The strategy game series of civilization has been around since I was a kid and their most recent addition Civ 5 has a lot of pressure to live up to its earlier predecessors. For those of you who are not aware of what civilization is about it’s fairly easy to understand. The game is about building your empire the way you want to starting from the dawn of mankind. You can build an empire of peace and love, or like the rest of us an empire of death and destruction. The choice is yours, but is it really a choice?
Civilization V is a turn based game and one of the only successful ones out there. It can be fairly annoying having to wait for the other computers to calculate their turns and make their moves while you wait for your turn to begin. One of the biggest problems is that when a player has explored most of the map the turns take longer because you will see each empire move each unit and this takes an extraordinary amount of time particularly when there is a war and many units are required to move. This really does affect the type of gamers that would be interested in Civ V because most of them have the attention span of a squirrel, but I do think that players who have a drive to build something that is their own creation will enjoy the almost endless possibilities offered. This also hurts the multiplayer population because of the amount of time it can take for someone to finish their turns, which is why I feel like Civ V is a single player game so I will focus on those aspects for this review.
Civ V offers many different empires that a player can start as and that it really does feel like the options are unlimited. The downside is that when you really look at the special abilities and units of each empire there are only a handful of actually useful empires to play as. This isn’t to say that the others are pointless, but most of them are for a niche game type. For example I will play with the “raging barbarians” option on and “archipelago” type of map as the Ottoman Empire because they have a 50% chance to convert barbarian ships to their side. I will then camp the barbarian outposts on the water and take as many boats as I can, but in a normal game mode this isn’t a viable option. I think having more options in a game is needed to truly develop the game but that also means that some of the options available will be rather pointless for most situations. With so many options available the replay value of Civ V is much higher than most other games.
The gameplay itself is actually pretty fun to get into as you start with nothing and work your way up the ages from sticks to gunpowder and onto tanks. The game really pushes the player to expand and make decisions early on that will affect the outcome of the game. Players can setup their towns and cities as production, food, gold, science, or culture focused, which are important decisions to make early on so that you convert the land properly. Generally speaking setting up cities with one focus is highly recommended even though the game never really mentions this fact, and I had to learn the hard way.
As with most Civilization games diplomacy is very important when starting off. When dealing with other empires players are able to get some influence and money fairly easy which pays off in the long term; Though sometimes other empires can get touchy when you build near them or because you did something to someone at some point. Usually the various empires are nice to players in the beginning as long as the difficult isn’t maxed out. While city-states do exist in the game they are rather pointless as they only seem to take up space on the map because they rarely send troops into fight and don’t really change anything about the gameplay. They do however like to declare war and frenemy status on players for no good reason.
No matter which leader you choose the building options for the cities are almost all the same which makes playing different leaders easier to learn. This does mean that there is not much diversity within the cities themselves but diversity of a city can be easily achieved depending on the terrain that the city is placed on. With a randomly generated map there are limitless locations for a new city and the resources available vary from location to location which is also important when declaring a focus for the city. For example setting up a gold focused city in the mountains would not be as efficient as a production city in the mountains would be.
I usually play games on their hardest difficulty, but when it comes to Civ V I had to tone it down a notch and instead chose the second most difficult level (Immortal). The problem with their difficulty system is that the computer is simply more effective at gathering resources and building up because everything is precisely calculated, and while I am sure players too could mimic and go head to head with the computer for the average gamer it isn’t an option. If I can be honest I tried the max difficulty at first and ended up getting stomped by twenty or so enemy troops less than 50 turns in. I would recommend newer players to Civilization start at the standard level of difficulty to get a feel for the game before diving head first.
When it comes to combat it’s not exactly breathtaking you just see some units run at other units on the map and then some numbers appear and that is about it. When trying to win a game generally the best way is to conquer other empires, there are other options but who really wants to win by culture or science? I do think it is great for a game to have more than one way to win because it requires the game to have more depth and that is almost always a good thing, but I do wish the actual combat was worth watching.
Overall Civilization V is a great strategy game that does justice to the previous versions, but could still use some much needed improvement. Turn based games are interesting but if Civilization was able to make it a quicker paced game then I think it would have a bigger audience and it would be more feasible for multiplayer. A main draw to Civ V is that players have options when starting and that there is no one way to win a game; Couple that with the ability to make a randomly generated map and the replay value on Civilization is extremely high. This game is definitely worth having around as long as you are able to dedicate sufficient playtime and don’t mind that the combat system isn’t the best around.