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Why is CIV4 still the best civ game?

I must have played nearly all 4X games since Civ 1 was released. Stil lcome back to Civ 4 a couple of times a year and am always impressed by it. As some have said, it does feel like the peak of the original Civ vision. So from there, all the rivals can do is make arbitrary changes. And gratuitous changes. Like squares to hexes. I've no problem with either...ultimately they make no difference to how you feel about a game. And that's just it, they make no meaningful difference. Well, other than some people do feel smarter for using hexes - which is odd, because how can being able to move in 6 directions require more intellectual capacity than moving in 8 directions? Somebody should tell the people who invented chess! Anyway...that's just one specific, there are many more, superficial, changes. While, ironically, losing some of what made Civ 4 genuinely unique and great.

What I notice when I start a game of Civ 4 is how every turn counts, from the start. It's right back to what Sid Meier said about a strategy game needing meaningful decisions. Civ 4 trumps all competitors in this aspect. I've played a little AOW: Planetfall recently and straight off, there is so much more time doing not much, just clicking "End Turn". Hardly any meaningful decisions. And similar applies to the entire AOW series, really. Also Galactiv Civ, all of the Endless games ("Endturn" games!) . Decisions are fewer. Games are more railroaded. Follow a simple recipe and click end turn, watch your empire grow and win.

And then there's the *length* of the competitors games. I can rattle through a game of Civ 4 in maybe 6 - 10 hours, win or lose. Which then leaves me plenty of time to start a new one, with a new leader, new map, new victory conditions , most probably a very different game. The competitors have less decisions, more end turning clicking and they can go on for 50+ hours on the same map. More quantity, but less quality. Yes, I get that it is a general problem with 4X games, that time from when you know you will win (or lose) to actually winning (or losing) can be excessive and quite a chore. But in Civ 4, it's 2 or 3 hours. In Planetfall, it can be 20 hours.

As a meta-aspect of games, for me, the sweet spot is a map that I can play in 10 hours, then generate another different one and again, finish in 10 hours. If it takes 50+ hours on one, it becomes a slog and I imagine most other 4X games I've tried, that is the point I stopped. One 50 hour game. Little motivation to start another..then uninstall. And end up back to Civ 4.

The lack of meaningful decisions means that different maps, different factions, lack the variety of Civ 4. Though its far from perfect, the AI opponents in Civ 4 have way more personality than in the 4X rivals. No amount of hexes, 1UPT , districts or tactical battles can fix that! So Civ 4 has way more replay potential than other games.

Part of the answer to the question is to look at the number of threads here on "Strategy and Tactics" for each game. Civ 4 wins out by miles. Civ 5 fewer and Civ 6 even fewer. There's your answer - if you like "strategy", Civ 4 is the one with the deepest. Oh, and that isn't because it's been out longer than Civ 5 and 7. It has way more strategy discussion than Civ 3, too. It's because it has the best strategic possibilities. The best "meaningful decision" making. Those post numbers are Exhibit A that it is real and measurable, not just opinion.

Yet there are plenty of ways Civ 4 could still be improved. I am a bit disappointed than in the years since it's release, things like improving AI and diplomacy have never really been genuinely improved on. The road and rail map clutter is ugly . Workers have too much to do at start and nothing to do at end. It's all small improvements. For me, Civ 5 went off in a completely different direction. As some have said, captured a different market and left us oldies behind!

<EDIT> BTW I did used to have an account here and posted regularly many years ago, used to do GOTW of both Civ 4 and 5. Haven't visited for years, though and it appears that account was (sensibly) closed. Recent disappointment on the state of 4X games (Planetfall/MOTM remake/Gal Civ etc etc) led me back to Civ 4 :)
 
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Haven't played Victoria but perhaps I should - have heard great things about the series and I've read a lot about the British Empire. It does help to focus in on a particular era.

Victoria 3 is a mess! Not sure what it is intending to be. As if they went badly wrong in the first design meeting. I *think* they wanted it to be a genuine economic simulator and at first, it does appeal. But wears off very quickly when you realise it's "wack a mole" mechanics. Simply list your most profitable industries and build them. Wait a few weeks (game time, though it feels like real time) , rinse and repeat.

Further to that , it is filled with total absurdities. After their success with CK2, I think Paradox are moving deliberately away from historical strategy (with cult following) to hilarious meme generators (with mass following). "I conquered Europe as Congo". "The Pope has allied with the Caliphate and invaded Russia". "Bulgaria makes no clothing or weapons but has an army of 500,000".
 
CIV4 is the best Civ-game because it's endless possibilities for new varieties. With 17 years behind and still going strong, no other civ-games comes even close to it.... so many major mods and submods have been created over time, some with personal changes.... it is beyond any comparison


Just take my favorite mod - the Realism:Invictus - at least 12 year old by now ....

Well our dear CourtPainter/R:I Curator Walter Hawkwood has decided to take an indefinite hiatus from this mod - what he is going to use all his time for now is mystery to me:confused: - but now it's entirely up to me, what changes I want to make - what way I want to go...... As long as it can be done in XML that is - because I'm not capable of programming just a little bit seriously.

Well... up to me, what changes do I want??? It has always been that way - Right silly :hammer2:??? Yes, sure :yup: . But it has also been a lot of work :faint: (read finding the errors[pissed] I always make during this) to transfer the "good" changes from an "old" version to the new one, when Walter approx. one time a year made an update, that I in no way wanted to "miss". But now I do not "know", if a new update will come. So therefore........

The only real modpart I (still) miss - and proberly will miss forever - is, if the AI could "learn" to use siegeweapons the way a human can use it - allowing the AI to bombard attacking "human-controlled" units without making more-or-less suicide attacks - the way, that is present in Dales mod for BtS "The Road to War"..... If that could be integrated with the latest release of the Realism:Invictus mod (ver 3.6 from Dec 2022), then we would have a Super-mod.


Anyway: It's a simple privilege, that we have such a program as CIV4 available... nothing more, nothing less.
 
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.
I know I'm late to this party, but I will point out that while EU 4 factors being "comprehensible" or "well-designed" is debatable, it's flatly not true that they are irrelevant. There is a massive gulf in outcomes between beginners, intermediate players, expert players, and the best-of-the-best that is reminiscent of Civ 4.

I can complete one tag/one faith world conquests starting as a generic one province minor in EU 4, before the end date. Many others can too, but this places you into the "expert" category, give or take. The vast majority of players who pick up the game will never get close to doing it, even with 100s of hours. Most don't get there even with 1000s of hours. However, it's a long step down from the very best.

The current record for a one-tag world conquest is in the 1470s. The game runs from 1444-1821. Even if you disregard hordes and questionable tactics, the best of the best will still one tag the world by early 1600s. The interactions with those "tweaked factors" ARE the difference. Note that the rate at which you can expand accelerates starting in 1610 (typically). Thus, the best players are completing nearly all of their conquests at a time where it is by default much harder/less efficient, and overcoming that with efficiencies in play to finish sooner anyway. Simply noting that X finished 100 years earlier than Y is underselling just how much ability needed to go into the game to attain that. You need to be pretty good to conquer the world by 1750 as a generic non-horde. You need to be one of the best players to have ever played the game to do it before 1650. It's not close.

To some extent, that still holds in the Civ games. You can perform much better in Civ 6 if you make the best choices, vs merely "good enough to win on deity" choices. In terms of meaningful choices that impact the outcome of the game and depth in how mechanics interact with each other, Civ 6 seems an easy 2nd place to Civ 4. Civ 4 has better controls, less dead time (faster to end won games), and offers the most difficult tradeoffs to make regarding early expansion tradeoffs and tech choices. However, 6 nevertheless fleshed out the combat system substantially, with improved tradeoffs in promotions, unit choice, securing GG, and how these interact with tech. Policy cards and how you manage the slots/timing them have a lot of depths/optimization to squeeze out. Districts as a mechanic will occasionally force tough choices. It's not a bad game by any means, it's just not as good as Civ 4.

Civ 5 decided it was a good idea to disincentivize fighting/taking land as a crucial element in competing for limited resources, and that design choice was a woofer. It went from ICS in earliest versions to "you only need to engage minimally".

Because that level is where the fun is. Advancing beyond it turns the game into a job.
That is very, very much a matter of mindset. Just as not everyone finds the process of evaluating where mistakes were made and adjusting fun, some do not find perpetual intermediacy and losing often due to mistakes that are never identified fun.

Admittedly, the better you get, the harder it becomes to identify those mistakes. How much harder depends on the game and on the talents of the person trying to improve.
 
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I know I'm late to this party, but I will point out that while EU 4 factores being "comprehensible" or "well-designed" is debatable, it's flatly not true that they are irrelevant. There is a massive gulf in outcomes between beginners, intermediate players, expert players, and the best-of-the-best that is reminiscent of Civ 4.

I can complete one tag/one faith world conquests starting as a generic one province minor in EU 4, before the end date. Many others can too, but this places you into the "expert" category, give or take. The vast majority of players who pick up the game will never get close to doing it, even with 100s of hours. Most don't get there even with 1000s of hours. However, it's a long step down from the very best.

The current record for a one-tag world conquest is in the 1470s. The game runs from 1444-1821. Even if you disregard hordes and questionable tactics, the best of the best will still one tag the world by early 1600s. The interactions with those "tweaked factors" ARE the difference.

To some extent, that still holds in the Civ games. You can perform much better in Civ 6 if you make the best choices, vs merely "good enough to win on deity" choices. In terms of meaningful choices that impact the outcome of the game and depth in how mechanics interact with each other, Civ 6 seems an easy 2nd place to Civ 4. Civ 4 has better controls, less dead time (faster to end won games), and offers the most difficult tradeoffs to make regarding early expansion tradeoffs and tech choices. However, 6 nevertheless fleshed out the combat system substantially, with improved tradeoffs in promotions, unit choice, securing GG, and how these interact with tech. Policy cards and how you manage the slots/timing them have a lot of depths/optimization to squeeze out. Districts as a mechanic will occasionally force tough choices. It's not a bad game by any means, it's just not as good as Civ 4.

Civ 5 decided it was a good idea to disincentivize fighting/taking land as a crucial element in competing for limited resources, and that design choice was a woofer. It went from ICS in earliest versions to "you only need to engage minimally".


That is very, very much a matter of mindset. Just as not everyone finds the process of evaluating where mistakes were made and adjusting fun, some do not find perpetual intermediacy and losing often due to mistakes that are never identified fun.

Admittedly, the better you get, the harder it becomes to identify those mistakes. How much harder depends on the game and on the talents of the person trying to improve.

I have actually watched your Civ4 let's plays since well over a decade ago when they were new and have appreciated and enjoyed your commentary and input on the game.

Curious if you've tried Realism Invictus for Civ4 and how you think about its unique features like logistics, epidemics, more nuanced happiness and such. While I agree that Civ4 is excellent on its own, I do think that that mod really refined it virtually to the limits of its engine. Having a pretty good idea of your play preferences, you would probably dislike the slower pace, but of the mechanics themselves, I'd really be interested to know your take.

Also, what about EU3 vs. EU4? I played thousands of hours of EU3 but never really got into 4. I like some of the things the latter did, specifically the removal of "email diplomacy" (especially when delayed envoys was already something the game mechanically understood due to CoT delays from sent merchants), but much like veteran Civ3 players WRT 4, I guess I just never really found its feel to be as engaging or fun, and the divergence from the primarily text-based UI of 3 was unappealing to me, too.
 
Curious if you've tried Realism Invictus for Civ4 and how you think about its unique features like logistics, epidemics, more nuanced happiness and such. While I agree that Civ4 is excellent on its own, I do think that that mod really refined it virtually to the limits of its engine. Having a pretty good idea of your play preferences, you would probably dislike the slower pace, but of the mechanics themselves, I'd really be interested to know your take.
I haven't tried it, so it would be hard to comment on it. Some of the other mods (other than UI stuff like BUG) seemed to prefer sacrificing agency in order to represent historical things, which IMO goes against what makes Civ 4 design so good (and why I didn't like events, especially pre-balance). I have no idea if realism invictus is like that though!

Also, what about EU3 vs. EU4? I played thousands of hours of EU3 but never really got into 4.
4 was my first entry in the series, and first Paradox game overall. I also have some experience in CK2, and also know HOI 4 very well despite how much of a dumpster fire it is (its core gameplay is fun, its implementation is sloppy and sometimes its "design" choices are downright not respectable - for example deeming more convenient controls to be a "bug" and taking them out, without altering any in-game modifiers available).

My understanding of earlier EU titles is that they railroaded outcomes more...there are still artifacts of that happening in EU 4 like Dutch revolts, Burgundy event sequence, or Ottomans having an event interaction with Crimea where they can just make them a subject out of nowhere, bypassing normal restrictions for that. But these have been given more agency than they had at release, and are by and large exceptions.

4's UI has improved a lot in the last ~10 years, but there are still many thousands more inputs than necessary across a run, including some very frustrating examples (converting province religion, granting provinces to subjects). There are conventions that existed for decades before EU 4 design was started to improve these, and EU 4 itself uses a superior province selection in peace deal demands, but somehow couldn't manage it for granting them...
 
I haven't tried it, so it would be hard to comment on it. Some of the other mods (other than UI stuff like BUG) seemed to prefer sacrificing agency in order to represent historical things, which IMO goes against what makes Civ 4 design so good (and why I didn't like events, especially pre-balance). I have no idea if realism invictus is like that though!

You might enjoy checking it out sometime: it's one of those projects like Dwarf Fortress which has been continuously under development since pretty much the whole lifespan of Civ4 itself. The newest 3.6 release actually just came out in December, and I would say that (to my taste at least) it strikes an almost perfect balance between "more" realistic and plausible with its modeling of empire building and warfare without dismissing the suspension of disbelief necessary to have immersion in a game whose strategic depth comes at the expense of being truly realistic. Plus, it has many UI improvements (even above and beyond BUG, like a full-screen pedia with a search bar and several more menus, like leader the AI behavior stickied here, for instance), and an immense amount of rich historical content which is primarily cosmetic (thousands of well-modeled historical units which are seldom more than slightly different from the "template" units they replace, but represent each civilization far more uniquely). Oh, there's also a well-working separatism mechanic where things like unhappiness, unhealthiness, foreign religion and culture, etc., generate revolt risk for your cities, which can spawn into new, derivative civs, and is countered by the size of your garrison, your espionage, and other factors. Gameplay wise, I think that's my favorite change. WalterHawkwood on the forums actually wrote the whole thing in python and gave it its own menu, which looks like it might as well have been already in the game to begin with it looks so clean and stylistically consistent.

The whole mod is super polished and you as an expert player of the base game might have some fun and a fresh challenge giving it a try or looking into it.

4 was my first entry in the series, and first Paradox game overall. I also have some experience in CK2, and also know HOI 4 very well despite how much of a dumpster fire it is (its core gameplay is fun, its implementation is sloppy and sometimes its "design" choices are downright not respectable - for example deeming more convenient controls to be a "bug" and taking them out, without altering any in-game modifiers available).

Ironically, that's kind of the exact time that I stopped playing their new titles. Still, that sounds like a hard take calling HoI4 a dumpster fire! Typically (though I've never played it), I just here that it's simplistic and pandered to a more casual audience, since the earlier Hearts of Iron games were truly gritty wargames which only appealed to military or WW2 enthusiasts.

My understanding of earlier EU titles is that they railroaded outcomes more...there are still artifacts of that happening in EU 4 like Dutch revolts, Burgundy event sequence, or Ottomans having an event interaction with Crimea where they can just make them a subject out of nowhere, bypassing normal restrictions for that. But these have been given more agency than they had at release, and are by and large exceptions.

3 was actually the title which conscientiously moved away from that. In EU2, for instance, the Reformation would trigger on October 31, 1517, every game, no matter what was going on. In EU3, while there are lots of "preset" things that can happen (like formable historical empires), there were triggerable criteria which would have to be met for the event to fire. To use the Reformation as an example again, someone would need to have a theologian advisor of a certain skill minimum (3, maybe?) and some nations needed to be +2 or more innovative as well, IIRC. It wasn't perfectly implemented, but I do like how they took a more dynamic approach by keeping some real major historical events as they were, but making their actuation contingent on in-game factors which might not happen the same or even at all from game to game.

Oh, I also really disliked the "monarch power" mechanic. I get that they were trying to be more player-interactive, since 3 was more a matter of reading many layers of data simultaneously and timing a relatively limited range of decisions than being directly interactive with the goings-on of your empire, but I found that mechanic rather gimmicky. Something like that in Civ is fine, but I think that's more fitting to that franchise, which isn't really trying to approximate real grand strategy in the same way in the first place.

4's UI has improved a lot in the last ~10 years, but there are still many thousands more inputs than necessary across a run, including some very frustrating examples (converting province religion, granting provinces to subjects). There are conventions that existed for decades before EU 4 design was started to improve these, and EU 4 itself uses a superior province selection in peace deal demands, but somehow couldn't manage it for granting them...

Oh, so they stopped selling people the scorched earth buttons? :lol:

Kind of like OP was saying, I just really disliked in particular the "menus sliding out of menus sliding out of menus" and that information was presented a lot more pictorially. It seemed like they could have presented the same amount of game data more cleanly, but I get it that they were trying to diverge from a bland text list which a mass market wouldn't find attractive, even if many serious gamers might still be indifferent.
 
Still, that sounds like a hard take calling HoI4 a dumpster fire!
It's special to HOI 4 among their titles, because there are frustrating issues with their basic controls. Not input-efficiency stuff like Civ 6, but straight up "you give an order and the game does a different thing", "you select some divisions with a box and the game also selects units off screen", and "units with no orders active path through enemy borders and attack inadvertently, bleeding casualties as a result".

Coupled with HOI 4's focus system which tends to break the game by swapping territory w/o units involved (sometimes disregarding that units were involved), and that some UI elements also just straight up lie (advisers that do nothing, wrong modifier values), this is a special kind of bad UI that is usually reserved for shovelware...but somehow found its way into HOI. I've even seen a civil war that would fire in 350 days fire in 14 days, and the Pdox "5% > 5% because we don't feel like rounding in a way to make the display accurate" slop.

The mechanics and combat are anything but simple. Feels like half the people on reddit don't even know how the mechanics work and give advice that would just be inane if they did know.

Oh, I also really disliked the "monarch power" mechanic.
Monarch mana was really rough on release. They added a lot of means to interact with it/have agency with it so that you don't just get randomly screwed now, and as a result it barely resembles how it originally played, even though superficially it looks similar.

It seemed like they could have presented the same amount of game data more cleanly, but I get it that they were trying to diverge from a bland text list which a mass market wouldn't find attractive, even if many serious gamers might still be indifferent.
Remains legit criticism IMO. Number of inputs to get pertinent information and interact with the game is a problem. This is a problem in Civ 5 and 6 as well. You could sort your list of cities in Civ 4 AND swap their builds accordingly, from that menu. You could even do this for any # of cities from 1 to "all of them" at the same time, if you wanted. Where is this in 5 and 6?
 
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Yea, HOI4 is definitively full of mistakes. Don't get me wrong, it's still infinitely better than HOI3. But in my view 2 was the pinnacle of the series.

Their biggest mistake in my view is the entire focus tree idea. That thing is what we in software development call a decision tree. And it works fantastically well for simplistic programs that only have to follow preset paths without thinking. But game AI is NOT like that. Game AI has to dynamically react to the player and other AI going off the rails. And decision trees are very bad at that because they lock the AI (and in this case the player) into what ever path they picked out of the few that the developers had envisioned.

The whole thing is basically a really lazy crutch they made instead of programming proper AI into the game. And it worked well enough back when the only focuses were historical. Since the limitations of decision trees actually go in your favor if all you want to do is simulate a specific scenario (WW2 or close to it) relatively closely. But once you start adding alternate options the whole thing falls apart.
 
I have to say, for me Civ IV just clicks: I feel much more invested in the game than in 90% of other's 4X titles. Civ V is sooo boring, and amplitude studios games mechanically are very weak . I think when it comes to historical 4X (and really 4x games in general) civ IV is still the king.

Also curious that Hoi 4 is mention, I think it is probably the best current PDS game but it is such a mess ! Even with so many years in development one can still find game ending interactions (good luck playing without historical focus)
 
Is Alpha Centauri considered a civ game?

I really loved that game. Not as much as civ 4, but it had leaders with real personality, great world building interludes, a way to build custom units. It let you stack units but punished you accordingly with collateral damage.

I just never liked the way it handled the tech path.
 
Is AC a civ game? Well, that depends on how stringent the definition is. It's not part of the "Civilization" series.

But, it could be seen as the first "what happens after a Space Race victory" game. And it's certainly a 4X game in the same mold as Civ. Civ goes from the agriculture to space. AC goes from Space to Trancendence.

It's the only game I've played more than Civ4. (Well except if you combine all the Championship/Football Manager games.). I still play these three games today, what 20+ years later?

Alpha Centauri is still excellent today. I didn't like the expansion though, it messed up the story IMO. The use of altitude was brilliant, and something I would like much more than the hexagonal flatness in the newer Civs.
 
Is AC a civ game? Well, that depends on how stringent the definition is. It's not part of the "Civilization" series.

But, it could be seen as the first "what happens after a Space Race victory" game. And it's certainly a 4X game in the same mold as Civ. Civ goes from the agriculture to space. AC goes from Space to Trancendence.

It's the only game I've played more than Civ4. (Well except if you combine all the Championship/Football Manager games.). I still play these three games today, what 20+ years later?

Alpha Centauri is still excellent today. I didn't like the expansion though, it messed up the story IMO. The use of altitude was brilliant, and something I would like much more than the hexagonal flatness in the newer Civs.

I thought Moo3 was good too. Can't even find a copy of it that works.
 
I thought Moo3 was good too. Can't even find a copy of it that works.
MoO3 was a step down from 2. The final version from Atari had an overflow bug that some guy with an assembler fixed. It had some great concepts, but Atari released what was essentially a public beta and charged $50 for it before abandoning the project. I really wanted to like it, but in the end it was too buggy to be called good.
 
When it comes to CIVlikes in space it's Space Empires IV or bust.
 
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