As if strategy gamers didn't have enough reasons to lose sleep this holiday season, MicroProse has unveiled its latest add-on for Civilization II. Civ II: Fantastic Worlds is not just another group of historical scenarios but a set of bizarre, intriguing, and sometimes funny variations on the all-time classic strategy game. It's not as addictive as the original, of course, but it's still a lot of fun.
Fantastic Worlds patches Civ II to version 2.42 and also creates a duplicate copy of the original civ2.exe file. More importantly, Fantastic Worlds adds 19 scenarios and a host of new editing tools to help simplify the art of designing your own visions of world domination. As you might expect, Fantastic Worlds requires the original Civilization II to run.
MicroProse designed eleven of the game's scenarios, including tributes to X-COM, Master of Magic, and Master of Orion. Others include a very cool Age of Reptiles scenario and one based in the world of Jules Verne's classic novels. Like the first Civ II add-on pack, this one also features several scenarios created by dedicated Civ II players. Grouped under the heading "Best of the Net II," these include a Christmas-theme variation called Santa is Coming (my favorite), along with a great Battle of the Sexes scenario.
Gameplay is basically the same old Civ for most of these scenarios, though a majority of them are "total war" scenarios in which spacecraft development is unimportant. Some of the MicroProse scenarios include custom music, while many of the others include customized unit and terrain art.
The briefing for each scenario is pretty skimpy. In fact, some are downright inadequate. The manual offers some basic information, but you'll have to rely heavily on the Civilopedia for many of these missions - especially the Age of Reptiles. Not only do you have to brush up on your paleontology to identify the various beasties, but you also have to relearn all of the civilization advances. After all, you might find that researching spiny fins is more important than acquiring duckbills.
The X-COM and Santa scenarios are the most enjoyable. The familiar, eerie atmosphere of the original X-COM is fairly well represented in its Civ II scenario. The moon of Phobos is the setting and you must lead your forces against eight well-defended alien bases. The art and music are customized for this one and the objectives are quite challenging. The Santa scenario, on the other hand, is just plain fun. After all, how often do you get the chance to crush rival toy makers under your jolly, shiny black boots?
Civ II thrilled long-time Civ fans with its scenario editor, but Fantastic Worlds ups the ante. This game includes several powerful editors that let you customize everything from unit types and appearance to tribe behavior and event scripting. You can edit existing scenarios or create them from the ground up, customizing just about every aspect of Civ II play. Creating an entire scenario is still a time-consuming effort, of course, but these new editors help make the process much more intuitive.
I didn't run into too many problems with Fantastic Worlds, except for one notable glitch during the New World scenario. After acquiring the advancements necessary to build several military units, I was unable to access these units from my city build windows. Regardless of how many times I tried, I was never able to build anything more powerful than an archer. Needless to say, my tribe was wiped out quickly and decisively.
Still, the rest of the scenarios are quite enjoyable and challenging. If you're looking to play or create some new Civ II adventures, you'll definitely need to get your hands on Fantastic Worlds.