Civilization V : The flaws

As I said before, Civilization V is a phenomenal improvement to an already incredible series, and any fan of TBS games should already have it. But with that said, it’s by no means perfect, and outright lacking in some areas that have me both confused and a little worried.

One of the things that jumps out at me as unfinished or missing is the lack of end-game replay or extensive history information. In previous games you could watch a mini-review of the game you just played, seeing city placement and growth, wars and conquest, and major events like wonders being created or great people being born. I loved this not only for a chance to ‘relive’ the game I just played, but as a learning tool on how to improve. This is simply missing from Civ V, and for me really takes away from the joy of finishing the game. On top of this, the ‘ending’ is just one picture based on your victory type (or loss), and aside from one demographics table, that’s it.

Now I’m hoping a future patch simply adds the replay function to the game, and perhaps gives some extra bang to victory. My fear is that this might be part of some $5-$10-$15 DLC ‘bundle’. I won’t mind having the option to buy different civilizations, units, or technologies, but selling what I would consider core features as extras won’t sit well with me.

Another area that really could use some work is knowing exactly what the AI is thinking. Currently it’s simply too difficult to tell whether someone is buddy buddy with you or getting ready to drop a nuke. It’s also difficult to see the effects of not accepting a deal, of giving someone a resource, or from making demands. One would assume making demands makes people angry, or that giving them a resource makes them happy, but it would be nice to get a little more feedback here. I’m not asking for a +1 Rep! ding to pop up or to see a + – table next to a leader, but I do feel SOMETHING is missing here.

The saddest part about this is that finally you have more diplomatic options in Civ V, like the ability to show your displeasure about another civ settling in ‘your’ area, or the ability to work against another civ without declaring outright war. These and others are great additions, but they are somewhat muted by the fact that you can’t really tell their full effect.

Finally, the AI could use a few lessons in the art of war. While I don’t feel the AI is as bad as some make it out to be, it’s always a little disheartening when you see an enemy charging you with cannons, his infantry a few hexes behind. Or outright frustrating when your city-state ally prefers to bomb spearmen in a jungle two hexes away when the city has three units of knights right next to it ready to overtake it in the following turn.

So far most of my wars have not really been much of a challenge, and when they are it’s because the AI outguns me by a large margin. Watching a war between two AI opponents is at times like watching a cripple fight (no offense to my normal-life-function-challenge readers (that’s the current PC term for the handicapped, right?)). My guess here is that a future patch will have some AI improvements, but hopefully it arrives sooner rather than later.

I’m not going to address multiplayer myself as I’ve yet to try it, but Paragus has a good Civ V review up that raises some issues on that topic. Again, it just sounds like Civ V got shipped a little early, and some of the final polish is still missing. The MMO gamer in me accept it and can look past it for now, but I’m wondering how many ‘normal’ gamers are feeling a little down right now. I’ll lay the blame firmly on the city that declared the release date “Civ Day”, that’s a lot of hype to live up to and you can’t really delay once that’s happened, now can you?

25 Responses to Civilization V : The flaws

  1. Derrick says:

    I’m definitely enjoying the game, but I’m with you on a couple points there.

    AI warfare ability is indeed terrible. I thought I’d hate the non-stacking military units, but I think as a design point it greatly improves warfare strategically. You’ve got to really think of how you’re attacking, and pay attention to terrain and unit placement to get the best out of everything. However, the AI is so gutwrenchingly terrible at it that it’s almost like giving the human player a gross handicap. I haven’t played multiplayer yet, but at least it should be different there.

    And, yeah, a lack of feedback is somewhat annoying. Pacts of Cooperation/Secrecy? The concept is awesome, but I’m unsure that they actually *do* anything at all. I regularly form Pacts of Cooperation with largely everyone, then form Pacts of Secrecy with everyone against everyone else.

    Then I procede to still get along well with everyone, while they bicker and fight with each other.

    Either the Pacts do nothing in actual game effect, or they do but have no bearing on the player himself.

    A common complaint (though one you didn’t bring up):
    Some argue that the happiness system is entirely broken when you’re playing a military conquest game. I really disagree with this. Previously, military conquest was the easiest way to play Civ, and required no more thought than simply building zounds of units and steamrolling everyone. Now, you have to be careful about how you go about it, when you choose to destory an enemy and how. Get the right Social Traits to support a massive empire, and pre-build the right structures to support the unhappiness hit (or ignore it, if you no longer need the production, though that can be a PITA to recover from).

    I’ve played 2 1/2 games so far, and my current game (the 1/2) is a conquest game on Prince, and I’m doing fine with ~30 happiness while holding about 1/3 of the cities to date. It’s more difficult, and you don’t want to simply capture every city you see (or even puppet them all, just take the best ones and leave the broken husk of your enemy with the trash).

    • SynCaine says:

      I love the global happiness and how it relates to the now super-powerful golden ages. It just feels ‘right’ and you have an amazing level of control over it that I simply did not get from Civ IV.

      You can play to get massive happiness and lots of GA, or play to always keep it near even, or play aggressive and let it dip while you expand quickly and (hopefully) later reap the benefits. It’s flexible, responsive, and just great.

      • Derrick says:

        It’s a good example of how the fundamental design of Civ V gets things really right. They do a great job of simplifying systems across the board while simultaneously *increasing* strategic options.

        Before, things like happiness being city-dependent were more complicated: you had to manage each cities happiness as it grew, and this wasn’t always an easy task for distant cities. However, that was the extent of it – there were no meaningful choices. It was never a good idea to leave a city unhappy for any reason, as it could suddenly leave your empire. So, happiness became just another “button to press” so to speak.

        I love how I don’t need to either endure a ridiculous amount of micromanagement or (arguably worse) delegate it to an AI to manage. The system itself is simple to use, but offers many layers of options.

    • Thanos says:

      I am a huge fan back from CIV I and I’m very, very, very diapointed with the CIV V.

      1) Espionage is gone
      2) Religion is gone
      3) We reach modern age and there is no more science (future sci-fi science) to discover (good all days of Call To Power 2)
      4) Pacts are ridiculous
      5) Hurray for the auto-defenses of cities, but BUUUUU for the unrealistic super-defense of a desmilitiarized city
      6) We obtain a great victory, after a great game and… nothing! A scrapy board appears on the screen.
      7) Lack of WOW when we build a WONDER! Hello everyone? A Wonder means a Wonder! Not just another building/achivement.
      7) Etc.

      Ok, there are advantages in this version, but the downgrade is just to much for me. Back to CIV IV.

      • Derrick says:

        1) I miss espionage, but to be honest I found it never really worked terribly well. This was largely due to the horrendously broken diplomacy of the prior Civ games though.
        2) Religion was a meaningless micromanagement minigame, more than anything else. Obviously because they didn’t want to offend anyone, but it had so little impact on gameplay and was so easy to spread around it was more a waste of time than anything. Needless complexity, really. You make a bunch of missionaries, spread your religion everywhere, and your done. With the right government options, spread every religion you can find. Meh. It just didn’t add anything significant to the game.
        3) *shrugs* Tech needs to end somewhere. Not really important if it ends at modern, or one level past, or two.
        4) I’m not sure. I’m confused by them: Do they have any impact at all? Are they just empty words or do they work? I think a patch needs to address them somewhat to make them have a more obvious effect, but the concept of them is certainly good.
        5) Do you mean the defense of a massive city without a military unit stationed within? I disagree really. It’s still easy to take a city without a devoted military unit within it, just takes some time. This is, IMHO, fairly realistic. You don’t just wander into a city and take it without issue (at least, large cities). I assume that the autodefense includes some measure of local militia/national guard – a baseline local garrison. City fighting is the hardest sort of combat, and taking cities is extremely difficult at the best of times.
        6) Huh? What, you want fireworks? A special cinematic? A “you win” screen seems good enough to me – once you’ve seen the “yay you” fireworks once, you’ve seen em a million times. Sure, it’s nice, but really isn’t a pro or con for a game overall.
        7) Like 7; you get a tune and screen saying you’ve built a wonder, something you don’t get when you build a regular building. Furthermore, you can actually see the wonder on the map around the city afterwards. You’re really picking at tiny things here.

        All that said, I still think Civ V is fundamentally flawed. The game is well designed, and 2k has done an exceptional job of reducing annoying micromanagement while keeping strategic depth. But the military AI is just too terribad for the game to have lasting appeal for me. I play though, and know that so long as I keep my empire together and happy, I always have the option of a conquest victory (or at least to prevent someone else from winning via another method) because regardless of tech levels(within reason) or nation size, if I go to war I will win.

        Playing a strategy game with a huge IWIN button that you press automatically when you go to war is depressing.

        There are some issues with diplomacy, but they are more in how the game conveys information to the player and less in just plain broken AI that all the previous Civ games have suffered.

        Fortunately, both of these issues can be patched. Will they? I hope so. If they are, I think Civ V will easily be the best yet.

  2. Paragus says:

    A lot of the complaints we share about areas that need work are all over their forums which seem to be read by the developers. So far there has been 2 patches which isn’t that bad considering the game has been out only a week. Hopefully they will give some attention to the AI which could use some adjusting to how it conducts diplomacy and military attacks.

  3. Jomu says:

    yea, a +/- 1/2/3 system would really be helpful; I try suggesting pacts of cooperation and only once has an npc agreed, not to mention countless research agreements.

    besides diplomacy, i’m just concerned about performance: the game tends to crash atleast once per session and normally when I use the civilopedia

    • Paragus says:

      I read the other day that turning down the detail level of the fog of war can help the performance a lot, although I haven’t had time to try it out yet. Also there seems to be a theory that the more of the map you have explored, the more slowdown you may experience.

      • SynCaine says:

        The map thing is definetly true. In my current game I have almost the entire globe explored, and it’s running like ass on my Alienware. It takes it a good 5-10sec extra to initially load up, and once in-game the AI turns take longer and longer. This is on a normal sized map; I’d hate to see what it’s like on a fully explore huge map…

        • Derrick says:

          I just finished a game on a Huge map.

          I’m running a 4ghz quadcore with 8 gb of 1600mhz ram and a ridiculously overclocked (800/1600/2000mhz) 1gb GTX460.

          When it’s taking opponents turns, you generally can’t see much of anything. Textures take 3-4 seconds to draw when the camera pans about, leaving grey/beige untextured tiles in the mean time. There’s long 1-2 second “halts” when nothing much of anything happens, and god help you if you click on something during an opponents turn, the system lags so terribly it’s not even funny.

        • SynCaine says:

          That’s a nicely overclocked CPU. I’m on a 3.4gz dual core, 4gigs of good ram (forget the specs now) and a 295GTX. I don’t get the blue/gray stuff you are talking about, but the same stuff happens to me during an opponents turn.

          It’s ‘hilarious’ when you have turns set to auto-end, no action to take during a turn, and have something you want to wake up. God help you with the rapid clicking to actually get it to interrupt.

        • Derrick says:

          The texture drawing issue didn’t crop up until around 80% explored on a huge map, but is very annoying. Pisses me off because there’s no reason for it. Civ V’s a nice looking game, but not that nice – video card is never under any real load at all. It never tops 62c.

          As to CPU load, I haven’t checked yet but there’s no way it should be bogging things down.

          I’d be the first to suggest insufficient hardware but I just can’t see that being the case here.

  4. Jezebeau says:

    Yeah, the combat AI is atrocious. I held off about a dozen spearmen and mohawks with two archers and a swordsman because my opponent kept shuffling them around rather than focusing fire and ripping me to pieces for my poor decision to attack it. Their decisions to attack me tend to be based purely on a combination of relative score and army size, even with positive relations up to a point.

    My biggest pet peeve is when one of my allied city states declares permanent war on another civ. It’s ridiculous that they can force me into the trichotomy of letting them get conquered, conquering them for their own good, or destroying the entire civ they declared against.

    • Jezebeau says:

      I should mention, that was on Prince. I’m hesitant to move up to difficulty levels where they just out-produce/tech/culture me.

      • Derrick says:

        Past prince, the ai doesn’t get any smarter, it just gets ever more production/happiness/gold bonuses while you get ever more penalties. Frustratingly, the ai still can fight his way out of a paper bag.

        It makes for somewhat aggravating gameplay when you need to struggle to keep your empire running while the AI gets all these bonuses…. But yet you can still massacre his modern army with a couple of swrdsmen and a catapult.

  5. Galaji says:

    I’ve noticed the same problems regarding the diplomacy and warfare AI.

    I completely stomped all foes as Japan on Prince difficulty. I don’t focus on military and it seemed strange to just roll over my enemies without them taking a single city of mine.

    Perhaps a different greeting from the other leaders on the diplomacy screen would help a little.
    I’ve had leaders sign a pact of secrecy with me, be granted travel through my borders, then refuse to declare war on a foe after asking me to delcare war a few turns prior.

    I’ve also had civilizations that I’ve assisted the entire game with cooperation / research pacts refuse fair trades of luxury goods or resources. And then refuse to even make a reasonable offer when asked how to make the deal work.

    Why is that button even there if they NEVER offer a way to make the deal you want work?

    Give me an extreme cost if I am asking the extreme, but at least tell me what kind of value you place on my request!!!!

  6. Derrick says:

    @Galagi:

    they will often refuse to trade resources if they only have one. I’m still not sure if the last one is the one you use to make your population happy, or if they just like to keep one free “just in case” but I’ve definitely found that most ai’s will take fair resource trades if they have more than one of what you’re asking for.

    Re: AI combat in general –

    I don’t even bother playing military based viva for conquest games now. The reality is that the actual military victory is so easy that you’re much better off taking a civ better able to handle a large empire after you’ve conquered it because the conquering is a foregone conclusion.

  7. Mala says:

    I’ve been told you are supposed to read their body language to infer attitude, which is neat if its true, but it seems rather imprecise and inconsistent.

    The jury is still out on that particular feature for me though, since I’ve been having trouble with it.

    In any event, I’m still really enjoying the game.

  8. Derrick says:

    You can read facial expressions and body language, but it’s berry difficult until you’ve played quite a few games and seen the range of expressions for each. It’s not always obvious, and their little scenes vary wildly from leader to leader making things more difficult.

    Even so, you still can’t see WHY they are happy or pissed, which can be very frustrating.

  9. Mojeaux says:

    “Even so, you still can’t see WHY they are happy or pissed, which can be very frustrating.”

    – Well, isn’t that a little bit like the real world?

    • SynCaine says:

      Maybe, but that’s not really ‘good’ realism, especially because now we are talking about the limitations of the animation vs the actual inability to read body language. I’d actually be perfectly fine with just body language if it was easier to read, but love of god can anyone ever tell wtf Bismark is thinking? Dude always looks pissed, even when you know 100% that he is happy with you.

    • Derrick says:

      No. While I may not know for certain why he’s pissed, it’s very, VERY likely one of my advisors will know why, or at least very good potential causes.

      Also, in real life, I could simply ask him. We could negotiate. We can’t do that in Civ, so the abstraction to “why are you always so freaking pissed off” is needed.

  10. Orbadoxx says:

    Been playing the game awhile now, and though I have a few concerns and questions of my own about the game, I will just offer my advice here from my experience with civ v thus far.

    Regarding the question of fair trade with other nations. I noticed early on and I just couldn’t understand why I had to give either 2 lux resources to recieve one or, 1 resource and 450 gold. I now know that it was my actions that was literally pissing the world off. I found that razing a city, even a single one will have irrevokable consequences on future trade with all nations permanently. Even civs that you, nor the known ai civs, have discovered yet. Razing cities is a very VERY bad idea in this version for whatever reason. Unless you plan on going Rambo and thats a domestic disaster waiting to happen. Lengthy wars and refusal to accept peace as a habit also pisses the world off it seems.

    Once I started playing games where I resisted the desire to raze cities and just puppet them instead I almost always receive fair trade deals. 1 for 1 on resource trades with no flat rate gold demands.

    As for the difficult military challenge being lack luster my advice is to play on the marathon game speed if you are not already doing so. This raised the bar a bit once I switched over. Last game I played on Prince difficulty Hiawatha brought 30 pikemen/musketmen/cannon to my doorstep on an initial assault against me. He executed his attack rather well, he knew I had a large force of knights and brought a lot of pikemen, he quickly surrounded and layed siege to a newly annexed city. It was exciting to see that much aggression from the ai. So maybe that is the answer for some of you also.

  11. Orbadoxx says:

    I wanted to add that i am playing this from an hp pavillion laptop with half the juice you guys have, and I have never once crashed or had annoyingly slow waits on turns. I have everything maxed except shadows and water detail is at medium. I play huge map every game and have never played any other type of map. I’ve played 22 player games with 30 CS. So I’d look further into the problem then the software. I’m running Directx 11 version, if you don’t have it then I’d get it because i’ve not a single problem on my end.

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