A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game about the colonization of the Americas is historically accurate and informative enough to be used as a supplementary learning tool for older kids interested in finding out more about the settling of the New World. Its bite-sized bits of information about the era's real-life figures, cultural artifacts, and philosophies aren't exactly comprehensive, but it's hard to imagine anyone walking away from the game without having learned something about the Founding Fathers' rebellion against Europe, the kind of negotiations in which they engaged with Native Americans, and the economics of the time. Unlike others in the Civilization series, this is a stand-alone title, not another expansion pack.
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What's it about?
Given the game's title, people would be forgiven if they thought SID MEIER'S CIVILIZATION IV: COLONIZATION was just another expansion to the famed game maker's popular world history simulator. In fact, it's a standalone game (that is, you need not have Civilization IV installed on your PC in order to play it) that's more or less a remake of another Sid Meier game released 13 years ago called Colonization. Play is set roundabout 1492 and focuses on the challenges faced by the European settlers who claimed the American continents as their own. To be sure, the presentation and play are both similar enough that it looks much like Civilization IV, but a few brief minutes with the game reveals a host of original features and objectives.
The flow of play in Colonization goes something like this: Provide passage to new settlers interested in leaving their European homes for the New World, have them build settlements when they arrive, and then improve those settlements with more citizens and better buildings so you can expand your cultural borders. There is, of course, much more to it than that, but the general idea is to slowly expand your colonies until you are powerful enough to separate from your homeland, create your own country, and rule the continent. As usual in Sid Meier games, players are provided plenty of creative means by which they can accomplish these goals, such as missionaries who use religion to convert natives in neighboring villages, and a trade mechanic that lets colonists get rich by transporting valuable goods back to Europe.
Is it any good?
You might think that Colonization sounds close enough to Civilization IV to make it easily recommendable to those people who enjoyed the latter, but there are plenty of key differences that could prove to be turn-offs. For example, players are forced to spend quite a bit of time managing non-military units, looking after settler emigration, and keeping tabs on trade missions. In other words, Colonization is a little more cerebral and not quite as action packed as some of Sid Meier's more popular simulation games. This isn't necessarily a detriment, but it's worth pointing out for those players who prefer to spend their Civilization gaming hours researching powerful new technologies and building massive armies so that they can eventually steamroll over their enemies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the game deals with the delicate subject of European influence on the Native Americans' way of life. Did you feel as though this morally grey chapter in our history was treated with accuracy and respect? Are there any facets of the European colonization of the Americas that you think the game failed to adequately represent?
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