Sid Meier's Civilization IV is the newest chapter in what is pretty much the gold standard for PC strategy games, but details about the game have remained fairly scarce since its announcement last year. That's changing at E3, as Firaxis and 2K Games are showing off the game publicly for the very first time. Thankfully, we've got some details ahead of time, and we know you're probably dying to know what's in the latest version of the granddaddy of all strategy games.
Civilization IV is due out near the end of the year, which means it should ship about four years after the last major installment in the series, Civilization III. The game is getting a complete overhaul, though, including the graphics engine, as Civilization IV is the first game in the series to embrace 3D graphics. This means that the world will come to life like never before. However, there are far more changes than just cosmetic ones. Firaxis says that Civilization IV will feature a faster pace than earlier Civilization games, with a much more streamlined game.
Once again, you will choose from an unknown number of civilizations to play, but now you will also have a choice of leader. Each civilization has two leaders to choose from, and each has unique traits and bonuses to offer you. Theology will also play a larger role this time around, as there are seven religions in the game that are unlocked through research. Religion will let you manage your people's happiness, as well as generate gold and create great prophet units. There will also be specialists in the game that help you earn great people points that can be used to get free technology, start golden ages, or improve a city's output. Great people units include the artist, tycoon, prophet, engineer, and scientist.
Overall, Firaxis promises more civilizations, units, and improvements than before. The technology tree is being billed as a "flexible tree," meaning that you will have more strategic choices for developing your civilization your own way. Speaking of which, there are also civics in the game, which means that you can grant (or take away) freedom of speech, institute hereditary rule or open elections, and more. Basically, you can create your own unique government.
Meanwhile, each military unit has a promotion path. For example, a unit may improve its attack or defense rating on certain terrain, or receive movement or sight bonuses, or perhaps receive a greater chance to withdraw successfully from a losing battle. And, of course, wonders of the world are in the game, along with wonders-of-the-world movies.
On the multiplayer front, the game will support familiar gameplay modes, including network and Internet gameplay, as well as play-by-email and a persistent turn-based server that lets you compete with live opponents. There will also be team play, letting you ally with another player so you can share wonder effects and line-of-sight information, as well as trade and explore new opportunities. This team-play functionality will work in both single-player and multiplayer.
Civilization IV is being designed to be as mod-friendly as the earlier games in the franchise, and it's being designed from the ground up with mod and community tools built in. The game itself will ship with a map editor, along with various tools to help you get your custom Civilization game off the ground. Obviously, this is a very exciting list of features, and we'll hopefully be able to get more details straight from Sid himself at E3. For now, Civilization IV is currently on track to ship at the end of the year.