by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
The greatest game in history revised
Civilization games are a series that make the gamers' hearts beat faster at the mere mention of any of the games in the series. The previous four incarnations of the series have all been similar in the basic premise, but also vastly different from each other in game mechanics. The smaller and bigger differences between the games all have their fans and disparagers and there are many gamers out there who see Civilization II or III as the best games in the series.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the announcement of Civilization V was immediately met with conjectures and guesses of how the game mechanics would be changed this time and how they will change the face of the game. However, in addition to all the speculation there are some solid facts that have been confirmed at least for now. We'll take a look at some of the things that we know at the moment, but, naturally, the developers will have time to tinker with the game until the very release and, as was the case with Civilization IV, many things can change even after the release with patches and fixes.
Simple premise, complex realisation
All the games in the Civilization series stand on a very simple basic idea: you are tasked to create a nation, starting from a small group of settlers in the ancient times and guiding them throughout the history until they prove that their civilization is the best civilization on the playing field. In order to achieve this, you will try to balance the use of tax funds and resources as best you can, explore the world, develop technologies, get along with your neighbours one way or the other and finally choose your method of winning the game. The various incarnations of Civilization have tweaked this premise with features such as trade routes, spreading of religion and culture, multinational corporations etc. in addition to different kinds of battle mechanics.
From squares to hexagons
While all the previous Civilization titles have always relied on a playing field that was divided in squares, the developers have finally listened to the series fans pleading for a more hardcore strategy approach. Thus, the game map will now be based on traditional hexagon grid, which will keep the distance between the centre of each hex and the centre of all six adjacent hexes constant. This will remove the old problem of the square grid where moving diagonally let you cover more terrain than when moving horizontally or vertically. This change alone will influence the tactics around choke points on the map as well as city development and placement: cities will no longer use resources in an area that has been called ”fat cross”, but will affect a more circular area – thus optimising your city locations will be vastly different from the previous games.
From stupid AI to smart AI
Everyone who has played the Civilization games knows that the AI has always been pretty stupid; the enemy civilizations were rarely able to cope with two-pronged attacks and their overall plans for expansion and development were always short-sighted in comparison to the human player who could start planning, for example, the final stages of spaceship development already in the ancient or middle ages.
Civilization V will change all this. The new AI will be working on four separate levels: tactical, operational, strategic and grand strategic. The lowest layer will deal with unit battles, while the second level will take care of the entire war front. The strategic level of the AI will run the entire empire, while the highest level will make long-spanning decisions on how to win the game. All the lower level AI layers will follow the chosen grand strategy in their smaller-scale decisions. This should allow the AI to be more responsive to sudden changes in the game and less vulnerable to simple surprises that human players always have up their sleeves.