From a technical and mechanical standpoint, I think that Civilization IV is probably the greatest thing Firaxis has ever done. In fact, from a technical and mechanical standpoint, I think that Civilization IV is probably the greatest strategy video game of all time. As soon as you load up the game and Baba Yetu (by the peerless Christopher Tin) kicks in, you know you’re in for an experience, and that is what Civ IV gives you.
Taking what prior Civilization games did and refining them down to one shined and polished experience, this is the 4X game that other 4X games have yet to beat. By offering a plethora of options and victory conditions for every playstyle, perhaps what really sets Civ IV apart is the fact that it appeals equally to both oldschool Civ players and newcomers to the series or genre. With the expansions, especially, Civ IV is just unparalleled when it comes to options and depth of gameplay.
You may have noted that I haven’t quite said that this is my favorite 4X game. That’s because that title goes to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, which also holds the title of Pike’s Favorite Game of All Time. But as much as I love, love SMAC and think it’s a classic, the UI is a little rough and it lacks the polish and finesse of Civ IV. So don’t be intimidated. Jump on into Civ IV and experience alternate history the way it’s meant to be experienced – with the Mayans hurling nukes around, of course.