I’ve played Civ games for years, getting my start – ironically – on the SNES’s Civilization. Not a great launching pad I’ll admit but I enjoyed it enough to pursue further games in the series. I’ve played Civ II, III, IV (and it’s expansions) and now Civ V. How does it stack up with it’s own history? Let’s break it down piece by piece.
Visually, I tweeted before the game’s launch that I wasn’t impressed. I was and still am a firm hater of Civilization III’s art style. It was dry, bland and unimaginative. Now that I’ve spent a few days with it, I can say Civ V more resembles a highly polished version of Civ IV’s style, which I quite liked. The units aren’t cartoonish anymore but they still have character. The leader art is light-years ahead of any previous title. Seeing the whole leader in their ‘native’ environment worried me (there were so many ways to go wrong with it) but Firaxis pulled it off. It allows for much more detail and personality to the leaders your dealing with. Seeing Bismarck’s scowl, Wu Zetan’s icy demeanor, or Montezuma’s wild gyrations gives them life. You really have to see the game in action to appreciate it all. Even small details, like the world being covered in clouds prior to exploration are well done and are things that you don’t think about until someone implements them, at which point you think, “oh, that was a good idea… why didn’t anyone else do that?”
As far as the actual gameplay goes, I weep no tears for the fall of the Stack of Doom. I never liked the moving of huge stacks of units, primarily because I could never work it into my play style. All it usually took was one and I was a goner. In short, I hated going to war. In Civ V, war is actually enjoyable due to the use of placement strategy. Maneuvering artillery or archers onto a hill, using rivers and forests as defense, and bombarding targets from range are all things you take into account to win wars. Bombarding in particular is extremely useful for protecting cities as well as lowering their defenses. Cities have their own hit points that must be drained before you can capture it. They can also shoot back, so no city is truly defenseless.
As you may have heard, there are now city states in the game, small single-city nations that can’t win the game, but drive the action forward. Befriending a militaristic one can have them tribute you units for example, which actually won an early game war for me once. I was just about a warrior short to take a civ’s capital when a nearby, bordering city state gave me a spearman. It was game, set, match at the point. If you ally with them, they’ll help you in times of war, and they’ll vote for you in the end-game United Nations diplomatic victory. Unfortunately, they are extremely fickle. It can be very hard to maintain good standing with them and the best way to keep them on your side is to donate gold, at least 250g at a time. With two city-states per civ, this can get expensive very quickly if you want most of them on your side in the end game. You can also conquer them, or you can protect them in times of war, earning their appreciation in the process. They can annoying, but they do make ‘things’ happen.
As far as flaws go, unfortunately there are quite a few. The game runs like a dog late in games on a low-end systems. My main computer has 2.5 GHz dual core, an 8800 GT and 4 GB DDR2 RAM, and I have to run it in DirectX 9 mode (it can be played in DirectX10/11 mode, but then I get slide shows, and that’s not fun). The game constantly asks you to check and confirm ESRB agreements, both to log in and to access the mod section. The AI’s also not too bright. In a recent game, Germany asked me to help them destroy England, so I agreed. I was just overrunning two nearby English cities when Bismarck canceled our cooperation agreement, siting my ‘warmongering’ tendencies – despite having coerced me into the war to start with, a war he was also fighting in. Dumbass. You can also ask for a research agreement, be turned down, and then offered the same the next turn.
Still, even with those flaws I think that Civilization V is a great game, and probably my favorite of the Civ series. It plays better then any previous game, with improvements I wouldn’t want live without, and looks fantastic. If y
ou ever thought about trying a Civ game out, but wasn’t sure if it was for you, this is the game to get. It’s the most immersive, user-friendly, and – dare I say – fun Civ game yet. A must buy. Alphasim out.