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Why is CIV4 still the best civ game?

Evil Beejeebers

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I have recently installed civ 6, to play hot seat with my SO, it feels so empty and soulless. What happened to the civ series after civ 4 was it a financial flop?

Decisions feel important in civ 4, in the newer game I can just leave all the choices to the adviser.
 
What happened to the civ series after civ 4 was it a financial flop?
Just the opposite, but what makes a commercially successful game and what satisfies self proclaimed fanatics is very very different.
 
Put simply what happened is that the gaming industry moved away from the passion driven developers who wanted to make a great game to the profit driven model of earn as much money as possible at any cost.

And those two goals are fundamentally opposite. You see that in all industries. Just look at all the all time classic movies that didn't make a huge hit at the box office or compare the profit margin on junk food (which is literally poison) to an actual restaurant.

Most games produced by big companies these days including civ5 and later are junk food. They exist to appeal to as many people as possible at the expense of quality. And their purpose is not to be great games to be remembered It's to be bought by as many people as possible, played for a short while and than discarded as they move on to the next game and next purchase. Instant gratification with no staying power.

And it does not matter that the game is no good in the long run because in the long run you'll be selling them the next game or the next or the one after that. Indeed you don't want them to keep playing your game 20 years later because that means they aren't buying the 20 new games you will be releasing each of those years. The objective for such a game is not to be a classic that will last for ages but to make you play it just long enough for the legally mandated refund period to expire.
 
since Civ 4 the games have gone from macro strategy to more and more micromanagement. Civ 5 they went to one unit per tile, which was in many ways a nice change, even though the AI was less adept at it than at the simpler doomstack combat

Civ 6 they went further and made city management / tile management much more involved, taking a board game-inspired approach that made city management much more complex without adding a significant amount of depth at the macro level. in my opinion, counting tiles to figure out where to put your factory is not strategy... district placement is at the heart of the game, but Civ 6 is full of these solvable puzzles in which there is a concrete, mathematical best answer

but this micro approach to tile yields is cooked into the rest of the game. just a few examples...
  • instead of big government changes you need to consider carefully, you change your civics every time you research a culture (unless, god help you, you forget). and in the endgame you will have 12+ civics active at a given time that you must change out to make the most of things like unit upgrades & worker construction
  • instead of trade routes being automatic, you have to sift through a list of literally hundreds of possibilities to find the one that has the biggest number. this is not strategy, it's simple arithmetic
  • diplo alliances do not function as alliances, they're just there to get bonus tile yield points on trade routes on such. in Civ 4, you would have pretty serious alliance/vassal networks by the endgame, which would lead to massive world wars involving most of the world split between 2-3 factions. doesn't happen in Civ 6
overall, there is little meaningful macro strategy in Civ 6, it's all just micro. once you understand the systems and how to do them the right way, the game becomes a simple matter of rinse & repeat. not much thinking involved, beyond the simple & repetitive math of how your going to maximize your yields
 
Put simply what happened is that the gaming industry moved away from the passion driven developers who wanted to make a great game to the profit driven model of earn as much money as possible at any cost.

And those two goals are fundamentally opposite. You see that in all industries. Just look at all the all time classic movies that didn't make a huge hit at the box office or compare the profit margin on junk food (which is literally poison) to an actual restaurant.

Most games produced by big companies these days including civ5 and later are junk food. They exist to appeal to as many people as possible at the expense of quality. And their purpose is not to be great games to be remembered It's to be bought by as many people as possible, played for a short while and than discarded as they move on to the next game and next purchase. Instant gratification with no staying power.

And it does not matter that the game is no good in the long run because in the long run you'll be selling them the next game or the next or the one after that. Indeed you don't want them to keep playing your game 20 years later because that means they aren't buying the 20 new games you will be releasing each of those years. The objective for such a game is not to be a classic that will last for ages but to make you play it just long enough for the legally mandated refund period to expire.
Legitimately can't remember the last game I've bought, it's likely been years. There's zero reason to buy modern games when I know they will just be watered down versions of past games. There's plenty of high quality, high depth older games out there but often they are dead or require setting up matches on discord or whatever. High quality games will never get the attention they deserve which is pure tragedy.
 
CIV4 is the best civ-game because skilled modders/teams of skilled modders have been able to take the official [BtS] expansion on to where only lack of fantasy makes a limit - as long as the actual played games doesn't exceed the 4MB save-game limit much-to-much.

Even though not all the code is public and even though the gameengine never will upgraded to 64-bit.
 
Civ4 is just better in every single way unironically
take literally any gameplayer layer and its clearly better in 4 than 5 or 6
yes even the combat is better and more tactical, the whole 1unitpertile adds tactics meme is just a fallacy by people who dont actually understand how the mechanics work.

I got baited into playing civ5 mp recently by a friend and it was horrible.The game is just hours of tedious micro for the sake of micro with no actual meaningful strategic decisions.
I could play for 5hrs and literally nothing happens, you arent allowed to make gameplay for yourself you are forced to spam the end turn and wait for something to happen to you but nothing does
also you have to micro a billion things every single turn just to give the illusion of gameplay but there is none that matters.
 
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Disclaimer: I have only played Civ I (long time ago), II, IV, and some VI (back when the AI almost never upgraded their units and ran around with Clubmen in the late ADs). So no expertise on some parts.

In addition to what has been said by others: In contrast to many other games which are not being played anymore, IV strikes a very fine balance between the number of options available, their interdependence, and their viability.

That means that at any given point, you can go for many different routes - but in any situation, only a few will lead you to victory (I'm talking Deity here), and you have to combine various things (research, production, city placement) to get there. There's usually more than one route, even at the highest level, but you have to see it and execute it well. Which is extremely satisfying.

WastinTime over in the Hall of Fame played a game with his new Wonderbread strategy for a very impressive BC Space launch...almost twenty years after the game was released. The fact that a game that has been played and analyzed so much can still spark new strategies and debates over them is a testament to its key ingredient: balance.

There's also the fact that you can play the game in various ways accoding to taste - sandboxing, competing in the Hall of Fame, or just trying to win the game against the computer. Add the modding community, and you gain so many options as if you were playing new games - re-playing historical events, shaking the balance up a bit etc.
 
first i thought it was a good idea to go to single units per tile as in civ5 or civ6... but i dont like it. it is too much of a headache to move your armies... also i really dont like the citie districts ... i like the old way better... nevertheless i have a lot of hours in civ5 and civ6 but nowhere near the hours i played in civ4.... (well, i grew up with civ1 & civ2 so thats more my style... - lol)
 
I could play for 5hrs and literally nothing happens, you arent allowed to make gameplay for yourself you are forced to spam the end turn and wait for something to happen to you but nothing does
also you have to micro a billion things every single turn just to give the illusion of gameplay but there is none that matters.
This, they took direclty from Europa Universalis from Paradox. The game in itself is fine (kinda) but deeply flawed in that it presents :
Layers upon layers upon layers (upon layers upon layers) of irrelevant and possibly incomprehensible factors that can be tweaked to hell.
Why have so many options if none of them matter or make sense to begin with ? It's not even cute, it's just cumbersome.
The best games have an excellent balance and very simple rules. Or a very limited set of rules.
Adding rules upon rules upon rules upon rules (etc.) does not make a game more complex. It might add a sense of depth to those who might not know better but... not really. It's just artificial. In many cases, the more rules there are, the more narrow the path. Adding rules that open up possibilities is quite the exception.
The simpler the rules, the more decision making makes a difference.

See : Go Game. The board game. Simplest rules. Most complex game.
Civ 4 is such a good game because balance and simplicity. There is a beauty in 1:food:=2:hammers:=3:commerce: that we do not find in many computer games and is well upheld.
The diplomacy is crap and gamey. That's the worst aspect (but it's not like any other Civ iteration did any better). Fortunately, we can ignore diplo if so we choose.
 
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Civ IV is one of the best empire building games ever released and few games in the 4X genre have come to rival it. Whilst I regard Civ V as a fair game in its own right, it strayed too far away from the Civ IV formula for my liking and never got over the fundamental problems that 1UPT introduced. Civ VI is little more than a reddit meme-generator, and the less said about "yield porn," the better. I simply cannot gel with the idea of my "science district" being 200 miles away from my city centre, and the scientists there being 200% more effective because they can see some mountains from the windows. The game is riddled with problematic mechanics - why can't I build roads? Why are AI agendas so non-sensical? Why are we still dealing with arbitrarily defined "city states" that have completely different rule-sets to other civilisations? And, to pick the low-hanging fruit, why is the AI so doggone awful? I remember my first Civ VI game playing as Russia on King difficulty. I'd made plenty of mistakes and played sub-optimally, since it was my first ever game, and I found myself with a similar tech level to my Scottish neighbours. Scotland decided to go for a Space victory, and I thought I'd have a challenge on my hands and maybe an interesting late-game war to stop them from winning the race. After completing the first step of the Space victory, Scotland just sat there and did nothing whilst I pressed end turn repeatedly and colonised the stars. I wasn't even aware you could build more than one spaceport district to build parts faster and I still won comfortably, despite Scotland taking the lead initially. Pitiful. My first and last Civ VI game.
 
I'll chime in.

My first Civ game was III. I liked the aesthetic and derive nostalgia from it, and found the immersion quite a lot of fun, but I was an eight year old kid when I got it and the strategic aspect of the game was lost on me in any meaningful sense. When Civ IV came out (and I got it for Christmas of its debut year), I became obsessively immersed into it, but initially it was still mostly along the same childlike lines of just sandboxing and enjoying the feel of leading my civilization through history without really any appreciable grasp on the thought involved in approaching the game with the intent to win. By the time of Beyond the Sword, I was sort of on the cusp of this and began seriously trying to play the game, with some lucky and wonky wins on emperor (and even a deity win at 13 years old! - admittedly, it was dual pangaea, but I at least had the sense to know that Gilgamesh was my coastal neighbor, meaning that he was on the other end of the same landmass, and that he doesn't declare at friendly and that I could milk just enough commerce to REX the other side of the world while focusing on nothing else but shmoozing him to get to the relations stat where I wouldn't get DoWd and could skirt strike while filling in the landmass for domination, which I achieved ;) ), but my ability to really grasp the theoretic aspects of the game was not fully there at 12/13, when I played this game extensively and tried desperately to become good at it. Since then, I've played it off and on for my whole life up to this day; the past year, quite a bit, and this year, with the Realism Invictus mod.

Civ V was initially alluring, and I spent at least a few hundred hours towing around with the "Ooh, ahh! This effect does XYZ" until I realized that it's fundamentally incoherent and that most of these ornamental mechanics are just tacked on without really tying together into anything meaningful, in addition to the atrocious and nonsensical mechanic of global happiness, notwithstanding the 1UPT, which feels like a faithful attempt to "fix" something which was a minor problem, and could have been handled so much better in many different ways, and ironically made it worse... For these reasons, I haven't even bothered to try Civ6.

Civ IV just feels like one of those game's which is timeless and that people will still be playing into the old age of my natural lifespan, which probably won't be said of more than a handful of historical strategy games out of the several hundred that exist.

EDIT: I meant to say that I had a few Monarch wins way back in the day. Unfortunately, I never beat emperor.
 
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One other aspect I thought of after writing about Civ3 versus Civ4... in Civ6, there are 40 million policies to choose from, but the differences are often so minor as to be almost meaningless. Same with Pantheon beliefs - maybe you get lucky and one of them really meshes with your surroundings, but often it's a choice of "do I want that minor boost that doesn't really matter, or the other one?"

For civics, Civ4 has 5 choices in 5 categories, but most of them have their place, and have a big enough impact to fit various strategies.

Free Speech is pretty much mandatory if you're going for a Culture Victory, and powerful for mid-late game science. It also meshes nicely with Universal Suffrage. But Representation + Caste System + Pacifism + plenty of farms can yield a powerful specialist economy, which Merchantilism won't hurt. Theology + Vassalage can be a nice military boost, or maybe you prefer Nationhood to Vasslage for drafting? Bureaucracy has its place on small maps, State Property can save gobs of maintenance for large empires. Most of them have their place, and while whipping may be OP for high-level play, for a typical player, there's legitimate choices about how you want to shape your nation. If I'd never discovered CFC, I would probably still think Serfdom was the most powerful labor civic.

The AI is also capable of giving you a challenge in IV. Both militarily - you'll lose units in IV - and generally, especially with AI mods. I still remember one Earth map I was playing as England, going for space race, playing with a mod where the AI tried to prevent other players from winning. It was brutal. My closest allies might have stayed neutral, but many of the AIs started declaring war to prevent me from winning. Someone landed so many troops in Scotland that I had no hope of defending Britain, other than by nuking my own land to wipe out half the enemy army and then sending guys north. Before long my main base was Australia, but I was heavily weakened and limping forward towards building spaceship parts. I think I eventually concluded it was unwinnable and abandoned the game. Pretty much the opposite of what salty mud experienced in Civ VI.

Which incidentally goes right back to what Evil Beejeebers said in the first post - decisions feel important in Civ4 (and 3, IMO). In V and VI, they often don't, as the AI rarely offers any challenge, and sometimes even when there are choices, the difference is too little to matter a whole lot.
 
IV strikes a very fine balance between the number of options available, their interdependence, and their viability.
Actually much of game mechanics are added late in expansions, like espionage & corporations. Culture bombing or religion spreading by missionaries for profit is always suboptimal strategy.
We love the game for other core mechanics.
The best games have an excellent balance and very simple rules. Or a very limited set of rules.
True. Still I recently searched for opinions on Civ series and 4 is blamed for Slavery/Granary: people hate it. Optimization of overflow / whipping is not fun: I prefer robotic guidance in the UI (so I don't need to perform arithmetic in the mind).

Adding rules upon rules upon rules upon rules (etc.) does not make a game more complex
I haven't played 1/2/3/5/6, just studied tutorials on Youtube. The city management (food/hammers/coins) is the same in all. Tiles upgrades / special resources are almost the same.

Combat mechanic differs a lot (die all vs die one/collateral vs one unit per tile).

Could you give an example of useless complexity in non-Civ4? One I spotted in Civ 6: England adds -3 relations if you are on a different continent. It is too micro to take care about such detail...

Still in Civ4 we have to remember rules for "We are not ready to trade this tech just yet" or 10G gifts when "We have enough on our hands right now".

.
 
What happened to the civ series after civ 4, was it a financial flop?
I doubt Civ4 was a financial flop, but I also have little doubt that Civ 5 & 6 were even more successful. Easily digestible games, appealing to the masses, were likely a lot more profitable than the good game that Civ4 was.

Just the opposite, but what makes a commercially successful game and what satisfies self proclaimed fanatics is very very different.
Exactly.

Civ IV is one of the best empire building games ever released and few games in the 4X genre have come to rival it.
I hope you don't mind me asking: which are those few games that came close to rival it?
For me, that list contains just Old World, but there might be some others that I simply missed.
 
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Could you give an example of useless complexity in non-Civ4?
I have thought about it and have a hard time giving a precise example, sorry. What I had in mind, specifically, is the way Europa Universalis 4 has Menus (with Options) within Menus (with Options) within Menus (with Options) within Menus (with Options), etc. seemingly indefinitely, whereas very few of those options seem to matter.

On your other points, you're quite right that some mechanics in Civ4 are quite obscure (Granary/Overflow). They require learning and "arithmetics in the mind", as you put it.
Some other mechanics are simply not elegant and rather poorly implemented (Diplo). Diplo has mostly hidden factors but those have been researched through the years and are now well documented. You may need to do some research, though, if you seek some information on, say, peace vassaling.

On the management front, which is the main front to me, I appreciate the way I can easily access the information I need. Tile yields and city yields, namely.

I don't agree. 1:food:=3:hammers: on green hill mine. But others told me I wasted 5 worker's T when the worker had to chop... ))
This is not what I meant. 1F = 2H = 3C is an old conversion ratio, used to help prioritize / weight tiles.
It means you can sacrifice 1F in order to gain 3C, for example, and you should be roughly the same. If you sacrifice 1F to gain 5C, you're making a good deal. If you sac 10H to gain 10C, you might have something better to do. If you have the choice between working 3F vs 2F1H, then 3F is likely better.
It's not a hard rule, mind you, and it's also contextual (sometimes 10C will be better than 10H).

On your example, the green mine is 1F+3H, not 1F=3H. The tile you should be comparing it is a forested unimproved tile, so :
1F3H vs 2F1H or 1F2H or 3H.
If you're building settlers/workers, you're comparing a 4 yield tile to 3 yield tiles. Unless you're CRE/IMP, the mine only gives you +1 yield per turn. Compare that to improving pigs (+3) and you understand why others advised you to chop (+20). The chop is a one time thing but settlers/workers are very special items, since they produce.
You want them out asap, so they start producing asap. Therefore, we are not comparing working the mine for 20 turns vs chopping the forest. We are comparing getting the settler on Turn X to getting the settler out on Turn Y (and chopping wins).
Note that sometimes you have the time to build your mine and then chop the forest and still get the settler out on the desired Turn X.
 
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some mechanics in Civ4 are quite obscure (Granary/Overflow). They require learning and "arithmetics in the mind"
You don't need to learn them to play at a reasonably high level though!
 
You don't need to learn them to play at a reasonably high level though!
Absolutely !
To play at a reasonably high level, one needs to not be absolutely oblivious to some aspects of the game, like Civics or Great Persons.
Having a sound strategic sense and following a direction towards victory are much more important than in-depth understanding of, say, the Slavery mechanic. Building the Granary ends up being more important than optimizing the Granary.

Also, you don't need to play to win in order to have a reasonable amount of fun !
 
It's not about playing to win or anything like that. Indeed it is far simpler.

Put very simply how good or enjoyable a any given game is is actually a rather math problem. One one side you have the amount of time and work you as a player have to invest into the game in order to engage with it to any degree And on the other you have the other you have the fun you get from doing so. For those readers versed in basic economics this is the good old cost benefit equation.

If the benefit outweighs the cost, or in our case the fun is worth the effort we consider it a good game. If on the other hand the effort outweighs the cost we don't.

Difficulty and Complexity in combination are what chiefly runs the cost side. The more complex a game is the more work you have to invest into playing it and the slower the playing gets. And this extra effort can either pay off in terms of producing fun (good complexity) or it can be pointless busywork meant to waste your time or make the game look deeper than it actually is (bad complexity).

It really is that simple.
 
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