Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization III Complete - Macenstein

Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization III Complete

Posted by Lab Rat

Disclaimer: the following is a somewhat biased review of Civilization III Complete. I freely admit when Civilization III (finally) made it to the Mac, it was perhaps one of the happier days of my short life.

For the 2 people on the planet who are not familiar with the Civilization franchise, let me begin by giving a brief overview of the game play. The basic premise of Civilization III remains unchanged from that of the original Civilization released back in 1991. This is more a testament to the original Civilization’s brilliant concept and execution than a lack of evolution in the game design. Players begin the game in the stone age with a single settler, and attempt to build a thriving civilization that eventually evolves past our modern times and into the not-so-distant future, all the while competing with other civilizations for natural resources and territory. Your civilization grows through the scientific and cultural advances your citizens discover along the way.

What has always made the Civilization franchise so engaging is there is no one way to win the game. Players are almost as likely to win the game through diplomatic means as with more aggressive and warlike tactics. In the end a mixture of methods is usually the most successful. I have always found Civilization’s empire management scheme to be the most efficient of all the strategy games I have played. You feel in control of all aspects of your empire, yet never feel overwhelmed by too much micromanagement.

Civilization III, while bearing the original creator’s (Sid Meier) name in the title, is actually the first game in the franchise to not be designed directly by Sid (Call to Power doesn’t count). Civ 3 built on the strong foundation laid by Civilization I & II, and then took a quantum leap past the previous installments in the series by introducing some innovative new strategy elements. The game also introduced many new civilizations to both play as and compete with. Cultures could advance through the addition of Small Wonders in addition to the Great Wonders from previous versions. New units in Civ 3 brought a new excitement to the game as well.

The graphics in the Civilization franchise have evolved with the game.

Civilization III Complete

I have read many reviews of Civilization III Complete which simply say Civ 3 Complete takes Civ 3 and slaps on the “Conquests� and “Play the World� expansion packs. While these two additions are certainly the game’s biggest selling features, there are a host of other small improvements to the game which make the overall game play more enjoyable, even to the most experienced Civ 3 veteran.

First, for anyone who had beaten Civ 3 on Diety (the highest difficulty setting of Civ 3), Civ 3 Complete adds 2 more levels of difficulty to test your expert ability: Demigod, and Sid. That’s right. If you think you can beat Civilization’s creator (sid Meier), then fire up Sid and give it your best shot. (For the record, I was defeated extremely quickly).

Civ 3 Complete adds a few nice features that aid in troop movement and city management as well. There is a new Cycle Cities button to quickly move through your cities, or just the ones currently experiencing civil disorder. You can now “Move Units in Stack�. This is something you could sort of do in Call To Power, and it makes managing large numbers of troops much easier. You do not need to build an army now to move multiple units occupying the same terrain square; this is a huge timesaver. Similarly, there is now the option to “Move Units of the Same Type in Stack�. Just select one of your units on a square (say, a warrior) and then choose this option to only move the other warrior units on that square. You can also cycle through your units using the new “Cycle Units� button. As with cycling cities, the map centers on each unit as you scroll through them. You can also opt to cycle through a specific type of unit.

Above: The new city and troop management buttons.

Additionally you can also now set a rallying point for units. This is a HUGE time saver (especially in times of war when you are cranking out military units you need to position on a strategic battle front). Units now have the ability to become “Sentry� units, which will cause them to stand watch until an enemy or barbarian unit appears in the block next to them. This is a great change from simply fortifying units and then having to remember to track them down and re-activate them.

There are many other small tweaks here and there to the game play, and all of them are for the better in my opinion. In addition, there are some nice little graphical tweaks to some of the terrain and resources that make the game feel a bit more fresh.


Conquests adds a nice change of pace for players of Civ 3 who would like a little historical context thrown in to their game play. Conquests contains 9 different scenarios taken from various unique episodes in our planet’s cultural evolution. Players can load the Mesoamerican scenario and play as the newly introduced Incas or Mayans, or as the always fun Aztecs. Or rewind to Mesopotamia and attempt to build all 7 Wonders of the World before time runs out. These pre-built scenarios span the globe from Rome to Japan, and each forces you to incorporate different game play tactics than you may normally use.

Conquests adds 7 new civilizations to play as: Byzantines, Hittites, Incas, Mayans, Netherlands, Portuguese, and Sumerians. Each civilization has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own unique warrior units. Fans of Civ 3 who have won it using every civilization available now have a new challenge.

Play the World

The Play the World expansion pack is really the big news of this update to Civ 3, and is what really makes the game “complete�. Finally, we are able to play Civilization 3 as it was intended, online against other people. Unfortunately, we are limited to only playing other Mac users of the game (via Game Ranger), but this is still awesome and adds a great new dynamic to game play.

In addition to the 7 new civilizations the Conquests expansion pack added, Play the World throws in 8 more of its own: Arabs, Carthaginians, Celts, Koreans, Mongols, Ottoman, Spanish, and Vikings.

Some things missing

Although Civilization III Complete adds much to the experience of playing Civ 3, there are a few little things the game took away as well. You are no longer presented with the option of selecting screen resolution at start up. Also, there is no option for using Mac OS file dialogs. I always felt that was a great feature. If I was playing Civ 3 and heard a buddy trying to contact me via iChat or heard the sound of a new e-mail, I could hit “Save� and I would be presented with the Finder, temporarily allowing me to use the other programs. To return to the game, I just had to hit “cancel�.

One other thing I feel is worth noting. Civilization III Complete ships on a DVD-ROM instead of a CD-ROM, like Civ 3. This DVD-ROM contains anti-piracy software which prohibits the user from copying it or making a disc image (at least through conventional means). I can vouch for its effectiveness. I wasted 3 DVDs attempting to make a backup copy, and each failed to produce a playable disc. While I certainly respect a company’s rights to prevent the piracy of their product, playing a game from a disc is a huge hassle. I love just opening a disc image of Civ 3 when on the road with my laptop, not having to worry about remembering to bring the CD with me. Additionally, out of all the games I own, the Civilization franchise is the most addictive, and therefore the one who’s discs run the greatest chance of being damaged from constant insertion and removal. It would be nice to be able to make a legitimate backup copy of the disc, if nothing else.


Civilization III Complete is honestly just the best strategy game out there for the Mac. If you already own and love Civ 3, and are wondering whether Complete is worth the money, the answer is “yesâ€?. If you have never played Civ 3 before, the answer is a hearty “HELL yes!â€?. But be warned, Civ 3 is a definite “time burglar” to quote Lisa Simpson). Playing against other human players online really changes the way you play the game. The new city and troop management features also make the game move much faster. While it would be nice if there was some sort of an upgrade path for owners of Civ 3, I honestly doubt anyone purchasing this game will feel they were gypped.

With news of Civ 4 for the Mac still months away, Civilization III Complete is definitely capable of making that time fly by while keeping your Civilization skills in prime form.

Sid Meier’s Civilization 3 Complete (Mac)

Price: $44.99
Rating: 9.3 out of 10
Pros: Addictive game play, additional units, online play and Conquests scenarios
Cons: Non significant

One Response to “Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization III Complete”
  1. FourPenguins says:

    Just as a note to prospective buyers, all of the additional features mentioned are included in the Conquests expansion pack, so if you already own the original Civ III game, don’t buy Complete, just get the Conquests pack.

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