Civilization II: Test of Time Review

They screwed around with Civilization and made it worse.

Civilization is probably my all-time favorite game. It is elegantly simple but far-reaching in scope and has virtually limitless depth. Few games have ever come so close to perfection, let alone in their first attempt. Of course Civilization II improved on the original, but only by filling in a few blanks rather than by revolutionizing the concept. And now that the Civilization concept is so refined, there is no excuse for milking the franchise and gouging us for another $40 only to force us to play the same damn game again, only with new names for the units and technology advances. I already own Civilization and Civilization II. I don't want to buy a carbon copy.

The fact is I tried my best to play Test of Time. I really did. I tried the fantasy game. I tried the science fiction game. And I dabbled in the Midgard fantasy scenario. I think it was sort of clever for the designers to add quests in the game and restrict certain units to certain races. The Mermen are the only ones that get certain underwater units, the winged Buteo are the only ones that get key flying creatures, and the Goblins are the only ones with the larger, more brutish foot soldiers. There are also new worlds to explore and colonize. But rather than being pleased with these almost clever changes, I was exceedingly annoyed. The unit names and technological restrictions make no intuitive sense, and the new worlds just add to the tedium. They screwed around with Civilization and made it worse.

The worst part about this game is that you simply cannot play any of the nontraditional games without always having the massive technology poster open and at hand. The designers renamed practically everything, and nothing makes sense anymore. In Civilization, you made informed choices in research based on your strategy. You could go for warrior code for strong military units, or you could go for writing to get diplomats. Try for a granary to boost growth or a temple to stave off riots. But in Test of Time's fantasy and sci-fi games, you can't make such intuitive decisions. You are constantly hobbled by the game's naming conventions. Even the poster doesn't always help, because the military units themselves are also renamed. Sagas lead to Ideograms, and that naturally leads to Beast Dominion, right? Do you know what the sorcerer unit is? It's like an airplane or a nuclear missile, for it can float over terrain but crashes if it doesn't land in a city. That makes no sense, and in fact, few or none of these naming changes make the game the least bit better.

Yes, not all the new names are nonsensical, like warcraft and horse breeding. But why rename warrior code to warcraft anyway? Why change horseback riding to horse breeding? It's ridiculous. Why rename the granary, such a vital structure in the early game, to a storehouse? Why screw around with what gamers already know? I understand the desire to change things around in the interest of surprise and variety, but all that this effort achieves is needless frustration.

Of course, if the designers didn't rename all the technology and units, then the game would be exposed for what it truly is: Civilization II with absolutely nothing new. They didn't create any new technology trees and kept practically all the old units. The original Civilization II is now three years old. We waited three years for this?

Call to Power at least tried to create brand-new units and new wonders and even made new movies for the wonders. Here, the designers didn't even do that. Worse yet, when you meet with rival rulers in the fantasy or sci-fi games, there is no picture or herald. You just stare at a blank wall. The designers couldn't even draw simple 2D pictures for the new rulers of the fantasy and alien races.

There are many other little things that make this game seem hastily thrown together. Yet it's apparently been in development for two years. What took so long? Not the multiplayer game, since that was already done. And the new fantasy- and science fiction-themed games couldn't have taken that long to make, either; the designers just had to edit a text file in Civilization II. Besides, there have already been numerous expansions since the original game's release, including fantasy and sci-fi scenario packs. And speaking of which, excluding Midgard, there aren't even any new scenarios in Test of Time. So what did we wait for? New graphics and new names. That's just not worth $40 and two years' time.

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Civilization II: Test of Time More Info

  • First Released Jul 28, 1999
    • PC
    They screwed around with Civilization and made it worse.
    Average Rating274 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Published by:
    Hasbro Interactive, Big Island Publishing
    Turn-Based, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Mild Violence