Since my Steam library has, for some inexplicable reason, broken down Civilization IV into four separate titles, I've decided to break from my usual "Initial Thoughts" format to talk about all four of them at once. Civilizaton IV with the Beyond the Sword expansion pack is probably my second most played entry in the Civilization series (third if you count Alpha Centauri), and even then only because for the longest time Civilization II was the only version my computer would run. It's hard to say, exactly, because I haven't previously had a utility that will track my playtime.
However, buying Civ4 for Steam was not purely a vanity on my part. I wound up buying the whole series in a bundle a couple of months after I got my new computer. I had not yet installed it from the disc, and when I saw that Warlords required the Steam version of the base game, I figured that I had one of two options - track down a disc version of Warlords and go through the whole rigamarole of installing the base game, and the expansions, and the patches, or just wait until the whole bundle went on sale for a ridiculous discount in the hopes that it would cost less than buying a disc version of the single expansion I wanted separately. It turns out my intuition about the second path was correct. The bundle cost me about 7.50, and a disc version of Warlords is currently going for about 12 bucks on Amazon. That I also got Colonization (a game I'd never even heard of) in the mix is just a bonus.
Why go through so much trouble, though? What's so special about Civilization IV? Keep in mind, I want no part of any internet civil war among the civilization fandom about whether Civ5 was a step forward or backward for the series - I actually love that game a lot as well, for reasons I'll get into when the time comes. I'll simply say that there is a mental tendency when it comes to 4X games to treat them less like "games" where you manipulate pieces around a board with the intent of winning, and more like a miniature reality, a virtual garden you carefully tend to in order to achieve the most aesthetically pleasing outcome. And when it comes to that latter goal, there's no main line Civilization, and few other 4X games, period, which do a better job at bringing the world to life. That's probably why Beyond the Sword got so many incredible mods.
So I wound up getting the Steam bundle because I've long been curious about what I've been missing out on for years and years. I was surprised (and more than a little confused) to see the bundle listed as four separate games. This isn't a problem for me, personally. Eighty hours of Civilization IV? What is that? It's nothing. If I didn't have to go to work or talk to my wife, I could do that in four, four-and-a-half days, tops. However I do worry that it might be a little dull blog-wise, so my plan is this:
Play 20 hours of regular Civilization IV
Play another game entirely
Play 20 hours of the Warlords expansion (because it's the whole reason these games are on my list at all)
Play another game
Play 20 hours of Beyond the Sword mods (because seriously, some of these are incredible)
Play another game
Play 20 hours Colonization (because I have no idea what this is, and I'm kind of curious)
I expect it'll go pretty smooth. I'm not quite as good at Civ4 as I am at Civ5, but I'm completely familiar with its ins and outs, so this is really like coming home for me. I look forward to the gaming equivalent of comfort food.