Feature Article

Before Beyond Earth: A Brief History of Civilization

We have only just opened our eyes.

Spanning over two decades with seven core entries and numerous expansions, Sid Meier’s Civilization and the games that followed have become cornerstones of the gaming industry. With Civilization: Beyond Earth, developer Firaxis is finally taking a break from playing in the past, and instead is looking onward towards humanity’s future. There’s no better time than now to look back at this 4X strategy series’ evolution and rediscover the origins of these incredibly engrossing games. Unless, of course, you’re thinking of Civilization World. This ill-conceived Facebook game has been annexed from our list and has since been discontinued.

Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991)

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In the early 90’s, game designer Sid Meier and his team at developer MicroProse released the turn-based strategy game Civilization for the PC. This scope of this game was much larger than the scope of its contemporaries, such as SimCity. Instead of managing a single metropolis, players in Civilization wielded the entirety of human history. They guided their chosen people--including the Aztecs, Romans, and others--from the Bronze Age all the way to the 21st Century, along the way fighting wars, earning wealth, and conducting diplomacy. Victory was achieved by either wiping out the other players, or by sending a manned spacecraft to the distant Alpha Centauri system. Civilization was an instant hit with the PC crowd and helped lay the foundation for both this legendary strategy series as well as the 4X strategy genre.

Sid Meier’s Civilization II (1996)

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Five years after the first Civilization, MicroProse finally released the follow-up to their top-selling strategy game. Civilization II recaptured everything players loved about the original and freshened it up with a new, isometric graphical style. Amid the new units and balance tweaks, Civilization II also followed true, mid-90’s game design form by including extremely cheesy live action full-motion video scenes. Its victory conditions also created an interesting wrinkle. While the game technically ended after one player either defeated all the others, reached Alpha Centauri, or the game simply reached the year 2020, players could keep on playing indefinitely. In 2012, Reddit user Lycerius made a startling post describing a decade-long game of Civilization II and the hellish conditions in which his world new resided.

Sid Meier’s Civilization III (2001)

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By the time Sid Meier’s Civilization III hit store shelves, a lot had changed for this strategy series behind the scenes. Sid Meier had since left MicroProse and started a new development studio, Firaxis Games, which had already released Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri two years earlier. Civilization III carried over many of the improvements Alpha Centauri made to Meier’s strategy formula, including greater diversity between civilizations through specialized units, improved national borders, and a more tactically engaging map. Expanded diplomatic and culture options also opened up new, peaceful ways to achieve victory. While Civilization III was a fantastic game, it would take another four years before the series reached what many fans consider to be its pinnacle.

Sid Meier’s Civilization IV (2005)

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And now, we’ve reached the top of the mountain. Sid Meier’s Civilization IV, combined with its expansions, makes for some of the most engrossing, most strategically rewarding gaming in the medium. This game took all the designs--all the pieces--of past Civilization games and refined them to near perfection. The tweaks and improvements are far too long to list here, but virtually no part of this series’ formula went untouched. It captured players’ attention for days on end, but there was another reason for the game’s longevity: mod support. While game modification was possible in previous Civilization games, Civilization IV gave players tools to alter the game on multiple layers, from creating simple maps to adjusting the behaviors of the game’s AI. Sid Meier’s Civilization IV is a masterpiece, so where could the series go from here?

Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (2008)

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The answer: consoles. Some past Civilization games had also been released on consoles, but Civilization Revolution was designed from the ground up specifically to work with the limited functionality of a gamepad (and later, a touchscreen). While its predecessor, Civilization IV, touted depth and complexity at every turn, Revolution did the exact opposite. This game streamlined, stripped out, and otherwise simplified the series’ formula down to its most basic parts. Because of this, a game of Revolution tended to be much shorter than a game of Civilization IV, lasting only a few hours instead of a few days. Even so, the game was still immensely enjoyable.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V (2010)

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Sid Meier’s Civilization V was another unexpected turn of events. This game wasn’t just some wacky console offshoot; it was next official entry in the masterful Civilization series. Even so, Meier and his team at Firaxis weren’t afraid to once again shake up the most fundamental aspects of the Civilization formula. Chief among these was the game’s shift from playing on a square grid--a series mainstay since the very beginning--to hexagonal tiles. Military units could no longer be grouped on a single tile, and independent city-states were introduced. Together, these changes and many others acted as the series’ great equalizer. Newcomers and veterans alike had a new Civilization game to master.

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Lambchopzin

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Before BNW I think Civ 4 was probably my favorite, but with all the xpacs I would say without any hesitation that Civ 5 is the best iteration now. Even vanilla I think the military aspect of Civ 5 was superior -- I prefer the hex system, omission of unit stacking and the fact that cities essentially acted as a very powerful stationary unit in combat instead of a sitting duck if there was no garrison. With the xpac all the other aspects of the game were brought up to par or made even better.

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kagento

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Curious how almost nobody remembers the "Call to Power" Civ games...

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Florus2901

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Call to Power whas made by Activision to try to "steal" players of Sid Meier's Civilization. In basics it whasn't a bad game (i liked it). it coulden't compete with Civilization.

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kagento

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Yes, I know that. But it still is ignored/forgotten when talking about Civ past games.

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BosoxJoe5

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The first game was Civilization: Call to Power, and filled a gap between Civ 2 and Civ 3. It should be atleast be mentioned.

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kagento

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Ok, it wasn't a Sid Civilization, but they were Civ games all the same (in the brand sense, not spiritually). Strictly speaking, Alpha Centauri isn't even a Civilization game. They did it while Activision worked on the Call to Powers and, as such, didn't have the IP.

But hell, just bring along this game, I'm hyped! :=)

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Florus2901

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >>I know what you mean but it doesnt belong to the Civ past. As it isnt developed by Sid Meier. As Civ you mean from the first Civ to Civ v and Colonization (inc the IV version) and Alpha Centairi.

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Arther-la-Blunt

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Love Civ V, now. Didn't in the beginning though. Stupid change!

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MN121MN

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Somehow I realized a bit how Beyond Earth is just a technological victory from Civ V...

This would be interesting....

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dmblum1799

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Civ just feels like an old friend you like to revisit from time to time. I feel with the expansions Civ 5 is my favorite mainly because I like the new civs you get.

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Grimkillah

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After playing all 5 CIV games, my personal favorite is CIV 4.

CIV 5 feel too streamlined and too simple.

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RedWave247

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Same here. Though I've heard from some that the expansions help make it less streamlined. I just can't afford them right now.

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Florus2901

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Mine 3, altho i diddent dislike 4 expecaly with the expentions. Biggest disapointment whas civ 5 (even with expentions) but that is that i liked to stack units and build a empire. Civ 5 felt to small, might be couse the city radius whas to big.

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deactivated-597794cd74015

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I think a History of Civilization video would have been more appropriate.

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linkdarkside

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Civ 5 is my personal favorite.

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lancealot

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played all Civ games since the first one. I liked III by far while i have mixed feelings towards IV & V, yes they were great but V greatness was achieved only after all the expansions.

IF beyond earth will be as good as Alpha Centaury- then my wife gonna hate this game alot.... :)))

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milannoir

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Funny how so many people tend to say Civ IV is the best one... My personal favourites are II, which already did almost everything right (II and IV are only naturla evolutions), and V...

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GrahamZ

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Before there was "Civilization", there was "Empire", created by a former housemate of mine, Walter Bright, from way back when I was in College: << LINK REMOVED >>

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shingui5

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I think, with the inclusion of the expansions, Civ5, in most aspects surpasses its predecessor, and its mainly down to just simply being better designed, in that, the frustrating aspects of Civ4 are generally gone but the strategy has still remained.

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MAD_AI

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<< LINK REMOVED >>

BNW definitely fixed the game for a lot of people.

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TheGreatPhoenix

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> even if you compare both original products it was better. where civ 4 only refined the nearly archaic mechanics, both civ 3 and civ 5 actually pushed them forward. that does make it less stable, but the mechanics of civ were incredibly bad in design, in retrospect of-course.

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Vojtass

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Stacks of doom destroy war aspect in Civ IV. At least for me. Civ V made a huge step forward, by adding hex maps and a rule "one tile=one (military) unit".

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The-Neon-Seal

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I think a hexagonal grid is far superior too a square grid. It allows for a more natural freedom of movement with your units.

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Vojtass

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I started building my civilizations in 1991. I've seen every step in evolution of the series - it was worth it.. :)


@Maxwell McGee

You should also write something about expansions.

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RedWave247

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I've bee a long-time fan of the series, all the way back to the first one, which I played the heck out of. I still prefer IV over V, myself. I find V has a lot of stripped-down elements compared to IV. Though mind you, I've yet to get any of the expansions, so it could be a very different game with the expansion includes.

Though I do have one funny story: when I was playing the first Civ way back when, I tried playing it on the highest difficulty level (I think Deity). Just to see how hard it could be.

I was just discovering the wheel when another civilization rolled through with tanks and wiped me out.

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TheGreatPhoenix

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@RedWave247 you realize in civ 4, your highly technological advanced city with a military base, airfield and 17 million people living in it, could get destroyed by 3 guys with loincloths....


or that cultural victories were just waiting for a counter to tick over. or that your borders, that have been static for 1000 years got completely redone because your neighbor made a painting....


or that when the Koreans invent Christianity they would drink wine, something that they had not access to historically or in game.


or the fact that the difference between the different leaders of a single nation was just a +2 to culture.


or that people could invent chemistry without knowing how steel works?


How can you say it is a striped down version when nearly every mechanic was archaic in design.

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RedWave247

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I didn't call it archaic. Don't put words in my mouth. I meant that there seem to be less gameplay options in IV compared to V. I wasn't even talking about historical accuracy in the slightest. Do you often hurt yourself jumping to conclusions?

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TheGreatPhoenix

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@RedWave247 @TheGreatPhoenix I never said you called it anarchic, I DID, before you toss around accusations and ridicule, you should endeavor to actually reading a comment. And after reading you going on about historical accuracy, and completely missing the point of a only vaguely related topic that I mentioned. I can only assume that as far as jumping to conclusions go, you seem to throw yourself of cliffs.


idiot

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Judeuduarte

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I once tried the same thing but if i rebember correctly I was destroyed by barbarians...

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RedWave247

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Given how aggressive they get as the difficulty level rises, that wouldn't surprise me in the least.

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PETERAKO

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I can remember since civ 3 people were like "3 is not as good as 2" and then "4 is not as good as 3" and again "5 is not as good as 4"


kind of funny if you think that these complaints were probably from the same peolpe

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linkdarkside

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<< LINK REMOVED >>

i bet they will say 6 is not good as 5

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