(www.civilization5.com) Rated E for Everyone 10+ by ESRB. After making Civilization games, and other Sid Meier’s (insert turn-based strategy game name here), one after another for near two decades, this most recent installment of the turn-based strategy giant should be getting pretty close to perfection. While perfection is a subjective judgment and evaluation for such can never end, a measurement that is closer to being quantifiable and specific to games like Civilization is how hard it is to NOT hit the “Next Turn” button. And it is hard; not very many individuals would have the willpower to do anything but see how the next turn unfolds. Albeit all its changes, Civilization still stands against the test of time – Civilization V is definitely one of the best turn-based strategy game money can buy.

(www.civilization5.com) Rated E for Everyone 10+ by ESRB. After making Civilization games, and other Sid Meier’s (insert turn-based strategy game name here), one after another for near two decades, this most recent installment of the turn-based strategy giant should be getting pretty close to perfection. While perfection is a subjective judgment and evaluation for such can never end, a measurement that is closer to being quantifiable and specific to games like Civilization is how hard it is to NOT hit the “Next Turn” button. And it is hard; not very many individuals would have the willpower to do anything but see how the next turn unfolds. Albeit all its changes, Civilization still stands against the test of time – Civilization V is definitely one of the best turn-based strategy game money can buy.

Presentation:
For those unfamiliar, the Civilization series have the players play as an immortal leader of a civilization and task them with bringing prosperity to their empire. Civilization V is still the full package turn-base strategy game fans had come to know and love. Starting with a wandering villager and stone-wielding warrior of the ancient era, the player builds his/her empire through the ages. Building cities, managing cities, raising armies, waging war, fending off barbarians, engaging in diplomatic relations, nuking the neighbor, these are but a few of the activities that may require the player’s attention. Whatever the paths taken, it is still mystically satisfying to see one’s chosen culture grow from a small village to a multi-continental empire.

This iteration of Civilization also has 18 civilizations to choose from, but they each offer just one leader this time. Many of them, like Queen Elizabeeth, Alexander the Great, Gandhi, are no strangers to the veterans. Although it is said that these leaders each have unique and complex AI, they still feel similar and predictable. For instance, most will declare war on a player civilization that settles a new city close to their border just a few turns down the road, or when they start losing that war, the AI will make an one-time-only peace offer that is extremely unfavorable to them – that in itself is also a sign the AI player cannot sustain that war.

There is one large change since last time however, is that it now utilizes Steam, the digital media manager. In other words, Steam gets installed when the user puts in Civ 5’s DVD and the game needs to be authenticated online via Steam before it can be played. It gets to be quite the nuisance that Steam, instead of Civ 5, gets started and goes through the login process before the game intro movie is even displayed.

       

Graphics:
On a powerful enough PC, Civ V is quite detailed – water effects, smoke, facial expressions are all vividly portrayed in style. But it is certainly playable on a machine with lower specs. This iteration of the title retains its traditional flavor, cartoon-ish board game look for its out-of-proportion cities, units, and environment. This visual presentation style has served well for the series since its transition to 3D with Civilization III, one look of it will be immediately recognized by fans.

A major change is the addition of the fully animated leader scenes, more or less of a welcomed change even though it doesn’t have any gameplay consequences. It now takes up the entire screen when you need to speak with Catherine the Great, Napoleon, or any of the other leaders.

Sounds:
For the lack of a better term, Civilization V’s sounds are “interesting.” Most of the civilizations have their own culturally-sensitive background soundtracks when playing as them and they sure feel authentic even though it is logistically unreasonable to confirm the authenticity. But it is not all pleasant, as the unfamiliarity can get quite unsettling when going through a “marathon” length game while listening to traditional non-Western music for hours.

There is also voice acting here, each leader sporting a version of their native language. Although it’s hard to evaluate the quality of the voice acting due to the language barrier, they do add to the “authentic” or “cultural” experience when put politically correctly. For the two languages I understand here – English and Chinese – the voice work for the English speakers (George Washington and Queen Elizabeth) are considerably superior even though there aren’t that many spoken lines.

But afterall, the feel is what sought after here and the developers were able to convey a slightly different experience while playing as different civilizations.

       

Gameplay:
The Civilization series is one of the earlier series to go user-friendly, or just being simpler from one release to the next. They had kept up with that direction into this installment – and it’s hard to say that it is not disappointing for someone who has known the Civilization games since the 1990s.

All the separate parts of governing are now known as “social policies,” these supposed social rules and -isms provide advantages for the empire one way or another, are unlocked with culture accumulated from cities and it’s possible (but slightly challenging) to play without using them. The anarchy period between switching government form, from past Civilization games, is easily avoidable since only half of the social policy groups exclude any others and they are generally mutually exclusive. In other words, any Civ V game can be finished without any period of civil disturbance with minimal planning – if wished, enjoy some fascism with aristocracy and republic.

Workers tend to be a notable source of frustration from playing Civilization in the past, but it is difficult to do without them. Basically, they improve the numerous tiles around the cities and allow them to grow and flourish. The player can manually control each individual worker and dictate what needs to be done on each piece of the game board, but that would be more tedious than how many times “each” is used in this sentence. In the past, Civilization implemented worker automation that didn’t work very well – most players tend to disagree with what the workers do. But this time, they had it wrong again but almost immediately patched it. The workers now supposedly take the tedium that is tile management off the player’s hand.

City stats had mostly been removed from the game, each city now individually produce just gold, culture, science, and population. Happiness is tallied by the entire Civilization as a whole, which is another step to reduce micro-management. For those into having that extra control, the ability to place citizens on individual city tiles is still present. In fact, it was improved as player-placed citizens are locked in and cannot be changed by the city as it grows and the AI changes its configuration.

Instead of finding more and newer stuffs, features get combined and rolled together. There just seems to be less and less to do besides hitting the “Next Turn” button. As a whole, the game flows faster since much less time are spent doing the little stuffs.

       

Innovation:
The changes in civic/government system, workers, combat system all feel fairly minor, the core game is very similar to Civilization 4 and 3. In fact, veterans will feel so at home that the Civ V experience is like a déjà vu. The one thing that looks different and has an impact is the upgrade to hexagons from squares: yes – every plot, tile, space, or whatever-you-name-it now gets two more sides. A mere “two more sides” is an unjustly negligible way to describe this huge change, as this affects everything else on the board, such as road building, city management, as well as combat. It is maybe slightly more realistic, but it is the one feature that definitely distinguishes Civ V from the rest of the series.

Longevity:
Civilization V won’t be losing support from 2K anytime soon. That can be said confidently because it is evident that they’d like the players to keep expanding their game, a few dollars at a time. The first DLC is already out, featuring the Babylonians and their leader whose name is dreaded by schoolchildren worldwide – Nebuchadnezzar II.

But even so, the vanilla game straight out of the box can still last an eternity – ruining intimate relationships, social lives, and careers one turn at a time. The series never lost its appeal of “just… one… more… turn,” as said after the game result display when a victory condition is reached by one of the human or computer players. It’s even harder to stop playing now that many of the late-game annoyances such as pollution and overpopulation had been eliminated.

Conclusion:
No matter what it’s said here or whatever anyone else say, it is still very addicting once a game of Civilization gets started. The changes in Civilization V summarize to “prettier” and “simpler,” which presumably appeal to more people who are looking for a way to relax after a long day of work/school and ready to take it easy. The Civilization series had grown with the generation and reflects the changing taste of leisure activities as time goes by.

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