by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Another major ingredient to the Civilization V recipe is the introduction of City States. These independent cities can be captured just like any other city, but they do not hold any alignment to a particular nation. And because of that, more often than not, it is preferable to befriend the City State by gifting money or units or completing tasks on their behalf. In doing so, your empire gains Influence over the City State. Culture and Happiness can be gained through the benefits of the City State’s luxury goods, whilst gifts of units can also be received. These extra units can really come in handy. Unfortunately, these City States can also be influenced by other nations and can be affected badly by transgressions from your part. Trespassing through their land when you don’t have good relations with them can cause feelings of anger toward you.
This brings me to the main issue I have with the game: the unit path-finding. Units, if left to do their own navigating, will often head to their selected destination through enemy controlled land causing them to be fired upon and on occasions be destroyed. And sometimes they decide to take a short-cut over the nearest body of water, becoming easy prey to barbarian and enemy vessels. What a waste. At other times, units will go through neutral City States, causing the City State to become angry about the trespass through their lands. Of course, as mentioned above, it is often better to have support from these City States rather than anger them.
Sights and sounds
From a visual standpoint, Civilization V does a great job. The opening introduction cinematic is absolutely amazing, with a wonderful story of the birth of an empire. Although the cinematic is animated, the detail makes everything seem like it could have been filmed using real actors. And the intro sets the scene for the rest of the game visuals. The leaders during negotiations are realistic enough. Realism has also gone into the detailed landscapes. The hex-tile system seems to have made the landscapes blend into one another more seamlessly than ever before.
The audio within Civilization V does a more than adequate job. I really enjoyed that when meeting other world leaders they spoke in their native tongue. Well, I presume they were all speaking in their native language, as I’m not fluent in Aztec, Persian or Songhain. Sound effects – the usual weapons sound effects – really could have been taken straight from Civ II and no-one would know any difference. But they complete the job they’re supposed to. The music is handled really well in the game. The background music is civilization-specific and doesn’t distract from other things going on in the game – always a good sign. There is nothing worse than bad music drowning out a game and becoming monotonous.
Everything has its place
Another area that the Civilization series does well compared to other games of the genre is the interface. Everything is easy to access. The main page has everything required in close proximity, but at the same time does not seem cluttered. This might be an effect of the recent console versions of Civilization – Civilization Revolution. The game almost seems ‘dumbed down’ somewhat, but in a good way. For newcomers to the series, the game has certainly been made to feel even more user-friendly and makes getting into a game easier. The interface is clear and everything of importance is available at a click of the mouse. Most important information is portrayed on the right side of the page. Advisers, as in previous incarnations, have their say in how they would like you to run your nation, but ultimately you get to make the final decision on each aspect of the empire. A mini map (complete with fog of war) is clear enough to show all known cities, whilst unit information is kept separate in a panel in the lower left of the screen.
Other important details such as the tech tree, demographics, advisor information and social polices are available at the click of an icon. Speaking of social policies, religion and government systems have been largely taken out of the game, although various government styles can be initiated in the social policy screen. Social Policies can be founded when enough culture is gained. Different social policies will affect your empire in different ways. Some will increase production, whilst others will help your military. There are dozens of social policies that can be adopted. The downside this time around is that you cannot change your policies once you have chosen them, so your early decisions will stay with you for the rest of the game.
So, which nation is the best?
As with recent games in the Civilization series, choosing a civilization to adopt is a huge decision. Each has a couple of specific units and buildings that they can produce, and have different traits that complement their game style. With 18 nations to choose from, gamers will need plenty of time to experiment with each, finding the civilization that best suits their own game style. Modding too, seems to have been streamlined somewhat to make it easier for ‘modding novices’ to do their stuff. No doubt in the coming months, there will be a ton of new maps, nationalities and gameplay features to use – just in case there wasn’t enough variation in the game.
Overall, Civilization V continues with the simplistic rule-the-world gameplay that it is renowned for. I have played dozens of other turn-based strategy games, but the Civilization series continues to be the simplest and most enjoyable of all. The new features of the game all seem to work well and do so without making the experienced Civ gamer learn the rules again. I fear that another stint at CivAnon may be in order.
Interface is superb with everything in close proximity. Game is streamlined for newcomers to the Civilization franchise.
Unit path-finding can be substandard at times.