According to Steam, I have spent over two-hundred and twenty hours playing Civilization V. Fourteen hours in the past two weeks. This is in part to games lasting anywhere from forty minutes to two hours—but the game is so involving you don’t even know that time has passed.
I am a pseudo-veteran to the Civilization series. I remember playing Civilization II on my uncle’s computer when I was around ten, and I didn’t understand it all that well. I couldn’t grasp why it took twelve turns to make a single horseman while in Starcraft or Red Alert I could be spawning more units than my enemies knew what to do with a few minutes into the match.
So the Civilization series fell off my gaming radar for a decade. Then a few years ago, Civilization Revolutions came out for consoles and being older and wiser, I gave it a go and loved it. The game was dumbed down for a simpler audience, but it was necessary for such a complicated series. Civilization is like SimCity on a global scale, but with warriors and atomic weapons. So it’s actually much better than SimCity, but that’s the best comparison I could come up with.
In Civilization V, you start each game with a settler, which you use to establish cities, and a warrior for defense or exploration. Ancient ruins permeate the landscape and all have bonuses when you find their tiles: extra workers, settlers, simple weapon upgrades for your warrior that stumbles upon it, maps of the area, or gold for your treasury. Units can also embark onto water tiles with the proper research without the need to build a separate unit transport, which is a huge advantage over previous installments in the series.
Your starting cities need citizens to grow, this helps with production and defense. Building granaries, aqueducts, and other civic buildings all give bonuses that help your cities grow. There are two tiny numbers next to your cities name. The first is the overall size of your city. Cities grow automatically over time; it’s interesting to see a city start as a few mud huts and grow into a bustling modern city with sky scrapers over the in-game 2000 years. The other number is the defensive value of your city. This displays how difficult it is for enemies to attack that city. This number can be boosted by walls, castles, and other military buildings. Another new addition is the ability for cities to defend themselves against enemies with ranged attacks. Like previous installments, you can garrison one unit in the city to boost its strength; but if the city is lost, the unit is lost.
Civilization V’s research tree is much easier to navigate than earlier versions in the series. You can scroll left to right and click on an advanced technology and the game will automatically research everything necessary to unlock it. Building libraries, universities, and educational buildings add to your Science pool which allows you to research technologies faster.
Religion and culture play a very different roll than it has in the past. In previous versions, you were locked into a religion or a government, but in Civilization V you can essentially customize your civilizations policies to your needs as you see fit. Do you believe your capital should hang on to traditions? You gain bonuses for your capital city. You want your civilization to be religious and pious? You gain happiness and culture bonuses. Not all policies can be unlocked at the beginning of the game, so it’s wise to pick trees and plan your research out early on.
Gold plays a very important part of Civilization V. Workers, settlers, a standing army, roads, municipal buildings, they all have a maintenance cost. You can build markets and banks in cities to generate revenue, or trading posts on map tiles for the same effect. If you run out of gold, your civilization begins to lose efficiency and drain your science pool. If you lose too much, the game ends.
A new addition to Civilization is the City-State, an independent mini-civilization that is not trying to win the game. You can do mini “quests” for them, such as eliminating a barbarian encampment, eliminating another player, connecting a road to their city, or gifting them combat units. Thankfully you can turn them off. When you play a game on a large map with eight players and between twelve and sixteen cities states, every turn becomes a click-fest to ignore their pleas. All of them want something and more often than not, its resources or for you to kill a player halfway across the map. They’re really annoying, and I don’t advise playing with them.
Combat has been tweaked in Civilization V. In previous installments, you could amass an army on one square, right click what you want them to kill, and then they would overwhelm your opponent with sheer numbers. In Civilization V, you can only put one combat unit on a single tile (save Generals, which are linked to a single unit and considered a part of it). Combat units also have attack and defensive values, so archers will not be taking out your rocket artillery because the computer “miscalculated.”
Speaking of “miscalculating”, (a polite word for “cheating”) there is a serious issue with Civilization V’s artificial intelligence. It is so unbelievably unbalanced that the experience suffers for it. I have beaten the game on all the settings but one, genuinely. On Deity, the hardest game setting, I had to resort to looking up a cheap way to win on YouTube because it’s impossible otherwise. This was mainly because I wanted the Steam Achievement for it. Some of the Steam Achievements are impossible to get because they’re glitched, and while they’ve released patches for most of these, some haven’t been updated since release.
All in all, Civilization is a fantastic game. The new game play mechanics raise it up from Civilization IV, albeit a few minor hiccups with the AI. I would completely recommend buying Civilization V; I’ve gotten enough out of it to warrant its $50 price tag.