Hail, Sid of Firaxis!
The first thing that hard-core Sid fans will notice is the heavily updated graphics since the game's predecessors. To begin with 1024x768 is now the reqired resolution. In addition, the graphics have undergone a major improvement since previous editions in appearance and color-depth, and have even gone as far as to include OpenGL support for some rendering (no, there are no 3D unit models yet...)
Perhaps the most important improvement to the game, though, is the inclusion of much of the interface functionality and easy usability from Alpha Centauri. While not entirely gone, you'll almost never find the need for a context menu on a unit or city. Most of the interface is condensed into a simple button-based functionality at the bottom of the overlay; an interface which should make any Alpha Centauri fan feel right at home without even having to crack open the two-hundred page manual.
One of the more touted features of the game, unlike with many games, actually does play one of the most interesting parts in the Civ3 experience. If you're looking at the screen shots and wondering why on earth the game has such high system requirements, I can assure you the answer, for once, is not unoptimized code. Civilization III features one of the most advanced AI systems I've seen in a strategy game to date. Politics, diplomatic and trade negotiations, and overall city building, unit production, and military direction of the enemy players, even in the simplist skill level, is simply frightening. Civilizations all begin with dispositions based on their real-world attributes, and tend to follow through the game in a suitable manner to those attributes.
The tech tree and advisor system has been massively rennovated as well. Without getting bogged down into too much detail, the new graphs, tables, grids, and charts on the advisor system are far more informative than the previous systems made the game. The expanded tech tree through all four ages of the game makes for a far more interesting game to proceed with a scientiffic civilization as well.
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