Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization V

Note: This review will also appear on Gamer Theory when it launches later this year.

When intsalling a game like Sid Meier’s Civilization V (Civ V) to your PC, you better know what you’re getting yourself into. There are games that come by once in a while that will grab you, fascinate you, and then refuse to let you go. After days worth of game time logged, I can safely say that Civ V is definitely one of those games. Firaxis Games has enjoyed a loyal following and huge success with the Civilization series, but they’ve never been averse to allowing the series to evolve with each release. Civ V makes some rather significant leaps forward in regards to presentation, pacing, and unit management among others. The result is a game that’s more approachable yet more challenging and nuanced at the same time.

For newcomers to the series, Civ V is easily the best place to get started. While there is a massive amount od depth to the strategy in the game, Firaxis Games has done a very effective job at implementing a great tutorial and a very helpful tips system to keep players from feeling overwhelmed. Also, at the easier levels the AI aggressiveness is toned down to the point where novice mistakes aren’t punished too harshly. While earlier Civilization titles are available on the cheap these days, Civ V really is the best place for a newcomer to get into the series.

For the experts out there, Civ V introduces a few new features that will make the game feel familiar, yet fresh at the same time. One of the biggest changes made to the game include the transition from square to hex tiles for the world map. This change seems minor at first thought, but it really makes movement around the world a more fluid and natural undetraking for units. Cities also expand in a much more organic way as well with the hexes breaking up the tiles in a more complex pattern. You can see clearly how the hexes work below.

Another big change is that units are no longer able to stack up on tiles with the exception of a single military unit sharing space with a worker. In the past players could stack multiple military units on a single tile, which often lead to nasty bottlenecks where a player or AI had decided to stack units for defensive purposes. This change is a welcome one as it forces you to manage your military units more carefully and always be concious of where you’ve left each unit.

All the changes made make Civ V a more tactical experience in all aspects of the game. Winning via science, military, diplomatic, or culture will take a very deliberate approach that demands that the player adapts to ever changing conditions. Quite often I would start the game with the idea to win under one condition, only to have to aim for a different one due to the AI’s agenda not jiving well with my own. This makes the game very replayable, even if multiplayer isn’t something that interests you.

The game isn’t without its flaws, but Firaxis Games and 2K has been working to improve the game via updates and patches. As of now, however, the AI could use some additional tweaking and improvement. The AI is tuned to constantly exploit advantages, but often times it flies in the face of logical behavior. If you get too powerful or too large, at times the AI will just flat out refuse to cooperate with you, even if it would benefit their civilization greatly. At other times the AI will engage in trade agreements that are quite obviously skewed in your favor. These inconsistencies should be addressed over time, but as of the time I wrote tihs review it was an issue.

AI oddness aside, Civ V is a fantastic PC gaming experience that is engrossing, addictive, and different each time you approach it. Between this, StarCraft 2, and the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, it has been a strong year for PC releases.

5 Stars out of 5

Gaming 9 to 5 and still working full time

Uh oh…I have a serious problem. It seems that I have two nine to five occupations. I work at a web design firm, called i4 Solutions where I do search engine optimization and manage pay per click marketing campaigns for a variety of clients. I’m happy there and I put in my 40 hours a week. Well, I guess one occupation wasn’t enough, because I’ve taken up a second nine to five activity.

I installed Civilization V over the weekend, and I “one more turn” extended my play sessions Friday and Saturday night from 9:00 pm to past 5:00 am. Yes, I put in over 8 hours a night on this game. The game is just addictive, and I’ve got no power over myself to quit at a decent hour once I start my quest at world domination. Aside from Civilization Revolution on the DS, I hadn’t really played a proper Civ game since Civ II. I always wanted to give Civ III and Civ IV some attention, but I never found the time to do so. To be honest, I really don’t have the time for Civ V, but the allure was too strong this time around and I found myself on Friday evening downloading the game via Steam.

So what now? I guess I’m going to have to go part time on one of these occupations, because my body isn’t going to handle it. Unfortunately for me, I’m pretty sure I’ll have to cut my world domination hours down to part time status with the occasional overtime hours.

For those that haven’t really played any of the Civ games, Civ V is an excellent starting point. For you veterans of the series, I’m sure picking up Civ V is already in your plans if you don’t have it already. Just know that few games will sap away your time like Civ V will.

Check back soon for the full review.