Sid Meier's Colonization (1994)
If the failure of the French at Waterloo can be seen as a day when "Napoleon was not being Napoleon," Colonization can likewise be remembered as the "Sid Meier game that wasn't." By all accounts, Sid's main contributions to the project came in the early concept stage and included some polishing just prior to the game being shipped. Most of the design work was done by the relatively unknown Brian Reynolds (who would later achieve fame for his work on Sid Meier's Civilization II) and Jeff Briggs. Most computer gamers know Briggs as a fine composer of game soundtracks (notably Pirates! and Civilization II), but Jeff also had extensive design and development experience from his days at West End Games (board games and paper role-playing games).
The idea was sound: to produce a Sid Meier's Civilization-style game on the early days of America, leading up to the American Revolution. As with Civilization, the game's mechanics (combat, movement, exploration, and so forth) are in and of themselves fairly simple, so that Colonization is never quite overwhelming. Unlike Sid's best games, however, you reach a point where you are waiting for something to happen; you don't get that rush of new technology, so crucial in Civilization, to keep you riveted for another turn in Colonization.
Design: Brian Reynolds |
and Jeff Briggs with Sid
The game isn't a wash by any means. There are a lot of nice touches, such as building your cabinet, where you can choose Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and even Pocahontas as advisors. Colonization is also the first game where Reynolds introduced the concept of editable text files: If you don't like a game rule or a victory condition, you can simply change it, without any programming skill required!
|"[Colonization] was based, in some philosophical way, on Civilization, although it added a lot of new things."|
Colonization (still widely available in bargain bins) is interesting in a historical sense, mainly for collectors who want to see Brian Reynolds' early development before he emerged as a top-flight game designer. Still, you can't help but feel that Sid Meier's Colonization could only have been helped by Sid's active participation throughout the project, rather than his good name being tapped for marketing considerations, just because Sid sells games. With Sid, Brian, and Jeff gone to Firaxis, it's doubtful that we'll see a Colonization II, and that's fine by me.
Next: Sid Meier's CivNet