Games like Civilization are fantastic ways to see a society grow, thrive, and dominate other civilizations, but what about a twist on that idea: colonies? In a way it’s similar, but yet it’s different — instead of growing from humble beginnings, you must fend off your ruling country and fight for independence. Do you think you can do it? FreeCol is the game for you to find out.
FreeCol is a turn-based strategy game based off of the game Colonization, which revolves very much around America’s colonization and its fight for independence from the English throne. While gameplay has its similarities to Civilization (and the open source alternative FreeCiv), there are some major differences to the game mechanics. For example, you can trade with Europe and bring back colonists in addition to growing “organically” in population. There are also the ideas of attracting colonists with money and/or religious freedom, and choosing between becoming the Native Americans’ friend or foe. Befriending them can give you new skills and items, while attacking their villages can result in lots of valuables while adding to the tensions.
Before you get started with a game, you have to choose between single-player and multiplayer modes. If you pick single-player, you’ll also need to choose the difficulty before deciding which country’s colonists you play as. Each country has a specific advantage (trade, cooperation, immigration, etc.), so choose wisely.
You start the game in the year 1492, on a ship heading to America with just two colonists. From there, you must start building out and creating your colonies.
Trading with Europe is the best way to accelerate that growth as you’ll make a nice sum of money, receive plenty of goods, and welcome new colonists this way. Over time, you can build those colonies into a collection powerful enough to be self-sustainable, all while secretly raising armies which you can use to fight for independence (or you can use them to fend off Native Americans, I suppose).
In order to make the most out of trading with Europe, you can simply trade raw materials, or you can build industry which can turn the raw materials into goods which will make you more money. Industrialization will also help you later in the game because then you won’t have to depend on Europe for the goods you need to fight and keep living, but can instead be self-sufficient.
As your colonies progress, the home country will want to start making money off of you and start taxing you via various acts. When it happen repeatedly, outrage starts to erupt in your colonies as tax rates can become pretty high (especially because as colonists you don’t have a say in that sort of stuff anyways). At this point, you’ll fight your home country whenever you finally say that you’ve had enough. Your own strategy will definite whether you are to be victorious.
If you’ve played FreeCiv, you’ll notice that the graphics are pretty similar, and it offers the same concept of having resources in tiles. However, the graphics aren’t exactly the same, and the general user interface is very different. This is, of course, to take into account the different style of gameplay, including the different characters, industry, and more that you need to be able to use during the game.
FreeCol can easily be installed for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Windows and Mac OS X can just get the game from the project’s download page, while Linux users should be able to download and install the game from their respective package managers. If preferred, Linux users can still grab the necessary files from the project’s download page and install it manually. Systems of all three operating systems need to have a minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 and have a Java virtual machine installed on it as the code is written in Java.
FreeCol is a fun game that should be a hit for strategy fanatics and others who like to play games that last through longer stretches of time. After playing both FreeCiv and FreeCol, I think I’d still prefer FreeCiv, but this one offers a refreshing twist to the Civilization idea. FreeCol still has a long way to go in its development as it’s still far from “version 1.0” which is designated to be a near clone of the original Colonization.
Additionally, “version 2.0” is slated to be the community’s idea of what Colonization 2 would have been had it been created. Hopefully, with enough attention to the game, we’ll be able to see the fruits of those labors (well as some aesthetic improvements) in the future.
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What do you prefer, FreeCiv or FreeCol? While they’re far from the latest version of Civilization, are they an acceptable open source replacement? Let us know in the comments!