The newest entry in the Civilization franchise is out. The new UI is great, nice use of 3d and lots of info packed on the main screen. Gameplay is improved but familiar, with one major addition: religion.

Religion is a fun twist on the culture system. Cities occasionally found new religions. Religions spread to other cities along trade routes. You can hurry the process along by sending out missionaries. Cities get bonuses for being part of your state religion; you also collect tithes. And religion affects your diplomacy with other civs.

I can't think of another mainstream game that's significantly touched the topic of religion. There's no Sims Church, is there? The developers were quite cautious, including this charming disclaimer in the manual:

We know that people have extremely strong opinions about religions ... We at Firaxis have no desire to offend anyone. However, given the importance that religions have had in human development, we didn't want to just leave them out of the game altogether; instead we have tried to handle them in as respectful, fair and even-handed manner as possible. (All religions in the game have the same effects, the only difference being their technological requirements.) ...

We offer no value judgements on religion; we mean no disrespect to anyone's beliefs. We're game designers, not theologians.

It is true that all religions are equal in-game, in the sense that each one gives you the same bonuses. But the game is by no means free of value judgements. Having religion is better than having no religion. Religion always aids science and income. Multiple religions get along fine; you'll never have a Belfast or Jerusalem. You're rewarded for stuffing as many religions as you can into each happy pantheistic city. That's gotta piss off the true believers.

The religion implementation is fun, a nice complement to fighting army men and growing culture blobs. And the implementation is as realistic and tasteful as the rest of Civilization's concepts. I just find it striking how gingerly they're moving. Maybe in a few years religion in games will mature and Rockstar will offend everyone with "Crusades: Fist of Righteousness".

  2005-11-30 17:18 Z