Originally Published: Friday, 7 April 2000 Author: Brian Satterfield
Published to: enhance_articles_games/General Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

FreeCiv Review

You are the Pharoah Ramesses...you look out on the land and survey all that you rule. Your people are happy, willing subjects. Pyramids are being built in your honor. You control the flow of technology and economics. Where will you build your next great city? Will Egypt be known for it's military? It's technology?

You control what history will remember...

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Written by: Brian Satterfield
Edited by: Terry Warner


FreeCiv is a simulation game based on the same general concept as Civilization II. The current version is 1.10.0 (released February 21, 2000) and what a version! FreeCiv supports single and multi-player games, well done graphics and a complex rule set.

The system requirements are pretty basic and a good description can be found here http://www.freeciv.org/reqs.html

The system used for this article:

Dual Celerons @500MHz 512MB RAM RIVA TNT2 Sound Blaster 32


I always try to use source instead of RPM's or binaries and the install was easy with a simple 'configure;make;make install'.

The hardest thing I found was getting the game up and running. There is ample documentation but there is not one document to answer all your questions or to get you up and running quickly. The included README has instructions on how to start the client and server but the game is very complex and not very intuitive. You ARE running a country you know :)

The most helpful document I found was on their website (where there are about 5 different FAQ's, manuals and tutorials) Here's the one I used most http://www.freeciv.org/manual/client.html

The biggest problem (and an understandable one) is that the documents are a bit outdated from the current version and don't quite synch up with what you see as you play. Much of the interface has changed since the documentation was written and you have to feel your way through a game or two before things start to make sense.

But trust me...it's worth it.

The game

I've never played Civilization II or any other simulation game of this calibre. The closest thing I've played was a text-only game called Hamurabi way back in the Apple IIc days. It was fun but nothing close to this...

Much like other games with multi-player support, you need to start a dedicated server and then connect to it by starting a client. FreeCiv starts you out with a small patch of land on an island. You can see nothing of the island until you explore it. At your command are two bands of settlers and an explorer.

The first thing to do is to settle and build a city. But wait! You don't want to settle for just anywhere :) Explore around a bit and try to find a good spot to place your city. A big part of the game relies upon where you place your cities and how well supplied they are based on the surrounding land and natural resources (water, timber, fish, game, wheat, etc.) This is an important lesson to learn and one I didn't get right the first time.

As gameplay progresses, you'll place your cities, have your population grow, build wonders, armies, reap the land and generally just try to survive. The difficult part is keeping a well balanced kingdom. You must choose what your subjects will focus on developing (cities, military, science, etc) If you make the wrong choice (like I did once) you'll get run over by a group of barbarians because your scientists can't fight and you have no armies :) Your subjects may revolt if you treat them badly too (although sometimes it's hard to tell what you did to anger them).

The game is pretty complex and there are tons of playing hours you could spend on FreeCiv. At startup there are 44 different civilizations you can develop (Egyptians, Americans, French, etc.) and each time you start a new game FreeCiv generates a new map/island for you to inhabit. Each new island has different resources and landscape which makes each game unique. Pretty sweet, huh?

FreeCiv supports single player by adding in AI players which develop other civilizations along side yours...but don't slack off because they're not humans! I played this game a few times from beginning to end and never won. :( But then it wouldn't be much of a game if a newbie could dominate the world within a few hours would it?

My first game was pretty good considering how new I was to the game. I developed cities and grew, had some money problems for a bit because I developed too many wonders that I couldn't pay for (i also don't know how to tax my people yet) and endured until the end of the game when the year 2000 was reached. The problem was that I still had catapults and horse riders :) But I did have the happiest civilization around...ahhhh the good old days.

The second game started off great...I was ruling the Incas...there was wealth in abundance, resources all over the damn place, my cities were churning out products like crazy and I was off exploring the land when I encountered a group of barbarians! No problem...just build some walls around the city for protection...a few legions to defend them. But guess what...I didn't have enough people in my cities yet to build all this stuff...doh. Pillage and rape aren't fun. My cities were conquered and I was all but destroyed in about 10 turns. I had one good city left that was far away and safe from the barbarians for the moment. The city flourished and I commanded them to develop an army of legions with which I could attack and reclaim my cities.

This part was actually pretty fun...it reminded me of Risk(tm) in that each time you encountered a band of barbarians the computer would 'roll the dice' to see which of you won and moved on. Sadly, the legions didn't help. Hey...it was my first battle. The game pretty much ended when my one good city started to revolt. (not too sure why this happened) Problem is, when a city revolts they don't produce anything until you make them happy again...so no more legions...and the barbarians pretty much walked in and took over. :(

Ah well, the Incas weren't meant to survive anyway. Maybe that's where the ruins come from...never know.

This was great fun...I found myself rushing back to the game after I was rudely interrupted by the pizza delivery guy (like a Pharoah has time for pizza...sheesh). Oh...and trust me I'll be playing more once this review is done...just go get it and let me get back to FreeCiv.

"What are we doing tonight Brain?"

"The same thing we do every night Pinky...playing FreeCiv!"

(apologies to Steven Spielberg for the bad joke :)


Well, not much to say here. Assuming you like having power and ruling a country (who doesn't), the game is awesome. It ran smooth, was interesting, fun, well written. Yeah, it has some improvements to make but it's free for god's sake and was developed in the GNU style of free code and through the help of contributors...not in a software development house like other games.

The biggest places for improvement are:

- Better graphics (the developers acknowledge this on their site)

It would be nice to have the Egyptians using Pyramids and Sphinxes and such instead of having the same icons for each civilization. (covered wagons start to get a bit old)

- Better documentation

Just about every game needs this...and this one just needs to put it all in one up-to-date document.

- Better screen navigation

The current screen takes a bit to get used to...and can sometimes bork out on you and not let you see your island. Just play with it for a bit and it'll come back to center though.

- Tutorial

The online stuff is great but it would be nice if the game walked you through a small level and showed you what each piece was when it appeared. This would also force the authors to keep it more current with the game.


Single Player 5 penguins Multi-player didn't get to try it AI 5 penguins Graphics 3 penguins Maturity 5 penguins Fun 5 penguins ----------------------- Overall 5 penguins

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