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Civilisation V is in most peoples opinion, the best turn based strategy game ever invented. The object is to settle new lands, find rare resources and conquer your opponents either through science, culture or military might and conquest.
If you have never played civilisation games before, then put a full weekend or so to one side for this purpose. It is advised that you select the tutorials or you WILL restart the game when you discover an easier way to play it after say a week or so.
The worlds can either be generated by the computer, or in the advanced setup mode, you can fiddle with land types, water height, vegetation, climate, resources etc...
You start by selecting a nation to play as, offering you special abilities for certain units, depending who you are.
All this information is then mixed up and fermented in the brain of your computer and after about 2-3 minutes of loading, your world is built, with a black fog covering all that is not discovered.
In the bottom right is a amp of the world as you know it and your red dot of a citizen is huge! But don't let this put you off, as you discover more of the world, the dot gets smaller and smaller and smaller. These maps are endless!
So, you build a city and create units to explore, defend and develop the surrounding terrain. Special units and buildings can also be built to enable new units, trade and commerce, and special bonuses such as added happiness in your nation.
After a while, you may have settled many towns, built copious amounts of farms, plantations and collected rare resources. You no doubt would have encountered either barbarian hordes on the way or even another nation or two, which, you can start trading with. Whilst developing your world, you can spend 'culture points' on changing your policies, giving you bonuses and opening up new technologies by researching them when they become available. This continues until either type of victory is achieved, assuming you are not conquered first!
Now, this game itself is extremely addictive, be warned! It has an unbelievably realistic overview of the world, its grasp on mans' instinct to explore draws players in. The interaction with AI players differs and is unpredictable, with realistic outcomes and often surprising solutions.
There is only one issue which I have a grievance with and that is, in the earlier Civilisation games, you could select from a list, when researched, a type of ideology for your government, then it was set in stone until changed again by the player. In this version, you must follow a path of progression towards an ideal, which is, ultimately, irreversible.
The only predictive pattern in this game is the declaration of war if you discover lands and build cities too close to AI cities. This makes no sense, as they have not even discovered the lands yet.
But these are by far, minor and pointless niggles which are overshadowed by hours of awesome gameplay.
The technical specifications are admittedly designed for the newer computer, however a simpler, low resolution game can be played on most computers within the last 2 years or so. In order to install this game, you must also have a fast internet connection as it runs with 'Steam'.
Steam itself allows you to download your game multiple times from the online database to a platform that you may be using, and stores your history of games on the database. As with most new games, it takes more than 4GB of space, so make sure you have a reasonably big hard drive.
But for under £20 on amazon, this game is a definite buy .
What can you say about Sid Meyer's Civilization series? Simply the best strategy game ever made?
For those of you that are too young or simply have never come across Civilization let me quickly summarise what the game is about.
It is a turn based strategy game where the idea is to start off with a small group of settlers in a very primitive and hostile world and to eventually out compete your enemies both militarily and economically, to grow a civilization built to stand the test of time over a span of thousands of years. The ultimate achievement is to advance so far that you are the first to explore space and set up a colony among the stars. The way to do this is to collect resources, farm your land for food and colonise the lands around you by founding cities, connect these by roads to improve trade. Inevitably sooner rather than later you will meet other civilizations and you will have to deal with them for alliances or go to war in order to survive.
This was essentially the premise of the original game and has with a few changes remained the same for all future versions including the latest.
I was a huge fan of the original CIV game and I think it and the follow up CIV2 were just about the perfect example of a turn based strategy game ever made. They were, addictive, hard to master and had exceptional playability; I still play this CIV 2 from time to time over a decade on from when it was released.
As with all good games the temptation to re-invent and improve is too strong to resist and CIV 3 came out with amended rules and game play, unfortunately for me this edition still remains the worst of the series. With CIV 4 the makers decided to make the game play more complex and instead of previously being essentially a military conquest game with some economic level to this new version added a new sophistication to the game. It was now possible to do well in the game taking one of many tactical approaches, military, economic or cultural. This added depth was almost the undoing of the game but they just about managed to balance the added complexity to the classic addictiveness and playability of the original game. What could they do next?
This year that question was answered with the eagerly awaited release of CIV 5, promising to give the player all the excitement, intelligence and playability of the original series but including new and easier game play.
Do the claims made of this new version stand up to scrutiny and is the game still as good as the previous versions?
WHAT'S DIFFERENT, WHAT ISN'T
The choice of civilizations is essentially the same including old favourites the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Indians, English, Russian etc. each providing slightly different advantages in aspects of the game, some more suited to military conquest others more suited for quick economic development and diplomacy.
The look of the game is still excellent with good quality graphics to represent the landscape and all the same options for zooming in to particular areas of the map. The military units are still animated when they move and still are able to gain increased experience and veteran status the more they fight.
Care has been taken in all aspects of the game experience from visuals to audio and the look and sound of the game is a delight.
Basic gameplay, getting resources, trade, and exploration are essentially unchanged. The city screens are a little different and will need a little getting used to for returning CIV players. Gone are the delightful animated sequences when you build a World Wonder and the amusing video in game advisors still haven't made a return from CIV 2...shame.
It will be impossible for me to go through all the changes that have taken place but assuming that you have played any of the previous versions of CIV here is a brief summary of the most important differences you will notice.
One criticism of CIV 4 was that the rules had become too complex; the addition of culture to the civilization's mix had certainly created a new dimension to the game. Now as well as creating a empire that could defeat any other militarily or could outgrow your opponents economically a player could influence his enemies by founding religions and spreading this across borders or by concentrating on producing great works of art that would make other civilisations admire your achievement making them less likely to oppose you. All this was great fun and did produce a new fresh feel to the game but possibly did alienate those who just wanted a simpler strategy game to play.
In CIV 5 this cultural dimension to the game has been toned down quite a bit and the advances you can make from this perspective aren't as important for success as they were. Another important change is in the effectiveness of the World Wonders in helping civilizations grow, these effects have been diluted somewhat and subtle changes to the way resources are used in creating these development make it more important to choose very carefully what tactic you employ when planning your rise to power.
The most obvious change has been to the layout of the map. Previous version used a square system to map the world now we have hexagonal map units resembling more the traditional board war strategy games. In addition military units cannot anymore be 'stacked' on top of each other on the map making military gameplay very different and rather more demanding or organisation and planning when undertaking a military campaign.
The choice of military units has decreased has as the choice of building improvements so this does restrict a little tactically. Also the usefulness of certain city improvements has changed so experienced CIV players beware.
The diplomatic exchanges with other civilizations have not improved and the AI seems less responsive to your actions both directly and indirectly with other players. This is a pity since this represented a slight flaw in the previous version and hasn't been addressed.
The 'big idea' of CIV 5 is the addition of city states (basically other AI civilization that cannot expand beyond their starting cities) that you have an option of influencing, conquering or allying with. The City state improvement was not a success for me and I have yet to see how to play this aspect of the game to my advantage. It can take a lot of money and resources to influence these cities for little gain.
A further change is the ability to adopt social policies for your civilization some of which may be counterproductive with each other that allow you shape and direct your progress in subtly different ways.
From a military perspective there have been quite a few changes, as mentioned the units can't now stack and now don't require special made sea units to move across water. Cities themselves cannot be defended by lots of units but can attack enemy units within their dominated city squares.
In addition to the usual features we now have a in-game 'Community Hub' which allows you to compete with other players from all over the world via the Internet. Virtual CIV communities where player can exchange views and comments are also accessible while you are playing.
Modabilty options to customise the game have also been improved.
The game is still a great to play, but to fans of CIV 4 the decreased complexity of the gameplay from the previous version might detract from the overall experience that CIV fans are used to. For the uninitiated this new version will be a huge pleasure and will show what true strategy games should be like. The intelligence and attention to detail that we have come to expect from this franchise is still there but I have to say that some of the better aspects of the game have suffered from the simplification of the game.
Now I should point out some faults and personal gripes I have with it.
The game comes without a chunky game manual which is invaluable when learning to play. The online version simply isn't a good replacement. The scoring system is still there but you are unable to check your progress as you play the game, the demographics and 'top five cities' sections have been eliminated from the game...a pity.
I also found from playing the game on the easier levels that it is too easy to achieve a military victory; the dominance of certain military units early in the game is too great.
I also found the game a little slow loading the new scenarios and waiting for the opponents turn to complete was a little annoying. Since I played it on a high spec fairly new PC I can only think that there are some deeper problems here.
To be totally honest I did enjoy playing this new version but I am a little disappointed with it. Some of the changes are for the worst and it does feel like some aspects of the gameplay will require re adjustments in the future. Maybe this game was rushed to the market...it certainly feels like that at times. Overall I think the game has been 'dumbed down' to maybe suit a wider audience. For new player this will not be so bad but CIV 4 Fans might be disappointed.
For all the technical details covering system requirements and the rest I suggest you consult the relevant sites where the game can be bought but suffice to say that you will need a fairly high spec PC and graphics card to run the game properly.
CIV 5 for PC can be bought from Amazon.co.uk for £24.89 (including P+P) at the time this review was written.
Recommended for new players, less so for fans of CIV 4.
© Mauri 2010