trying to hold back other nations (particularly the British) will have you saving & restarting with increasing regularity. You can of course wimp out & play the any other nation apart from the French, but that takes a lot of the challenge out of this scenario.

WWII Ooooooh I’m the lucky one – another of my anorak style interests is the Pacific Campaign so being able to play it Civ style is like Nirvana for me. Once again, all units involved in this era are represented giving you command of the Kongo, Hiryu, Akagi et al as you desperately try to change history and win the pacific theatre for Japan, all within a 50 move limit to really put the pressure on. Once again, a scenario that leaves ample opportunity for restarts, some things can’t be changed – if you play as the USA, you will still get hit at Pearl Harbour as it was & still is a total surprise – as this occurs in turn 1 there is nothing much that you can do about it. Once over that though, the USA ‘factory’ can go into top gear and revenge can be extracted fairly swiftly.

These new scenarios are more than enough to keep you going for ages to come, indeed, set at ‘Sid’ mode the easiest campaign turns into a complete nightmare. Thankfully the temptation to stick too avidly to historical fact has been avoided, giving players the opportunity to really see what might have been. Also, as if the conquests alone aren’t enough, seven new civilisations (eight if you do a bit of file modding) as well as two traits (Seafaring & Agricultural) have also been introduced. If you want a challenge, try playing as the Dutch in a std C3 scenario. You can also now try your hand at Feudalism & Fascism and take advantage of the Communists new Secret Police HQ.

To go along with the new civilisations, there are also new units and Wonders, all of which are worthwhile – there is no sense of ‘padding out’ here though – all the new units are viable & active and, as you would expect, well balanced.

C3C does not dramatically improve the original (if that is indeed possible), what it does do is expand the capabilities of the game tenfold. The scenarios are undoubtedly a winner, absolutely perfect for a game as diverse as C3 and there is still plenty of scope for more of the same – how about futuristic scenarios Sid ??? The multiplayer option allows you to really try & conquer the world C3wise and this in itself is a vast improvement over PTW.

The new scenarios are pretty interesting and add greatly to the original game.

There's nothing you can do to stop the attack on Pearl Harbor at the start of the WW2 scenario.

Top game moment: Recreating the pacific theatre of WW2 in the Civilization 3 engine is extremely engaging, on either side.

Regular readers will know I am a critic of expansions, bemoaning the fact that you don’t get enough for your money. C3C is thankfully, the exception to the rule. If you have ever played Civ in any of its incarnations, C3C is an absolute must buy.