by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Major and minor civilizations
The initial release of Civilization V will include 18 civilizations, but there are already announcements around that further civilizations may be provided as DLCs over Steam. Given that Firaxis and the modding community have created dozens of extra civilizations for Civ IV, it is certain that we'll not be restricted to mere 18 civilizations for long.
Each leader assigned to the civilizations will have their own personality – as is traditional. These personalities consist of 25 different characteristics, or flavours, on a 10 point scale. The specific stat on each characteristic varies slightly in each game (+/- 2 points), which will ensure that the AI's aren't static predictable robots in how they play the game.
In addition to the traditional competing civilizations and barbarians, Civilization V will introduce so-called City States – small cities that will not compete for the victory of the game, but will have their own minor agendas. The player has to choose whether he wants to be friendly with these city states and receive possible bonuses – such as warriors – or if he will simply take over the minor civilizations and their lands. In a way this feature reminds me of the Native tribes in Firaxis' other title, Colonization, except that the Civilization V city states will take the basic idea much further, including separate tech trees for the city states as well as barbarians.
No unit stacking
Civilization V is a big departure from the previous titles and one of the biggest departures is probably the way cities are defended and how the units behave. I allude to, of course, the fact that units in Civilization V will generally no longer stack, but each unit will occupy one hexagon. The obvious departures from this rule are air units that can occupy the same hex with a land or sea unit, making aircraft carriers possible.
Naturally, the old logic of being able to stack several units and move them all at once was based on the fact that each square represented a vast tract of land. It remains to be seen whether this means that the maps in Civilization V will be totally humongous – thus rendering the area that a single hex represents much smaller – or if this is simply a game mechanics choice that aims to make the battles more interesting (by removing the ”Stacks of Doom”) while compromising realism.
City defence is naturally also affected by this change. The concept of cultural bonus that added to the city defence in Civilization IV has been taken a step forward and now the cities themselves will have ”hit points” that the enemy will have to bring down in order to take the city over. If you wish to use a unit to increase a particular city's defence, that unit will merge with the city and boost its hit points.
Each unit can move two times per turn, meaning that there will be no movement rate under 2 in the game. Since no two units can occupy the same hex, it has been necessary to introduce a special move which allows you to switch positions with another unit without having to use a third hex to move one of the units out of the second one's way. A big – and welcome – change is that units that lose fights with the enemies will not be immediately destroyed, but can recover to fight another day.
The addition of distance bombardment is perhaps another big change that is worth mentioning. Your archer units and other bombardment units can now bombard the enemy from a distance, over the “heads” of a melee unit between them and the enemy, or even over a lake hex. Together with the one-unit-per-hex rule, this will definitely make the maps feel a lot smaller than in previous games. This effect could only be countered by making the maps much bigger than they have been in previous incarnations of Civilization games and I doubt that Firaxis will go down that road.