Is the sun up already? And what day is it…
This review is based on having played 800 or so turns over roughly 12-15 hours. In other words, a lifetime++ in EuroGamer years. In that time I’ve finished one game to 2050AD and taken a few others into various stages. The 2050AD game was with Japan (randomed), but I’ve also played as the Romans and the Greeks.
Civilization V is the best version of Civ yet. That alone should make it an instant buy for basically anyone who has every enjoyed or believe they might enjoy a turn based game, but as that would make for a short review, I’ll keep going.
The move to hexes is one of those things that initially feels a little odd, but after about an hour or so it becomes tough to imagine what the game is like without them. Same goes for only being able to have one combat unit on a hex; at first I was making countless mistakes in positioning and movement, but again after about an hour it not only feels ‘right’, it adds an amazing level of depth and strategy.
Speaking of depth, on the surface Civ V seems like a simplified version of IV, with many of the more complex systems (pollution, city-based unrest, religion, fewer techs overall) gone. Yet again you soon realize that it’s not about the number of systems, but how they are implemented and what decisions they force you to make. Take resources for example: in IV once you had iron, you could pump out as many iron-based units as you wanted. In V, one source of iron will only allow you to make a limited number of iron-based units or buildings. That’s huge in a number of ways. For starters, it means even if you DO have the resources, your military is still likely to include a variety of units due to resource limits. Secondly, it means that even if you have access to an iron resource, you can still trade for more, or provide someone else with yours even if they also already have some. Finally, cutting off an enemies resource means they not only lose the ability to make those units, their current units get a huge combat penalty until they regain it. And that’s just one example of the changes, but as you can see, it’s a little change that has a huge impact, while also feeling ‘natural’ in many ways. It was completely unrealistic before that one single iron mine could supple an entire nation, and Civ V ‘fixes’ that issue.
Graphically the game is stunning. Not in a Crysis “zomg look at the fog!1!” kind of way, but more in the “hey it all just looks right” style. Everything fits, looks very polished, and small details abound that not only look good, but provide information as well. For the first time, a unit of spearmen is finally a unit of 10 soldiers, and as they ‘take damage’, some of them die and the unit gets smaller. You still have a health bar, but a quick glance at the actual graphic will show you what you are looking for. This change also means combat looks a lot better, as a 10 vs 10 battle between spearmen and swordsman is a lot cooler looking than a single spearmen icon moving over a single swordsman icon (or the simplified combat animations in Civ IV). By far the coolest combat animation? The most powerful unit, the giant death robot, with its swarm of missile and laser fire. It just has that “yea, you can’t stop me” thing going for it (and actually looks a lot cooler in-game than in that picture).
Combat itself is a lot more entertaining in Civ V as well, and not only from the hex and single-unit-per-spot changes. If two units are somewhat evenly matched, the result will most likely leave both damaged but not defeated, which is a huge change from the one-and-done style of previous games. Ranged combat is also a new addition that adds an important layer of strategy, as finally you actually have to protect weaker units and use the terrain for more than just a single defense bonus, and units like archers are valuable not because they are outright stronger than warriors (they lose to them in melee), but thanks to the ranged fire they provide. Other changes I’m really enjoying include naval combat being a much slower exchange of fire rather than one-and-done ‘melee’ style, and that ships and planes can actually kill units rather than just weaken them like in IV. This makes having a strong navy and things like aircraft carriers not just a nice-to-have, but critical when attempting to make landfall on an enemy island or continent.
I’ll wrap things up here for now, but expect some more Civ V related posts in the near future, most likely breaking down certain systems and the game design theory behind them. As I said at the start though, if you are even a remote fan of strategy games, Civ V is about as good as it gets.