Civilization V Review

By Mary-Lynn McLachlan on October 7, 2011

In 1991 one of the most popular turn based strategy games ever made was released. To this day loyal followers to the original Civilization game are still playing the initial release, but are always anticipating the next expansion or instalment. Civilization players generally expect the series to adapt to better represent the history, world politics, and to add better more balanced game mechanics. It's just what's expected, and always delivered. With such a reliable series, how could Civilization V from Firaxis produce anything less but pure satisfaction? Perhaps it was the step forward in multiplayer mechanics which caused a ripple of disappointment throughout the single player experience.

There are many good changes abound in Civilization V such as the removal of "religion", the addition of city states and the hex combat system. City states are awesome, and add a new level of depth to both the single player and multiplayer experience. These are strictly "one city" civilizations that do not sprawl. They all have different characteristics or agendas, such as military focus, cultural focus and maritime, which affects only slightly the nature of your interaction with them. You may conquer and expand over their territory by taking the city, which you may then annex, turn into a puppet or raze. Annexing any city in the game takes several turns, and afterwards needs a courthouse constructed or else it will be plagued by rebels, while making a city into a puppet will cause it to automate its production and contribute to your own civilization. Razing a city also takes several turns, but sometimes is necessary depending on what type of victory you're trying to land, which we will get to later.

Players may ally their civilization to a city state by completing little tasks which are delivered through the city state message system. A city state may request that you destroy another city state they do not like, make a trade route for them, build a wonder, etc. Once you've completed whatever task they wanted, you will gain faction with the city state. You may also buy off your city state with gold and pledges. Once befriended or allied the city state may enhance your trade, or even create military units for you. The overall feel of the interactions with the city states feels very shallow, much like tricking small children with candy.

Civilization V New Hex System

The hex combat system is a popular topic, and a great new feature, but not because it adds more freedom of movement. It greatly enhances the multiplayer experience, putting a real emphasis on the strategy of the combat. Previously in other instalments of civilization you only needed to produce rampant amounts of the highest damage/defence output units available to you, stack them into an army, and then proceed to roll over the game map. Now with military units being more costly to produce, as well as special units costing precious resources which deplete as you use them, players are forced to use their brains when playing a living opponent. Hex tiles may only be occupied by one military unit at a time, which players must use tactically, paying attention to the range and strength of their units, against those of their foes.

It's clear to see how the multiplayer has improved so much with just these few changes. Unit placement, formations, and resource trades are instantly more lucrative. Single player however seems to have gained absolutely nothing. Enemies will readily trade you resources you need, and will send mounted units headlong into defensive units. The AI also seems to have absolutely no concept of unit upgrades. You can be in the modern era, producing infantry and suddenly be assaulted by Russian archers, backed by a tank.

While it would be easy to fill several pages griping over the AI combat, it's probably better to look at other positive changes, because we will all live longer with the power of positive thinking. Civilization V ushers in a new era of nation customization, with the introduction of culture points. These are used to purchase talents from different trees geared towards goals such as patronage (for increasing reputation with city states), piety (for enhancing the rate of happiness and culture), and commerce (to increase the wealth of your civilization). These talents make it easier to focus on specific victory paths, such as cultural, space race, and domination to name a few. A cultural victory requires a player to fill out five of the different specialization trees in order to create the Utopia project. Each city created increases the amount of culture needed to adopt policies in the specialization trees by 33 percent, making civilizations of less than four cities ideal for this type of victory. It also makes for a boring single player experience. Managing so few cities and pouring all production into improvements that enhance culture gets a little monotonous quick.

Civilization V Combat

Space race victory requires you to adopt policies in rationalism as soon as possible, and to do this you still need to produce culture. However, to produce large amounts of science you need to make several large cities, with high science output, so players basically have to be doing well in all aspects to get this victory. It was probably the only interesting single player victory type to shoot for. The policy tree system definitely makes the player feel slightly more invested and immersed in the experience of ruling a civilization. Another positive change was the gold system put in place for purchasing hex tiles next to cities. Gold seems overly abundant in Civilization V making the traditional "hurry production" with gold and unit upgrading very viable and a nice edge when playing against the opposing AI in single player.

Aesthetically Civilization V has improved significantly, making the game more pleasant to look at and more entertaining as battles are better animated. The maps are colourful and customizable, not much has changed with game setup, and features the typical continents, pangeas, sizes, climates, and resource spread that previous games have had. Sound and music do not really feel different or improved, and may be found abrasive after listening to them for several hours.

Momentum is built up very slowly in Civilization V, as your cities and expansions don't really get rolling for a few hundred turns. Combat can feel like a painful crawl at times, it is a turn based game after all. Players should beware to heed the system requirements, as this version of Civilization can really freeze up an average PC. Once your civilization is at its peak, or during combat the game can feel a little sluggish. More hotkeys would have been a nice addition to the games controls, as civilization V feels like a lot of mouse work with repetitive clicking. The tutorials can be helpful for beginners but this is easily the most accessible civilization yet. It's almost too easy, and watered down. Advisers are much less annoying, however, other civilization leaders are now more annoying with frequent ridiculous appearances.

Final Thoughts

While Civilization V is an achievement in many areas, it seems like a game that abandoned its traditionally great single player to enhance its multiplayer. That's all well and good, the multiplayer is fun with friends, but competitive play just doesn't seem viable. Single player feels like a void as it's very formulaic. The AI is at best strangely comical, and seeing notoriously peaceful leaders, such as Ghandi descending upon the globe trying to eradicate every nation is amusing albeit, confusing. With a few AI tweaks and some extra multiplayer features Civilization V could have been a really great game. Instead it's just a good one, and there's nothing wrong with that; it's just a little disappointing.

blog comments powered by Disqus