Civilization II is similar to the first Civilization, with some changes to the various components, civilizations, world wonders, tile “specials” and technologies. The images were changed from a top down perspective to an isometric representation. Rivers no longer occupy the whole of each tile along their length; instead, they’re part of each topography square whereby they flow, adding productive value, defensive bonuses and motion ability. The AI was enhanced as well, including the elimination of most random occasions by now making the computer player go through precisely the same creation conditions as the human player.
The game features entirely new theories, including firepower and hit points, and changes to some units’ abilities and strengths. For instance, engineers and settlers can be automated to enhance surrounding places, but no longer ignore enemy zones of control. Some new units are added such as stealth aircraft.
The player has the power to consult the ‘High Council’ for guidance (as long as the player still has the CD in the drive). The council consists of film clips of performers portraying counselors in the areas of the military (a brawny man, frequently drunk, furious or both; he becomes a stereotypical American general when Modern Age is reached), economics (a smooth-speaking merchant, after a snooty and suave businessman), diplomacy (in the Modern Age, a saucy femme fatale with a vaguely Eastern European accent), technological progress (a nerdy scientist), and the people’s happiness (an Elvis Presley caricature, wearing shades even in the Ancient span). They commonly assert with and insult one another, as each advisor’s department demands a distinct set of priorities. The counselors’ costumes change with each new era. In many ways, the ‘High Council’ makes up a little comic relief, especially from the expansionist military adviser, who will insist on more troops even when the player has 60 battleships, or during the Medieval Period will sing the last refrain from the 18th Century English traditional tune “Down Among the Dead Men”, punctuated with a warm “No criticisms, sire!”. When the player is experiencing anarchy, the characters begin discussing and shouting unintelligibly at exactly the same time, interrupting each other, and finally beginning to fight, with all counselor windows shutting down and turning into the “?” symbol of Anarchy.
There are two paths to victory (and bonus points to the score) in this match: to be the last civilization remaining or to build a spaceship and reach Alpha Centauri before any of the other cultures. The space race can be much more difficult because there are a limited number of turns in the match, which ends in the year 2020. If the spaceship does not reach Alpha Centauri by then, the match will only finish with the current score. The player can continue playing after all civilizations have been beaten, the spaceship has reached its destination, or the year 2020, but there will no longer be any scoring. The sooner a player conquers every other civilization, or the space ship arrives, the higher the player’s score will be. This enables a player to always play the game endlessly.
The scoring system quantifies the player’s performance in the end of each game. Population is an important effect on scoring as each joyful citizen brings two points, each content citizen gives one point, and each sad citizen contributes zero points. This implies that higher population gives better scores. Players may raise the extravagance speed to the maximum (depending upon their government type) right before the very ending of the game so as to increase happiness, maximizing their scores. Also, each wonder of the world possessed by the player will also add 20 points to their score. Each square with pollution deducts ten points. The amount of time there’s been peace (no armed battle or war) up to the ending of the game also adds three points per move, up to a maximum of 100 points, and if the player won using a spaceship, additional points are rewarded, based on the number of those who reached Alpha Centauri living. The ultimate score will also give a civilization percentage, based on the issue level the game was played at (picked at the very start of the game). The higher this percentage is, the better. Finally, a title will be given to the player. Especially good ones include “Lion Hearted”, “the Great” with the greatest obtainable title being “The Magnificent”.
There were two expansion packs that slowly added more features to the game. The first, Battles in Civilization, included 20 new scenarios: 12 created by the makers of the game, and eight “Best of the Net” by fans. Additionally, it added an increased macro language for scenario scripting with sophisticated programming features such as variable typing and network characteristics, which was considered broadly unnecessary. Due to a programming bug, the Encarta-style Civilopedia was disabled from the game.
The second expansion was Civ II: Fantastic Worlds (a legal dispute originating from Sid Meier’s departure prevented the use of the full word “Civilization”). It also added new scenarios that had many exceptional settings such as one scenario coping with colonization of Mars, and one scenario called Midgard that had Elven, Goblin, Merman, and other cultures from fantasy. In addition, there are some scenarios based on other MicroProse games like XCOM, Master of Orion and Master of Magic “Jr.” scenarios. Fantastic Worlds also features a new scenario editor that let various units, city improvements, terrain, technology trees, setting triggers, and other add-ons that enhanced the game.