Nostalgia Lane: Colonization

When I first went to college in 1994 (egads that seems like forever ago now!), the administration tried something different with our freshman class: we all got laptops on the first day.  Now, they weren’t free — I think we ended up paying $2400 apiece over four years for these buggers — but the concept of a whole campus that was computer-enabled was huge at the time.  A year later, and the college got wired for the internet (although we never got this in our dorms, alas).

As crappy as those little laptops were compared to today’s standards, we loved those machines.  You could lug them around to do your homework anywhere instead of your dorm room, bring them to class to take notes or (heh) play games, and generally feel like you were taking the first step into a much more technological age.

Because we all had the same computers, game sharing became prolific and popular.  My friends were constantly engrossed in computer games instead of console titles, and we thrilled to some of the classics of the mid-90s: X-Com, Master of Magic, Jedi Knight, Command and Conquer, and Colonization.

Egads, how I did love Colonization.  I’ve always been an on-again, off-again fan of the Civilization series, but those games usually lose their luster fairly quickly.  I think it’s because I never liked the veeeery slow ramp up through the ages and technology that suddenly went exponentially fast at the end game.  Colonization felt better, because you were put in one era and left there — the three-hundred-or-so year span from 1492 to 1792 in the New World.

Your mission was pretty simple: Build up an empire of colonies for your mother nation, and when you felt ready enough, to declare independence and fight to win it.  The bulk of the game was in expanding your territory, engaging in buying and trading goods, and edging out the competition.  There could and often were conflicts between the colonies and the natives, which had to be resolved either by diplomacy or force.

There was a lot more emphasis on creating goods and trade routes than in the Civilization series, and I always got a thrill in exploiting a new avenue for profit.  But more than anything else, the game was a fertile ground for an inner story.  I mean, sure, there’s a loose overarching one of a colony looking to become independent, but as with a lot of these types of games, the bulk of the real story grew in my head as the game unfolded.  I’d imagine all sorts of vendettas and epic struggles that were played out on screen, and it wasn’t uncommon for me or my roommate to be up way past midnight to see what happened next.

While they did come out with a Civilization 4 variant of Colonization, I never tried it.  I don’t think it could come close to the fun I had with the original, really.  Even today, the graphics and basic gameplay are still pretty solid, and I’d love to see an iPhone port.

7 thoughts on “Nostalgia Lane: Colonization

  1. Starayo January 24, 2011 / 9:05 am

    I’m a big fan of colonization too. Played it as a kid, my dad had it.

    I did buy the civ IV one when it was on sale on steam, and I felt it was absolutely true to the original. Same music, same gameplay, but pretty graphics.

  2. Klepsacovic January 24, 2011 / 9:48 am

    I’ve not played the original, but your description of the original sounds a lot like the remake. It was quite a shock for me that suddenly trade was a major factor. I had a lot of poor starving people… Not at all like civ 3 where starvation was an intentional tool to remove foreigners while leaving the infrastructure intact.

  3. Jomu January 24, 2011 / 10:48 am

    oh man, i remember colonization too; SUCH a great game 😀
    X-Com (Terror from the Deep) was amazing (if not a bit hard) as well! 😀

  4. Pid January 24, 2011 / 3:09 pm

    As mentioned, the Civ IV version is a spot on remake of the original only with a better interface and graphics. A cathedral full of Firebrand Preachers and a couple Expert Tobacconists and all is well!

  5. 32ndlaw January 24, 2011 / 11:34 pm

    Those early civ games had such great charm to them. I really loved Civilization and the first two sequels! The fourth was good but didn’t have the same vibe. Ahhh Nostalgia.

  6. ZombiePirate January 25, 2011 / 4:06 am

    Never touched Colonisation but Civ 2 was the first game I ever stayed up past midnight to play. I couldn’t put that game down it was awesome. I think a lot of the charm and experimentation of the 90’s has been lost now. We have very static genres with the same kind of games over and over. THings like our Magic Carpets and Dungeon Keepers are gone (I know they were both Bullfrog titles) and I think that’s sad.

  7. hoipolloi11 January 25, 2011 / 7:00 pm

    This was pretty much my first strategy computer game, aside from Lords of the Realm 2. I used to play a Shareware version of Colonization with one of my friends back in middle school. Before this I never knew what a dragoon was.

    We never got to the revolution stage, though. Sad.

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