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Civilization II

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Civilization II
LTI Gray Matter (PS1)
Activision (PS1)
Producer(s)Jeff Briggs
Designer(s)Brian Reynolds
Douglas Kaufman
Jeff Briggs
Programmer(s)Brian Reynolds
Jason S. Coleman
Chris Taormino
Artist(s)Michael O. Haire
Writer(s)Dave Ellis
Composer(s)Jeff Briggs
Roland J. Rizzo
Kevin Manthei (Fantastic Worlds)
Mac OS
Mac OS
  • NA: January 1999
  • EU: 1999
Genre(s)Turn-based strategy
Mode(s)Single player, multiplayer

Sid Meier's Civilization II is a turn-based strategy video game in the Civilization series, developed and published by MicroProse. It was released in 1996 for PCs and later ported to the PlayStation by Activision.

Civilization II was a commercial hit, with sales around 3 million units by 2001, and has won numerous awards and placements on "best games of all time" lists.


The main game screen in Civilization II

Civilization II is similar to the first Civilization, with some changes to the various units, civilizations, world wonders, tile "specials" and technologies. The graphics were changed from a top-down view to an isometric representation.[1] Rivers no longer occupy the whole of each tile along their length; instead, they are part of each topography square through which they flow, adding productive value, defensive bonuses and movement ability. The AI was improved as well, including the elimination of most random events by now making the computer player go through the same production requirements as the human player.

The game features entirely new concepts, such as firepower and hit points, and changes to some units' abilities and strengths. For instance, engineers and settlers can be automated to improve surrounding areas, but do not ignore enemy zones of control. Damaged units can now retreat to cities, where their hit points are restored.[1] Some new units are added such as stealth aircraft.

The player has the ability to consult the 'High Council' for advice (as long as the player still has the CD in the drive). The council consists of film clips of actors portraying advisors in the areas of the military (a brawny man, often drunk, angry or both; he becomes a stereotypical American general when Modern Age is reached), economics (a smooth-talking merchant, later a snooty and suave businessman), diplomacy (in the Modern Age, a saucy femme fatale with a vaguely Eastern European accent), technological progress (a nerdy scientist), and the people's happiness (an Elvis Presley caricature, wearing sunglasses even in the Ancient period). They often argue with and insult one another, as each advisor's department demands a different set of priorities.

The counselors' costumes change with each new era. In many ways, the 'High Council' constitutes a bit of comic relief, especially from the expansionist military adviser, who will insist on more troops even when the player has 60 battleships, or during the Medieval Period will sing the last refrain from the 18th Century English traditional song "Down Among the Dead Men", punctuated with a hearty "No complaints, sire!". When the player is experiencing anarchy, the characters begin talking and shouting unintelligibly at the same time, interrupting each other, and finally beginning to fight, with all counselor windows shutting down and turning into the "Ⓐ" symbol of Anarchy.

There are two paths to victory (and bonus points to the score) in this game: to be the last civilization remaining or to build a spaceship and reach Alpha Centauri before any of the other civilizations. The space race can be much more difficult because there are a limited number of turns in the game, which ends in the year 2020. If the spaceship does not reach Alpha Centauri by then, the game will simply end with the current score. The player can continue playing after all civilizations have been conquered, the spaceship has reached its destination, or the year 2020, but there will no longer be any scoring. The sooner a player conquers every other civilization, or the space ship arrives, the higher the player's score will be. This allows a player to play the game endlessly.[2]

The scoring system measures the player's performance in the end of each game. Population is a major influence on scoring as each happy citizen contributes two points, each content citizen contributes one point, and each unhappy citizen contributes zero points. This means that higher population yields better scores. Additionally, each wonder of the world owned by the player will also add 20 points to their score. Each wonder of the world can only be built once per game. Each wonder adds different bonuses so the Player must choose carefully which one(s) they want to work on and try to build them before the computer opponents do. Each square with pollution deducts ten points.

The length of time there has been peace (no armed conflict or war) up to the end of the game also adds three points per turn, up to a maximum of 100 points, and if the player won using a spaceship, additional points are rewarded, based on the number of people who reached Alpha Centauri alive. The final score will also give a civilization percentage, based on the difficulty level the game was played at (chosen at the very beginning of the game). The higher this percentage is, the better. Finally, a title will be given to the player. Particularly good ones include "Lion-Hearted", "the Great" with the greatest obtainable title being "The Magnificent".


Civilization II was designed by Brian Reynolds, Douglas Caspian-Kaufman and Jeff Briggs.[3] Development was carried on in secret for years, with the game only being publicly announced when the team had reached the point of final tweaks and balancing.[1] The game's working title was Civilization 2000.[4] Asked about Sid Meier's involvement in the project, Reynolds replied, "We sat down and brainstormed about it and hashed out ideas, that's about it."[5]

Sid Meier commented, "Civilization greatly favored the military approach to achieving victory. We've now adjusted the balance to make trade and diplomacy a more integral part of the game."[1]

The sound effect used for the combat between two infantry units is sampled from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


The game was re-released on December 9, 1998[6] as Civilization II: Multiplayer Gold Edition, which bundled both prior expansion packs and added options for networked and hotseat play, and features tweaked AI. All of the music tracks that were in the original release of Civilization II had been removed, however – only some of the "new" ones remained. The tweaked AI is also perpetually unfriendly, rendering most diplomatic functions useless.[citation needed] The Multiplayer Gold Edition was included in the Civilization Chronicles box set released in 2006.

Expansion sets[edit]

There were two expansion packs that slowly added more features to the game. The first, Conflicts in Civilization, included 20 new scenarios: 12 created by the makers of the game,[7] and eight "Best of the Net" by fans. It also added an enhanced macro language for scenario scripting with advanced programming features such as variable typing and network features, which was considered widely unnecessary. Due to a programming bug, the Encarta-style Civilopedia was disabled from the game.

The second expansion was Civ II: Fantastic Worlds (a legal dispute arising from Sid Meier's departure prevented the use of the full word "Civilization", European version used the full word). It also added new scenarios that had many unique settings such as one scenario dealing with colonization of Mars, and one scenario called Midgard that had Elven, Goblin, Merman, and other civilizations from fantasy. There are also some scenarios based on other MicroProse games such as X-COM, Master of Orion and Master of Magic "Jr." scenarios. Fantastic Worlds also contains a new scenario editor that allowed users to edit the statistics and icons used for units, city improvements, terrain, and technologies, as well as creating event triggers and other enhancements to the game.


A remake called Civilization II: Test of Time was released in 1999, following Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. Test of Time has a new palette and user interface, and new features such as animated units, a playable Alpha Centauri to settle, and new campaign modes.



Civilization II placed second on PC Data's monthly computer game sales chart for April 1996.[8] The game secured position 3 for the next four months,[9][10] before dropping to #5 in September.[11] It exited PC Data's top 10 in December, after remaining there for an additional two months.[12][13][14] In the United States, Civilization II was the third-best-selling computer game of the first six months of 1996,[15] and the fifth-highest seller of the year as a whole.[16] Worldwide, its sales surpassed 400,000 copies by August, reached 500,000 in September and topped 600,000 by November.[17][18][19] In the United States alone, it sold 482,522 units and earned $21.1 million by the end of 1996.[20]

By mid-January 1997, global sales of Civilization II had surpassed 720,000 copies.[21] It finished 20th on PC Data's monthly chart for March,[22] and was the United States' 17th-highest-selling computer game of the year's first half.[23] The game had topped its predecessor's 850,000 sales that August,[24] and continued to sell "over 20,000 units a month" by November, according to Microprose.[25] Civilization II reached 1.2 million units sold by April 1998; Terry Coleman of Computer Gaming World wrote that sales were "still going strong" at that time.[26] In the United Kingdom alone, the game sold 160,000 units by 1999.[27] It also received a "Gold" award from the Verband der Unterhaltungssoftware Deutschland (VUD) in August 1998,[28] for sales of at least 100,000 units across Germany, Austria and Switzerland.[29] Civilization II Gold alone sold 171,495 copies in the United States by September 2000, according to PC Data.[30]

In August 2001, Jeff Briggs of Firaxis estimated that Civilization II had sold "about 3 million" copies.[31]

Critical reviews[edit]

On release, a reviewer for Next Generation ventured that Civilization II "may be one of the most balanced and playable games ever released." He especially praised the added depth of the combat, diplomatic relations, and trade over the original Civilization, which he said was one of the best games ever released for PC.[38] Computer Gaming World gave it the Strategy Game of the Year award,[44] and PC Gamer US named it the overall game of the year, calling it and its predecessor "perhaps the finest strategy games ever made."[45] Civilization II was nominated as Computer Games Strategy Plus's 1996 game of the year, although it lost to Tomb Raider. However, it won the magazine's award for the best turn-based strategy game of the year.[46] It also won a Spotlight Award for Best PC/Mac Game.[47] Macworld's Michael Gowan wrote, "Hard-core strategists will enjoy this game's complexity."[40]

Next Generation reviewed the PlayStation version of the game, rating it five stars out of five, and stated that "Overall, Civ II remains one of strategy gaming's finest hours and is a welcome addition on PlayStation. For those who are willing, it's a game of limitless possibilities."[39]

In 2007, Civilization II was ranked as third in IGN's list of the 100 greatest video games of all time,[48] having previously rated it at number 15 in 2003.[49] In 2012, G4tv ranked it as the 62nd top video game of all time.[50] Polish web portal Wirtualna Polska ranked it as the most addictive game "that stole our childhood".[51] The journal article Theoretical Frameworks for Analysing Turn-Based Computer Strategy Games deemed it "significant and influential".[52] In Ted Friedman's essay "Civilization and its Discontents: Simulation, Subjectivity, and Space" from the collection Discovering Discs: Transforming Space and Genre on CD-ROM, he argues that the game "simultaneously denies and de-personalizes the violence in the history of ‘exploration, colonization, and development".[53] Computer Shopper deemed it a "worthy successor" to Civilization,[54] and "arguably the finest multiplayer game ever created".[55] In anticipation to the launch of Civilization III, New Strait Times described Civilization II as "the best turn-based empire- building strategy game".[56] Baltimore Afro-American was "obsessed with the game".[57] Tribune Business News deemed it an "old favorite".[58] The game was the fourth bestseller in October 1996 and the 3rd bestseller in December 1997.[59][60] PC Games argued that the game "cemented the franchise’s place in videogame history."[61]

In 1998, PC Gamer declared it the 2nd-best computer game ever released, and the editors called it "intelligent, engrossing and entertaining beyond compare, it's one of the finest artistic achievements of the last decade".[62]


In 2006, an N-Gage version of Civilization was released. It's based on Civilization II and III.[63]

In 2011, researchers at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and University College London presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics which demonstrated the ability to improve the ability of a machine-learning system to win at Civilization II by using the text from its official game manual to guide the development of a game-playing strategy.[64][65]

A study found that "a linguistically-informed game-playing agent significantly outperforms its language-unaware counterpart, yielding a 27% absolute improvement and winning over 78% of games when playing against the builtin AI".[66] Another study found that "non-linear Monte-Carlo search wins 80% of games against the handcrafted, built-in AI".[67]

In June 2012, a Reddit user named Lycerius posted details of his decade-long Civilization II game,[68] since dubbed "The Eternal War". This garnered a great deal of interest from users of the site and the story quickly went viral, spreading across the web to many well known blogs and news sites. The game, which had been played since 2002, closely mimicked the regime found in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, with three superpowers all engaged in perpetual multiple-front total warfare.[69][70]


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External links[edit]