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Civ 5 Review

Posted by pseudoRequiem On 2011-02-15 9 comments

Presentation : 8.5

I've the Civ games on and off since the first version was released in 1991 and when I loaded up Civ 4 for the first time, I actually quit two hours in and never touched it again. Things had become too complicated and I found each turn taking way more time that seemed necessary. After playing a bit of Civ Revolutions on 360, I was encouraged to come back to the series for version 5. I'm very happy I did. Civ 5's menu system has been vastly improved and borrows some of the menu systems created for the xbox game to streamline the whole playing process.
City screens are well organized and it's very easy to grab the basic information you need on a turn by turn basis. There are helpful hints abound so gone are the days of forgetting to start production or change your research selection. Similar to Revolutions, "Next Turn" button is overlayed with other activities that require your attention first before the next turn should be started. This system combined with the simplification of the city happiness system made getting into the game easier and allowed me to learn at my own pace while at the same time not feeling like every turn was taking an eternity.

The two biggest changes for me was the switch to hex tiles vs the square grid from previous games and the removal of combat unit stacking. The first was likely influenced by the second as hexes allow for 6 units to surround any one location on the map while grids only allowed 4 unit stacks to be able to attack directly. With combat units no longer able to stack, the combat strategy has been amped up and is a welcome change from the old way of fighting wars. Many new rules and bonuses have been implemented to support the change, such as flanking bonuses and Social Policies that allow units to give each other bonuses if they remain near one another.
An honorable mention for simplicity is the new research grid. Instead of selecting each tech to research when one is finished, you have the option to choose a tech as far down the line as you like and let the game sort out the fastest way to get to that technology. This not only saves time but makes it less likely to forget where you were attempting to go, technologically, if the game gets long.
Bottom line, much improved combat and overall management. Some things are still very complicated and/or hidden so a new player may not realize they can do certain things until their 5th or 6th play-through without taking the time to slog through the extremely large amounts of documentation. Active help in the game is of marginal usefulness as each case where you are told to do something, the purpose is never really explained well.

Graphics : 9
Much improved from older versions and the amount of hexes populated with units or resources with their continual animations is very impressive. Running on my Windows 7 machine using DirectX 11, 4Gb RAM and a 1Gb video card, I didn't notice any slowdown except on the larger maps where 30-40 other players' turns were being processed between each turn.

Attack animations are plentiful and vary enough to keep it interesting. Although, a lack of endgame animations of any kind can make a victory seem lack-luster at best. Minor gripe but it did bother me when my first win was represented by a window popping up.
For times when things are getting complicated, you also have the ability to switch to a hex grid game board representation of the map. This simplifies the view to a board game style map showing only important resources, cities and units. This is great for searching for a specific resource that is needed or just to avoid being overwhelmed by an excessively busy screen.
Sound : 9.5
As far as sound goes, Civ 5 has fairly low requirements. The attack sounds are good and have proper 'weight' to them, although you may tire of the screaming civilians when you attack a city over and over again.

The high point for sure is the customized soundtrack that is played for each leader as you play them. I loved listening to classical tunes while playing through as Elizabeth or sacrificial drums as Montezuma. I've only managed to play 4 cultures so far but each one has been spot on.

Gameplay : 8

As with all Civ games, I can't help but notice that the basic mechanics behind it are the same thing that make casual games like Farmville popular. Build something, wait for it to finish, when it's done use it's benefit to help you build more things. Wash rinse repeat. At least Civ has always had overlying long term goals and captures the best part about what is usually the actual fun part of games like Farmville. The start.

Beginning from nothing and expanding to a dominating civilization has always been the mantra and while the formula is the same, it is much harder to pull off this time around. My first 3 games were abject failures where I forgot what type of victory I was going for between days of playing. Without a good plan and focus on what your endgoal is at all times, you can lose yourself in it, playing turn after turn without any real direction. The best part is that you won't mind because playing is like having a fully animated boardgame with fun combat, strategy, resourcing, trading, diplomacy and nuclear bombs.

Overall : 8.75

Fun, re-playable and best of all, no previous knowledge required. The game guides you well and you can have lots of fun without ever knowing any rules or having goals. Easy to learn, difficult to master, addictive as hell, impossible to 100%.