Each game in the Civ series gets progressively better, but it also gets progressively harder to play because it gets more complicated. This makes it more fun, but potentially more frustrating for those who didn’t hop on the bandwagon in 1991 like I did.
Take the system requirements seriously. They state a P2-300, 64 MB RAM, 700 MB disk space free. I put it on a P2-233 with 64 MB. It runs but it gets bogged down. It liked my Duron-700 with 128 MB a lot better, but even that wasn’t silky smooth 100% of the time.
Graphically, Civ was respectable for its time. Civ2 had its moments but was never considered stunning. Civ3 impresses me a whole lot more. Civ3 won’t push your high-end video card (I ran it on an S3 Savage-based card and on an elderly laptop with NeoMagic 128-bit video and it did OK). It seems to be much more memory-, CPU-, and disk-intensive.
Unless you’ve been gearing up the past month or so by playing Civ or Civ2, I suggest starting off on one of the easier levels. It’s been a couple of years since I last played Civ2, but I found I was still able to be dominant on the easier levels. I found myself making some dumb mistakes as I tried to learn the new system (I kept my tech rate at 50% for several millennia, for instance, because I couldn’t figure out where to change it); you probably will too. I reached a point where I could have gunpowder and musketeers by 300 BC in the original Civ on the easier levels; you won’t find yourself doing that right away in Civ3.
The general strategy that applied to Civ all along still applies here. Expand as quickly as you can. If you find yourself near a weak neighbor that you can assimilate quickly, do so, but don’t enter a war you’re not absolutely positive you’ll win quickly. Sign a peace treaty and trade technology while you amass troops, then send them in in large waves. If you can manage to isolate yourself, either by taking a whole continent or fortifying your border, make a run for an advanced form of government, then crank up your economy. Then, once again, when wartime comes, make sure your troops are amassed and you have a good defense as well as a good offense. In Civ2 I could conquer a continent pretty quickly by moving in some high-power, fast-moving offense. That’s harder in Civ3. And entangling alliances can come back and bite you. I attacked an isolated city that was close to some natural resources I needed (oil I believe), intending to just take the city, hold it, and then do whatever it took to end the war quickly. Instead, I literally started a world war. I found my units weren’t strong enough or fast enough, and while my opponents quickly depleted their military, they had a good deal of success against my technologically superior army. I ended up losing a fair bit of land and a lot of infrastructure.
I’m glad to see these elements added to the game. It makes it a lot less simplistic.
My biggest beef: No multiplayer capability. I can’t believe anyone would release a strategy game in 2001 without any multiplayer ability. If you’re looking forward to a weekend Civfest with a couple of friends, skip this release. Wait for the multiplayer version, which should appear sometime next year. Otherwise, you’ll end up essentially buying the game twice.