by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
The Test of Time
Oh no... it’s two in the morning and I know I have to start working in a few hours. But if I play a couple of more turns, my Iroquois researchers will be able to put me in front, technologically, and I’ll be ready to begin my war on those dastardly Siamese. An hour later, after discovering that particular technology, building an important Wonder and razing half of the Siamese empire, I think it’s time I should finally hit the sack.
Who of you out there has not had ‘one more turn’ syndrome at one stage in your gaming life? Chances are that if you’ve ever played a game in the Civilization series you’ve become accustomed to the phrase. Whether it has been to complete that all-powerful Wonder of the World, to unearth the next scientific discovery, or to get your spacecraft into orbit, there has always been the realisation that you probably should have stopped playing hours ago to get some sleep.
New to the series?
For those Civ Addicts among us, Civilization V needs no introduction. For those gamers who have been living under a rock since 1990 (which could be a good thing, since many Civ gamers have been living stuck to their PC since the original Civilization was released), the Civilization series of games allows gamers to guide their nation of choice - starting with an individual settler unit - through history and into the future to worldwide domination. Victory can be achieved through a number of means including military prowess, diplomacy, scientific supremacy or cultural influence.
OK, so most likely if you’re reading this review, you are wondering what the changes to previous games in the Civilization series are. Indeed, newcomers to the series won’t be affected by any changes because everything is new to them. But for the existing Civilization players, they would be asking whether the changes are worth moving up to Civilization V and how do the changes affect the game? Well, I can tell you that there are definitely a few major changes and most of them work really well and help improve a series that is already the flagship of turn-based strategy games.
The Joy of Hex
The first major change is the much talked about move to the hex-tile system. Old-school warmongers will no doubt feel right at home, as the hex-tile format goes back to a board game style map. But for those familiar with the previous square tiles, the unit movement does not alter too much from what you’ve become accustomed to. It has been a little while since I’ve played Civilization IV and I must say that I didn’t really notice the difference. I know that it is different, but the move to the hex-tile system feels completely natural.
One thing that I did notice, though, is the fact that you can now only have one military unit per square. The Stack of Doom from previous Civilization titles is a thing of the past. This will no doubt cause a number of issues with seasoned Civvers until they get used to a new playing style. The one-unit-per-tile rule not only causes reworking of attacking strategies, it also means that movement of troops needs to be thought out more carefully.
Another big change is the fact that you no longer need troop transports to move your units from one island to another – the units will automatically turn into defenceless transports when you put them out to sea. This certainly makes the gameplay smoother and more enjoyable, although it might have been nice to limit the embarkation to cities, instead of allowing the units to plunge into water wherever they felt like it.
Never bring a knife to a gunfight – bring an assault rifle and a stealth bomber
One new feature of combat is the ability of ranged units to attack over a distance. With the one unit per tile rule, the use of ranged units becomes more important, especially when bombarding enemy cities. Unfortunately, although the ranged units can fire from a distance, there is a set-up time required before bombardment can take place for most of the ranged unit types. Setting up the units for bombardment costs one movement point and can leave them vulnerable if not protected by supporting units. The exception to this rule are archer units (mounted and unmounted) and they are really devastating in the early game battlefields. Winning battles will then gain experience for that unit. Gaining enough experience will enable the unit to be improved with various upgrades.
Cities will also fire upon units if they come inside their borders, so terrain is a vital ingredient in winning a battle. It is not just enemy cities that can fire upon oncoming troops. A city in your empire without a defending unit will still have defensive capabilities. This is especially helpful early on in the game as you can use your initial Warrior unit to traverse the countryside without fear of early barbarian uprisings defeating your undefended city.
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.