Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization Review for PC

On: PC

Players lead one of four European nations on a quest to conquer and rule the New World.

Review Verdict Read Review
9Out of 10
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Another violent day at Bekonscot Model Village...
Another violent day at Bekonscot Model Village...

Another violent day at Bekonscot Model Village...

Some video games are all about quick, visceral pleasures: head-shotting an enemy from halfway across the map, shaving a second off your best lap-time, or KO-ing your opponent with a perfectly-timed fireball. This is not one of those games. Civilization IV: Colonization is all about long-term goals, about carefully forming a strategy and slyly putting it into action; it's about the heart-swelling pride that rushes over you when those careful plans finally fall into place - even though you're late for work and you haven't washed or showered in a week. Good things come to those who wait.

Colonization is also one of those strategy games that elicits comments from the people peering over your shoulder. "Ooh," they say. "That looks complicated!". And they're right - it is. For the first couple of hours or so, you'll struggle to get your head around precisely what it is you're supposed to be doing. Sure, Firaxis provides a typically thorough and helpful array of guides and tutorials - but you still won't fully appreciate the intricacies of the game and its world. The important thing, however, is that you'll want to learn: it's immediately apparent that there's tonnes of depth on offer here, and the sheer charm of the graphics and general presentation only serves to further draw you in. So you stick with it, try a few tactics out. And when things finally click... well, like we said: Good things come to those who wait.

As a remake of a much-loved game from 1995, Colonization asks you to conquer the Americas. Part of the initial confusion you'll experience is due to the fact that your objectives are relatively unusual when compared to most other strategy titles. Like Civ, you start out with a couple of units, set up a base and expand until you've become an empire - but the way you actually handle that expansion is quite unique. As we mentioned in our previous preview, while combat certainly has a role to play, it's money that essentially keeps your world turning.

You'll start by finding a suitable site for your first settlement, then you begin dealing with the local natives. In most Civ-like games, your cities are primarily used as factories for producing units: you gather resources, then turn them into spearmen and chariots, or whatever. Here things work the opposite way round: you import colonists and set them to work in your camp, gathering or producing items that can then be sold to local tribes or shipped back to Europe. All sorts of people are setting out for a new life in the colonies: some of your guys will be specialist workers, like weavers or gunsmiths, while others are simply reformed criminals who are good for little more than manual labour. Either way, it's up to you to make the most of what you've got. Do you use your master distiller to start making rum out of all that sugar you've been harvesting, or do you set him to work making cannons? Or perhaps you should send him over to one of your other towns to help out with a bit of farming?

Once you've got some decent goods, you can load up a boat and sail back to Europe. Here you can flog your wares for a profit, buy anything you might need, and pick up a few new workers for your fledgling nation state - then it's off back to America to repeat the whole process. It may sound a bit convoluted, but in practice it swiftly becomes very satisfying. In our last game, for example, we started transporting booze from one of our in-land towns back to the coast. There it was picked up by boat and shipped to another settlement, where our galleon was further loaded with cigars. The drinks and smokes were then taken to Amsterdam and swapped for a load of guns - a hip-hop deal, 1600's style.

This place looks a bit small. You're supposed to be conquering America, not the Isle of Man...

This place looks a bit small. You're supposed to be conquering America, not the Isle of Man...

Earning flash money in this manner will make you feel happy - but there's a catch. While you may feel that you're the master of the New World, in truth you're still working for the country that organised your expedition in the first place. This means that every time you trade with Europe, your King will poke his nose in and demand a cut of your profits. Not only that, but occasionally he'll bug you while you're busy sorting out America, too - he'll suddenly show up and demand money, before forcing you to kiss his ring (by which we mean his jewellery, clearly). These interruptions are terribly irritating, but they're supposed to be - because your ultimate aim in the game is to declare independence. As your colony expands, your people will become self-sufficient - and when the rebellious spirit reaches a high enough level, you'll be able to revolt. As you might expect, doing this really pisses off His Royal Highness, and soon you find yourself under attack from your former countrymen. It won't be easy, but if you beat the King's Royal Expeditionary Force you'll have finally conquered America.

You're able to monitor the growth of the REF throughout the game, and you'll notice that every time you take a significant step in the direction of freedom, the King adds to his army. This creates a wonderfully threatening undercurrent to every action you take - you constantly feel that you're being watched. When you factor in the presence of three other European nations, all of them striving for their own independence, and the potential treachery of the native tribes, the result is a surprisingly intense experience. You are helped in your efforts by the Founding Fathers - important historical figures who offer to join your cause once certain conditions are met - but even this boon adds a certain amount of pressure to your shoulders, since there's always a chance that one of your rivals will sign the bloke you're after. It's a bit like Football Manager... only completely and utterly different.

It's all a bit hectic, and at times it may all feel a bit much to handle - but then that's the challenge, isn't it? The management gameplay has a slightly tighter focus than Civ, but it's equally rewarding - and because the length of an average game is generally briefer, it's somewhat easier to get a feel for the game as a whole. As you'd expect from a Sid Meier / Firaxis strategy game, the whole shebang is extremely well organised, with intuitive controls and concise but useful descriptions of every item, unit and concept in the game. There's also a fairly generous spread of multiplayer options on offer, including the ability to play via email - something that we imagine might keep you busy for a couple of years.

Being the gloomy people that we are, we've tried pretty hard to find something we can criticise about Colonization, but there really is very little to complain about. You could argue that the game should do more to address sensitive historical issues like slavery and spread of European diseases - but you know what? Bollocks to that. Super Mario World could do a better job of simulating the life of an Italian-American plumber, but we highly doubt it would make for better gameplay... Civilization IV: Colonization takes a classic game and updates it for 2008, without screwing around with the things that made it great in the first place. Because it does this, we like it a lot. If you like absorbing strategy games, then you probably will too.

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User Comments

WiiJames's Avatar


it's all greek to me!
Posted 23:13 on 14 July 2009
Stegosaurus-Guy's Avatar


Hm...what was I doing on Wednesday 24th of September 2008?
Posted 23:02 on 14 July 2009
jamesj's Avatar


alot of people have beat this game, maybe i should read the second page before posting
Posted 22:55 on 14 July 2009
jamesj's Avatar


Am I the only who beat this game? Even though it ridiculously unbalanced, you can still create soliders once the war starts. they dont. Once the war starts they fight with who they had. Every time you create a solider, they get all the bonuses the forefathers give. you dont need veteran soliders, although they help, they are hard to come by. Its hard as hell, but it can be done.
Posted 22:46 on 14 July 2009
Ogre's Avatar


Thanks :) I'll check it out. That's the sort of price I was looking for as well. :)
Posted 11:35 on 13 March 2009
mydeaddog's Avatar


It's currently £11.99 on cdwow, and that's with free delivery:

It's a great game, although the comments on this thread stand true - the endgame can be very tricky.
Posted 10:35 on 13 March 2009
Ogre's Avatar


Still really would like to get hold of this. Thanks for the review actually made me think more about purchasing this in the near future. I don't think the box does itself credit. Keep picking it up and can't seem to see why I'd want it when I have all the other Civs and expansions; but thanks for clearing some of it.

Anyone know the lowest price this has reached in recent days?
Posted 23:10 on 12 March 2009
BoboBibi's Avatar
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Posted 18:24 on 10 November 2008
Shuichi's Avatar
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And that's why i stopped at this page after fruitlessly searching for an official patch.
I'm really hope with this much complain the Producer would think carefully when releasing an official Patch for this game, or better... an Expansion.

It's a great game, but even with all the enhanced in graphic and sound and ..etc.. it still doesn't rival the old Colonization, IMO. And no, I am not being a fanboy. This game lacks a lot of things compare to the old game.

Finally, the most irritating thing i found about this game is.... how come it take you lots of turns to teach your colonist/indentured servant/tranverted indian in the School/College/University and then you have to pay a riddiculous amount of money to get the Specialty you want [by riddiculous i mean it's even more expensive than if you purchase that specialist in europe].
Posted 20:27 on 24 October 2008
Jack's Avatar
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My biggest problem with this new rendition of colonization is that you can no longer train certain specialist/masters anymore. One of the best parts about the original was that you could train your own army and buy additional units if you needed.

In this current version, even on the easiest setting i'm devoting ever sent in to "self sufficiency" only to have it all be for not. Basically the only way to win is buy your army and keep your nation small so that you can maximize units per settlement to take advantage of the fort/fortress bonus. Not to mention Ships of the Line and other warships are so stupidly difficult to build, and take for ever even if you have all the materials.

Also the constant popping up of the king demanding money is irritating and stupid. You can't afford to give it to them since you're having to buy your army and it only serves to hasten the rise in taxes so its a no win.
Posted 00:25 on 14 October 2008
powerbonger's Avatar
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Actually, the Custom House does have its equivalent in this new Colonization. The Warehouse Expansion (which becomes available after building a Lumber Mill, I believe) automatically sells any excess goods to Europe - which means that it'll stop doing so once you declare independence. A poor substitute, I know, but not completely without its use.

The inability to train Veteran Soldiers aren't that much of a problem. This game uses Civ4's unit promotion system, which simulates true battlefield veterancy. Choosing the right promotions will help a lot in your own soldiers kick ass.

A war against the King's forces IS winnable; you just have to remember two things. One, start producing liberty bells only when you're well-established (since producing them when you're not ready WILL make the Expeditionary Force larger), and two, make sure you never stop churning out soldiers! I have a colony specifically built to produce Food, which in turn produces a Free Colonist every few turns...which I then send to my "Ore+Guns" town to be armed. Imagine what you can do if you have two such colony pairs working together.

Proper placement of colonies also help. The king's forces will always land on one of the coastal colonies, so making only ONE town connected to the ocean (and massing all your forces there) might help in the end.

An overall nice game; what I'd like to see improved, however, is the trading function. The ability to automate ships and wagon trains is a nice idea, but the implementation is bugged to death.

Foreign intervention (and maybe even some similar military help from the natives to make building a long relationship with them worthwhile) will also be a welcome feature.

A better tutorial for new players is also needed.

Lastly, a gentler increase in the purchase/education/REF algorithms will be good, especially for the easier difficulties.
Posted 12:19 on 13 October 2008
joe's Avatar
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no use your military ealrier !!!
Posted 06:19 on 10 October 2008
Dan's Avatar
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After reading "easy enough" comments i won of 3rd hardest setting pretty easily. As the last two have said dont defend the cities fight them in the forests with the right promotions you get 70% chance or more everytime.
Also create a western port so you can still trade with europe without getting mangled by the man-o-wars.
Other tips dont try and defend everywhere, if your gonna loose a colony turn every1 into colonisist (asssuming you dont have enough guns) and get em running through the forests trying to get back to your main force.
I also found defending the coast a good tactic I think there is some negative bonus for them attack from ships like civ IV and they tend to try and land there forces in the same spot each turn.
If they have taken port they tend to land there troups there, try to create a defensive line with with militia in the forests attacking near a city and retreating the wounded and some dragoons to mop up any1 who tries to flank you or enters farm lands.
Hope that helps love this game, though not sure it won't get old soon.
Posted 15:25 on 09 October 2008
Tim's Avatar
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Actually no kids, the kings army can easily be beat, even if you're outnumbered 5-1. You basically need to train your dragoons up by attacking the other europeans and indians before you declare independence. Any Veteran III Dragoon will destroy anything the king throws at you, as soon as he lands just attack him with your dragoons. Don't even bother with artillery they're useless unless bombing native settlements. Also You can train up your ships of the line so they're a match for the kings man o wars, in that case you can simply wipe out his fleet and you win. It takes some trying though.
Posted 08:37 on 08 October 2008
My2cents's Avatar
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Ok, after reading so many bad reviews, I thought I'd point out a few things that might help people enjoy the game more. I do agree that a lot of things are completely broken and need a patch, but I think it is playable at least. These points are based on a game I won on Conquistador level.
1. REF size: To control the REF size, do not use any statesmen until right before you are ready to declare independence. The REF will not grow at all, as a matter of fact it stayed at like 4 cannon until I purchased and trained a bunch of statesmen that got my % up to 50 in just 20 turns or so. The REF ended up having 30 cannon by the time I declared, and I managed to hold them back by striking them outside of colonies. Defending colonies does not seem to work.
2. Getting colonists. Once the cost of hurrying colonists exceeds 800gp, stop hurrying them, and purchase already trained ones instead. Those prices are constant
3. Be very selective in educating colonists, because of the exponential education points requirement. I don't put anyone in schools until the end (to become statesmen), instead I use the natives to teach them jobs, or purchase them already trained from Europe

Personal preference: Only refine goods at one city that is close to an Europe sailing point. Make sure that this city has plenty of food, and build factories for all goods, and place specialists in them. Then use the trade route system with about 5 wagon trains to automate the transport of the unrefined goods to this city. You can even automate ships to then deliver and sell the goods in Europe, but I like manual control on what to load (use the Load button, don't click and drag in the city view!). This way, you just have to make sure each city has all their squares producing the maximum amount of food and goods without having to worry about feeding refining specialist and building factories.
Posted 21:13 on 07 October 2008

Game Stats

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization
Out of 10
Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization
  • The emphasis on trading is as a sidestep from standard strategy fare
  • Absorbing, highly addictive gameplay
  • Overall presentation is both charming and helpful
  • It's a bit overwhelming at first. And if you get addicted, you might die from lack of sleep
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 26/09/2008
Platform: PC
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Genre: Turn-based strategy
Rating: BBFC PG
Site Rank: 821 185
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