August 3, 2006

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Sid Meier’s Civilization IV: Warlords Expansion Pack (PC)
Take 2, 2006

Gaming icon Sid Meier lovingly strokes the tummy of strategy gamers worldwide with the first expansion pack to the fourth iteration of his Abe Lincoln wages war on Ghandi simulator.

Even more so now that Warlords re-emphasizes the combat-ier aspect of this otherwise even-tempered (although rough and tumble when cornered) sim. Included in the expansion are six new civilizations, all with unique abilities and units, three new wonders (most notably the border securing Great Wall) and the new Warlord unit.

The Warlord units act like military versions of the great artists and such that occasionally appear to boost your Civ with various abilities. Only now instead of research grants the Warlord will speed up your military unit building or bestow experience on green units and the like. While this does ad a needed balance to military side it dangerously inches the Civ franchise back towards the might makes right mentality that it strives admirably hard to avoid. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with a good raze and burn campaign across a simulated globe, but it just seems like more of a easy out now.

The real bread and butter of the expansion isn’t in the new units though it’s in the clever scenarios that you can opt to play. Whether your tearing across Middle East as Alexander the Great or cutting a swath through the Far East as Ghengis Khan and his horde the six scenarios will all press you feverishly into the fray with tight turn constraints and limited tech trees within which to advance. For defensive (re: slow) players like myself these scenarios can be punishingly hard as a ‘damn the torpedoes’ mentality is definitely required in some of the more cutthroat encounters. Of special note is the Barbarians scenario which places you in control of the “wandering monster” units of Civilization and pits your scattered savages against the computers various civilizations. Players will quickly find that they much match the technological superiority of the Civs with the only weapons that the Barbarians have; unrelenting savagery. You are tasked with carting your single mobile city though the world and sacking as many cultures as possible. For the Barbarians there can be no victory by culture, science or diplomacy; only by salting the earth of your digital enemies.

Does Civilization 4 need a more militaristic slant? Probably not considering how simple it can be to nuke the whole planet into a glowing rock rather than strive for the more challenging win scenarios. Does Warlords add worthwhile content and interesting diversion at least? Certainly. The new Civs are a welcome addition and the single player scenarios are a blast (albeit an often frustrating one). A strong addition to the Civilization line without a doubt; but here’s hoping they release Civilization 4: Philosophers and Intellectuals next. B+

— Glenn Given