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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Review: Civilization 5

Posted by Paragus1 Monday September 27 2010 at 7:45AM
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Review: Civilization 5

Civilization 5 is the newest installment to arguably one of the best turn-based strategy franchise's for PC gamers.  Civ 4 is one of those games that usually ended up getting installed on every PC I own, so naturally Civ 5 has some pretty big shoes to fill as one of the flagship games of it's genre.  What I want to do here today is give my take on Civ 5 in terms of how it stacks up against its predecessor.  I use the term review loosely here because to cover all of what a Civ game offers would take far more words and time than I could ever write or you would want to read.

One of the first differences you will notice in this installment is a substantial increase to the games graphics.  Civ 5 is a visually stunning game and as such you can expect that the system requirements to run it are substantially higher than Civ 4.  If your gaming PC is a toaster, you may find yourself having to compromise in certain areas as the recommended system is around 4 Gigs of Ram, a quad-core processor, and a Nvidia 9800 or equivalent video card. Aside from the new and improved graphics, you'll find a nicely composed and appropriate ambient soundtrack as you try to take your empire through the ages.

The interface also has undergone some changes and now has a more much simplified look and feel to it. You won't find yourself forced to look at information every turn that is not needed that turn.  The long list going down the side of the screen listing all the civs and their score has been tucked away into an easy to access menu, and overall a lot of the clutter seems to have been removed allowing you to see more of the field.  Make no mistake though, despite the simplified look the game still has all of the depth and intricacies that you would expect from a Sid Meier game.

The biggest change Civ 5 brings (aside from the complete removal of religion) is the shift from tiles being squares into a hex tile layout.  In itself this might not seem like a big deal, but combined with the fact that Civ 5 allows only 1 combat unit to be on a hex at a time, the way combat is fought is drastically different from the previous games.  Gone are the massive "death stacks" of dozens of units on a single tile that steamroll around the map, and with the new limitation combat has become massively more tactical in nature and overall more enjoyable.

Along with this change, many of Civ 5's military units and cities themselves are capable of firing ranged attacks from 2 or more tiles away from enemy targets.  This makes combat unit placement on the field critical in order to make sure your range units can launch volley's over front line ground troops.  Cities no longer need to have a combat unit garrisoned inside in order to defend from attackers. In addition to the standard ranged defenses, cities now come with a life bar that needs to be depleted in order to capture them.  This is particularly useful in the early game where barbarians seem to be very menacing.

That's right, the barbarians are back in full swing, and this time they seem to be a problem much sooner than they would in the previous game.  It is not unusual for barbarians to set up base camps and launch attacks on your fledgling empire very early in the game.  The new city defense mechanism does make this more manageable since you can attack incoming barbarians with your city defenses even if all of your units are destroyed or somewhere else.  One final interesting change is that in previous games, a barbarian getting their hands on one of your workers or settlers in the early game would often times be catastrophic, but in Civ 5 the workers are taken hostage and slowly escorted back to the closest barbarian base camp.  Players then are able to rescue their workers by tracking down and killing the barbarians or their settlements, but rest assure that more settlements can and will pop up at any time well past the stone age eras.  As the game progresses into later eras, don't be surprised to see barbarians using some more advanced weapons like gunpowder.

Speaking of outside influences, one of Civ 5's big new features is the addition of City States which are basically NPC controlled single city empires that interact with the player in a variety of ways separately from the other civs.  City states each have their own personality types, and like the big civs, they are capable of forming alliances and declaring war against other city states and players.  By interacting with them in a variety of ways, players are able to build up reputation or lose it by doing various acts.  Depending on your reputation level, you may find a city state becoming a valuable contributor of resource and military units, or an enemy whose units will attack you.  Wiping out city states can give you a bad reputation among the other states and you may soon find them all galvanized against you.

Diplomacy seems to have undergone some changes as well. The new diplomacy view is now a full-screen view with an animated world leader who speaks his native language (with subtitles).  All of the usual diplomatic options are there with a few changes.  Leaders are able to enter into secret agreements to conspire against other leaders, but on the flip-side they seemed to have removed technology trading.  The technology trading mechanic being removed is probably for the best in my opinion because it was often abused in multiplayer games where people would feed raw techs to another player to slingshot them way ahead of where they should be.  One gripe I do have in the diplomacy department is the absence of the window showing you how all of the Civ's feel towards each other.  It can become very confusing trying to understand not only how the various other players feel towards each other, but which civs are allied with which city states.

Culture and the role it plays has undergone a revamp. In Civ 4 the primary use for culture was to use it as a mechanism to expand the borders of your empire.  Cities used to level up after earning enough culture points and expand out in every direction by 1 square.  Civ 5 does not use culture as the only mechanism to define and expand your borders, instead extra tiles can be purchased with gold.  This gives more freedom to the player to decide how and when their borders will expand, and it also makes it a lot easier to secure a specific resource that might be a square or so outside your initial border.  Instead of waiting for the border to expand or being forced to build a new city, you can simply purchase the plot of land.  This also gives a lot of flexibility to the player for picking the exact tile of placing your settler, something that was absolutely critical to success in Civ 4.

The second major role that culture plays is for purchasing policies.  Policies are basically a new system that replaces the old "Civics" in the previous games that helped to define your government type.  Your civilization as a whole has sort of an experience point bar for overall culture.  When you level up in this area, you are awarded a skill point of sorts that is yours to spend to unlock and spend in a variety of policy trees that target a wide variety of areas of the game.  Each of the different policy areas focuses on giving bonuses to such thing as military growth, civ expansion, culture, happiness, research, production, etc.  These in turn unlock a variety of bonuses to enhance these aspects. Once these points are spent you can not get them back and some of the various policy areas can only be unlocked if various conditions are met, such as being in a certain era or not being invested into certain other policy trees.

The Civ 5 multiplayer experience runs off the Steam service which some people may or may not like, but personally I see this as a step forward from the Gamespy system used by Civ 4.  Overall the multiplayer game is everything you would expect it to be, but there are a few areas of the current version of it that I have to take issue with.  The most glaringly obvious issue is the lack of a SAVE button for multiplayer. You can save your game via the game's autosaving feature which can be configured to save at the interval of your choosing, however I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to do a standard save especially when this was present in Civ 4.  Another gripe is the fact that in multiplayer games there are no animations for combat.  While I can understand a possible argument that maybe there are performance issues, it would be nice to allow players to decide for themselves. My final beef is that when creating a multiplayer game, there seems to be far less flexibility in customizing the specifics of the game than found in singleplayer.  As an example, the number of players allowed is based on the map size, but if you prefer to have a lot of civs jammed into a smaller map the game does not allow more civs unless you select a larger world.  Hopefully there will be patches that will address these issues, and while they don't ruin the multiplayer, I just find it annoying that the previous game had these features.

Overall Civilization 5 is a flagship turn-based strategy game that I'd recommend to any PC gamer.  It offers all of the same addictive gameplay that fans have come to know and love over the years and advances the series for the better with a lot of the changes to the formula.  Like previous installments, Civ 5 has absolutely tremendous replay value and staying power that make it an excellent purchase.  Be prepared to lose a lot of sleep playing this game as hours feel like minutes as you keep hammering that button to see what happens next...

 

Paragus
Co-Leader of Inquisition

gatheris writes:

the one thing i didn't see mentioned

is there any kind of online DRM?

the one thing that would prevent purchasing for me

Mon Sep 27 2010 8:32PM Report
Paragus1 writes:

You need to register your game with a Steam account the first time, after which you can play offline all you want without using it.  To play the game's online miltiplayer you need to use Steam.

Tue Sep 28 2010 7:45AM Report
Shinami writes:

I love this game. I have played it since launch.

 

My only problem is all the downloadable content players will have to play for.

 

For example, no Ancient Mesopotamian civilizations are shipped with the standard edition. In order to get a Mesopotamian civilization one has to buy the Deluxe version of the game to get Babylon and a Tigris-Euphrates map.

 

The other problem with the game is the spawn-weight. If you make a game of continents, almost every civilization will start on the same continent on a huge map.

 

I tried the different difficulty levels...You literally have to play Diificulty 4 - 5  before an AI starts thinking about expansion in an Archipelago map...and if you play as Suiliman. All you have to do is build a good enough navy, find that one island and surround it that your enemy is on and easilly you will win.

 

I despise the way Military Victories are....Let me explain this:

 

In civilization 4 you had two military victory types. Conquest and Domination. Conquest was to Destroy all enemies completely and Domination was to spread out across the land..In short it was purely that...Domination! You would literally have control of 40 - 50%+ of the land and make up 50 - 70% of the world's population....

 

Military Victory is a real joke in Civilization 5, making it the easiest victory to achieve at any difficulty. All you have to do to win is capture all of your opponent's capital cities. You see...the player who becomes the LAST player to have possession of his original capital city WINS!. It means if five players exist and one has a massive military and captures three capital cities...and I swoop in with a paltry military and capture his capital city....I Win! In short, its possible to have a GLOBAL military victory through only having to capture ONE CITY. What a Joke!

 

I say its a joke, because Military Victory is by far the easiest victory  to achieve. So far I have not been able to achieve a culture victory below 1800s and I have not been able to achieve a Science Victory under the 1900s, while at around 1000BC I have been able to win in a dueling map with a military.  This is using the "Quick" Speed setting.

Tue Sep 28 2010 8:54AM Report
Wycliffe writes:

Another great game review Paragus.

 

I've noticed lately you have been reviewing a lot of non-MMOGs, which makes sense since there have been so few noteworthy MMOG releases lately.

 

However, as someone who avidly supports sandbox titles like Darkfall, I'm curious to why you've never tried out EVE. While the gameplay isn't as intense as Darkfall's FPS combat, the actual sandbox elements in EVE are (imo and many others) second to none.

 

I'm just curious to see you write an article on it basically.

Tue Sep 28 2010 11:33AM Report
Paragus1 writes:

The direction of topics I have been writing about has been broader for 2 main reasons.  

The first being that I try to touch on the games that me and the rest of Inquisition are playing in vent, and lately they have been non-MMO titles.  None of us are currently subscribed to any MMOs at the moment, and there has been a lot of solid non-MMO games released recently and down the road.   League of Legends, Starcraft 2, and Civ 5 make up the bulk of what is happening in my vent these days, and all 3 have tremendous staying power.

This leads to the second reason, there aren't a lot of MMOs out right now or coming down the pipe that have my guys excited.  While we are not currently playing Darkfall, overall things have been in a lull while AV is preparing their next expansion patch.  I had a group who was very interested in FFXIV who pretty much had their dreams crushed with the beta.   The Old Republic has minimal interest as it looks to be pretty much a Star Wars theme park.  There's a few others out there that have potential but they are too far off to really delve into at the moment.

As far as EVE goes, I have heard a lot of great things about it.   I have also heard that it does have quite a learning curve and can be rough going at the start.  I respect the game and company behind it immensely for what they have created and overcome to get where they are.  I just don't think EVE is my thing and I'm not really willing to invest the time to find out for sure right now.

I do appreciate the feedback though and I am glad people don't mind reading about some non-MMO games on a site like this.  I'm not the kind of guy who writes everyday, so I'd rather weigh in some solid games popping up outside the genre then nothing at all.

Tue Sep 28 2010 11:58AM Report
Wycliffe writes:

Unless you joined EVE University or another corp that helps new players immediately get into the fun parts of the game, it probably isn't worth checking out since the PVE components of the game are fairly dull. Its not unlike Darkfall in that aspect; you need to stomach a boring grind in order to achieve glory.

 

FFIV and SWTOR fell off my radar awhile back. The titles I'm still following atm are Earthrise, Perpetuum Online and Xysom(although I'm losing hope for this one). Well, also Guild Wars 2 and TERA to a lesser extent. For now though, I'd rather read articles on Civ V than STO, APB or whatever "AAA" title is being pushed out the door this month.

Tue Sep 28 2010 5:33PM Report
stokker writes:

EVE PvE is boring only if you chose to make it so. Greater rewards always assume greater risks, and I think the problem is that most players can't stomach the risks rather than the grind for lesser rewards.

As for Civ5... I stopped playing after Civ2 :) Find whale -> settle -> win! I still enjoy the old Heroes WoG now and then with my friends.

Wed Sep 29 2010 3:08AM Report
oTinyo writes:

Great write up as usual Paragus. :)

Civ 5 is horribly addictive. I spent the first few hours trying to work out if it had been dumbed down. IMO it has even more depth and complexity now but is presented in a very easy to read/control fashion.

Great fun on LAN and single player. There are some bugs and additions which are needed (editor mainly) but this is definitely a worthy successor in the Civ line.

Wed Sep 29 2010 4:45AM Report
brostyn writes:

Great review!! Thanks Paragus. I'm still undecided.

Thu Sep 30 2010 7:31PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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