Civilization V Review
Civilization V offers up a different, but equally or even more challenging, strategic, and enjoyable gameplay experience as its predecessors
Sid Meier’s Civlization series is one of the most memorable PC franchises ever. As such, every new iteration and refinement of the complex strategy series is a huge deal for longtime players and new gamers alike. Civilization V was known to be a fairly large-scale redesign from the beginning, putting hardcore fans on the fearful side from the get-go. Thankfully Firaxis understood the fundamental aspects of the series and kept the good, did away with the bad, and added a slew of new and welcome additions.
Initially, the most striking difference between Civilization V and its predecessors is the visual style and graphical overhaul the game has received. Incorporating an Art Deco-inspired style for the user interface, Firaxis has given the entire game an enticing fresh coat of paint that ushers forth the feelings of the grand and prosperous nature of civilization. It’s an inspiring style and one that immediately excited me to play the game. From the main menu screen, I found my mind filling with thoughts of the limitless possibilities for my civilization, even though I had yet to start a single game. Additionally, it is simply a huge improvement of Civilization IV’s rather bland and utilitarian interface.
If you’ve heard anything about Cilivization V before this review, it’s one of two things: hexagonal tiles and one unit per tile. Leading up to the game’s release, these two features of Civilization V were talked up more than anything else because they are drastically different than any previous entry in the series and the ones that put many veteran players on edge. Luckily, both of these alterations came as improvements rather than detriments to the series. The hexagonal tiles allow for beautiful and realistic looking landscapes across all maps, unique new movement mechanics, and, in tandem with the one-unit-per-tile rule, strategic and exciting combat situations unlike anything seen before in a Civ game.
Whereas the Civ standard means of victory in combat has always been placing all of your hope in a singular “Stack of Doom,” one tile containing as many combat units as you could possibly create, the inability to stack even two units atop one another in Civilization V leads to a more realistically fought battle and more believably sized battlefield. Before, a single tile could have held a vast array of soldiers, but now, you are required to move your troops within range of enemies and city by placing them all around. Most noticeably, exact placement of unique can be the major difference between a war being won or lost. A single group of archers or well-placed artillery can not only bombard distant enemies (ranged attacks are now truly ranged) but can also block off vital chokeholds on the map forcing the enemy to defeat your unit before being able to access the rest of your territory. On more than one occasion, this new ability saved my cities from destruction as I was able to effectively create an armed and fortified border through which the enemy was unable to pass.
All of the old victory conditions are here, although altered slightly to fit the new game mechanics. A cultural victory is tough, but exciting to go for. You are now required to fully unlock 5 different social policy trees and then upon completion of that first goal, construct the Utopia Project in one of your cities. It’s a great feat to go after if you are the type of player looking to avoid conflict and still leave a lasting impact on the history of your world. Victory via domination is the same as in previous titles (capture all other player capitals on the map) although many players will find it to be considerably more difficult in regards to strategy than ever before due to the game’s new combat and unit mechanics. Technological or Space Race victory is still here but is the most dramatically altered of all the victory conditions. Now you must tech up, construct the Apollo Program, and then build every spaceship component, before finally bringing them all together to one location and assembling them before claiming victory on Earth and venturing forth into the great beyond. The large number of victory conditions allows for just about every individual’s gameplay style to be catered to in one way or another. This keeps things interested along several playthroughs and allows you to challenge yourself with victory conditions normally outside of your comfort zone.
Multiplayer, at least for me, has always been a bit of an odd-bird for the Civilization series. Single games can be of such an extraordinary length that it seems almost impossible to play them online or set aside enough time in a single sitting to play even a short game. Luckily, Firaxis recognized this and, like in the previous iterations, allows for a number of different modes of play. Both online and local network play are fully supported. When playing online, you have the options of hosting a private game or joining a game with other players on a more anonymous basis. While actually in a game, the host has the option to save the game at any time and load it up at a later date, allowing for games to be playing in more than one-sitting. To me, Civilization is a singleplayer game first and foremost, but for those lovers of Civilization multiplayer, all the standard play modes seem to be present in Civilization V. In the future, I think it could greatly aid the series if Firaxis looked into creating additional unique game modes that used the game’s core components but were designed for a more accessible multiplayer experience.
Civilization V captures all of the glory of the nearly 20 year old series while removing most of the over-complexity and tedium found in Civilization IV. The series most overly time consuming elements of extreme city and civilian micromanagement have now been made almost entirely optional granting that depth and precision to the gamers who desire it without bogging down the experience of others. The graphical redesign is absolutely stunning. The landscapes capable of being created atop the hexagonal board make the world a more convincing and immersive place than the square-based maps of the past could have ever hoped to be.
Simply put, aside from a small lowering of overall difficulty along the game’s considerable settings ladder and the occasional graphical hiccup, Civilization V takes the best of all the series’ previous entries, brings them all together, and includes new and exciting replacements for the elements of the franchise that had begun to show their age in Civilization IV. If you’re a new player looking to get into the Civilization series, Civilization V is the ideal point at which to make your entry. If you’ve been with the franchise since the beginning, Civilization V offers up a different, but equally or even more challenging, strategic, and enjoyable gameplay experience than what can be found in any of its predecessors.