Civilization: As good now as it was then…

Retro games are fun to play for us old timers, because they evoke awesome memories of when we weren’t such…er…old timers. But are there any retro games which stand tall and proud against modern offerings? James Matson makes camp in the affirmative….

It’s easy to enjoy retro games for the simple sake that they’re vintage.  Each title is a tiny slice of memory and youth, wrapped up in a neat plastic cartridge, disk or cassette tape.  The games themselves may have aged poorly (N64 anyone?) and when viewed sans nostalgia be low-bit pixelated navel-fluff compared to the offerings of today, but it’s the recreation of the memory that makes them worthwhile.

Are there any retro titles that have stood the test of time? That are at least partly as enjoyable today as they were in 1995? 1982?  Yes, definitely.  Rather than just leave that statement to stand on its own merits, we’ll pluck a game out of the aether to demonstrate.

Civilization.

Released in 1991, Civilization was for me the pinnacle of strategy.  We had no way of knowing then that the ‘Civ’ series would continue through to the present day as a pinnacle of strategy for just about everyone, but even though we’ve since been spoilt with the rich complexity of Civilization 2,3,4 and 5 we find ourselves easily able to fire up Civ 1 and actually enjoy it.

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Not just for the epic trip down memory lane, but because it’s actually a corker of a game.  The complexity was present all those years ago in Civilization 1, with its cultural and economic drivers and the different ways to achieve victory.  The graphics – although 2D top down – are perfectly functional and not actually that important when you’re dealing with a strategy game.  It seems just as satisfying to lord over a series of small colored squares dotted on a landscape as it is to do the same over miniature – but complete – cities and towns.

The biggest hook of Civilization – its ability to make you feel as though you really are the leader of a breathing, living nation and get lost in its stewardship for hours at a time – is as present in the original Civilization as it is in the latest iteration.

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A true retro classic because it survives on more than just the simple appeal that it’s old. Instead Civilization manages to capture and channel the essence of the genre it represented, and that power – that ability – is timeless.

Thanks Sid Meier.