Just one more turn, then I’ll go to work/sleep/feed the dog/feed the children/whatever.
Anyone who has played the various incranations of Civilization from Sid Meier know that phrase. They’ve said more times than they care to admit to. But such is the hallmark of a truly great game. Many a player has turned that “just one more turn” phrase into several additional hours of game play, often at the epense of sleep/work/family/pets. I know I did on several occasions.
As computer technology advanced, so did the games for them. The first Civilization (CIV1), could fit on two 3.5″ disks (I still have a copy somewhere), and provided numerous hours of entertainment, bordering on addiction. CIV II was the next step forward, and came on a CD. Game play was enhanced with new technologies, better graphics, more Wonders, and all that. CIV III was less of a step forward. Game mechanics were improved, as was the interface, but new content was light. Then came CIV IV. This is a great game, but may be a little too over the top in terms of eye candy graphics. It plays well enough, but I would have rathered seen more depth and detail added to the gamemechanics and in game aspects (technologies, wonders, units, etc), rather than having snazzy 3-D graphics that I usually turn off anyway.
But as things progressed, culminating with CIV IV, so did the complexity of game play. With each CIV incarnation, micromanagement increased, as more depth and details were added. CIV III began to give players more aids in this (auto assignments and such for each city by an AI “governor”), but in order to truly get the most out of your nation, you had to micromanage each and every city. This could get very unwieldy if you have a large nation. This became a turn off for many casual gamers, and neophyte gamers. It wass too much all at once.
Enter the consoles. CIV was ported over to the PSOne several years back, and it was so-so. It tried to be the PC version on a console, but didn’t quite match up. The controls were awful, and it was just too easy to skip over important things. A good idea poorly executed. Since then, true strategy games on consoles have been lacking. And no, Command and Conquor is not a strategy game, it’s a tactical game, as are all the C&C clones out there. Deal with it.
As the PC gaming world is losing its dominance to consoles, it’s only natural that Sid Meier and company (Firaxis), would make a console version of CIV. But this time, rather than just porting over CIV IV (which I wouldn’t have minded), they instead made a console specific version, Revolution. This is designed with the intent of introducing casual gamers, and the nwe generation of gamers to the CIV franchise.
As I was searching about for a new game to play, having finished off Oblivion (finally), and worked my way through GHIII, and all but finished Residnet Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, I needed something new. It came down to a choice between GH:Aerosmith, and Civilization Revolution. Not being a fan of Joe Perry’s solo stuff, I opted against GH:Aerosmith and instead went for CIV. I’m happy with the choice.
First off, the game is not geared towards veteran CIV players. It’s for players new to the franchise, and those who find the PC version too complex. This is quick and dirty CIV, streamlined for the console generation. This is not to say veteran players won’t get enjoyment or value out of this title, but they’re not the target audience (they’re all playing CIV IV already). The manual is simplified, as it has to be put into the packaging for a console game, but what isn’t in the manual itself (which is quite alot actually), is easilly found in the in game Civiliopedia, which is far more appealing than what I’ve previously seen.
Now to the game itself..
The game features many of the improvements and features of previous CIV games. Great leaders, nation specific units, nation specific bonuses, etc are all here. The interface is intuitive, and easy to navigate. You shouldn’t find yourself getting lost moving from unit to unit or screen to screen. The game is visually nice, it’s easy on the eyes, and is not distracting. Sound is good, but not spectactular. The lack of real voices for the advisors is a bit annoying. You can play with the sound off and not miss it.
The game play is quick. And I do mean quick. You can play a complete game from begining to end, in about 2.5 hours. This is a necessary design decision, as generally speaking console players don’t always have the time to spend 12-18 hours playing a single game like this. You can save games at any point, just as in the PC versions, but if you have the 3 hours or so to sit and play, it’s generally not needed (except to recover form a hang/crash).
The game speed is facilitated by a severe streamlining of some in game aspects. The tech tree is sigificantly reduced, as are the numer of Wonders, and the over all number of unit types. All the usual suspects are present, along with some nation specific units, but the variety and dpeth found on the PC versions is not here. The simplified tech tree allows for greater tech rushes, and the interconnectivity of techs is greatly reduced.
The number of over all turns seems to be reduced as well. I’ve had difficulties in reaching the techs to the Space victory on every level (through King so far), except on Chieftan (easiest). Combine this with some AI cheats, and some Wonders (notably the Ancient ones), are worthless before you start, as it takes too many turns to build them, and by the time they’re built, they’re already obsolete.
The game map, and number of Civ’s is static. Every game plays on the same size map, with the same number of Civs in play. There is no ability to change these parameters as on the PC versions. While this enhances the game play speed, it does tend to forcing players into certain specific game play styles, where conquest is the main option.
You can win the game in one of four ways: 1. Domination. You take 4 of the 5 enemy capitals and you win; 1a. Domination. You win by having the high score when the game ends; 2. economic. If you hit 20000 gold in your treasury and build the Worl Bank Wonder, you win; 3. Cultural. If you get 20 Great Leaders and Wonders, and build the UN Wonder, you win; 4. Space Race. If you build the colony space ship, launch it, and it arrives safely, you win. So far, I’ve managed to win every way except by space race. Veteran CIV players will be pleased to note that the end game ranking screen is still here. So far, by best was finishing ahead of Winston Churchill (and he may be the “top dog” on the console listing).
There are 16 different nations to play. There’s a good variety, from the traditional (France, Germany, America, England), to the more recent additions (Such as Saladin and the Arabs). Each nation gets various specific bonuses for each era in game (ancient, mideval, industrial, modern), and some get special units (such as German Panzers, or English Longbowmen), or special abilities (Roman 1/2 price roads, Mongols get barbarians to join them), which helsp to keep game play fresh.
Some of the old CIV quirks are still present as well. Old hands will laugh merrily at the times when a lone archer unit would take out an army of tanks. It still happens. AI cheats are still in play as well, as you will notice how a 1-2 city nation will just be able to tech rush everything, or pour out units like a waterfall. And of course, the AI is seemingly completely uneffected by the fog of war. But that’s almost to be expected of a CIV title.
The static game map size is a major flaw in the game. It just doesn’t allow for enough variation to keep more experienced players enticed. So far, in about 12 games, I’ve seen only about 4 different map configurations. Non-national placements, such as of barbarian villages, firendly villages, and ancient artifacts, are all fairly static as well. after a short while, you’ll be able to guess where they are from your starting position.
I’m not sure that the tech times, and build times have been properly scaled to the faster game play. It seems that early on, the truns take even longer chunks of years than in previous versions, which skews the game play towards the modern era. This is espcially true of the Ancient Wonders, most of which become obsolete and useless before they can be built. This was an issue in the PC versions as well, but it’s glaring on the console version.
The game could have benefited from having a slightly epanded game play. Adding in about 15 more turns would have been good, and a slightly expanded tech tree would not have been amiss. More customization options for map size, and number of opposing nations is needed IMO, but is probably lost on most of the console gamers out there (no offense).
Overall though, this is an excellent game. It has all the addicting aspects of its PC cousins, but plays much much faster. I found myself playing 3-4 games in a row, depsite the flaws. The core of what makes CIV a great game, a classic even, is here, and that’s what matters. If you’re a veteran CIV player, and want a quick and dirty game, this is worth it. If you’re new to strategy gaming, this is an ideal title to get your feet wet with, or if you’re just curious as to what all the fuss is about.