Civilization Revolution Review:
A Revelation More Than A Revolution
©2008 David Hilton
OXCGN’s Steal It For The 360 Civilization V review – HUGE review, you do not want to miss out on, excellent videos and images galore.
“`I have a new theory about the fall of the Roman Empire. Forget the fact that the Empire had expanded too far to be defendable, that the population had too many different cultures with its own agendas, that the army was made up of too many mercenaries, or that Roman society was only a consumer society, corrupt and morally bankrupt, too dependent on slaves and its living necessities from its vulnerable outer provinces instead of from itself.
“`Sure, it was the competition for scarce resources that was pushing some of the ‘barbarians’ into the Empire in search of land and wealth, but the truth is simpler even than that. Civilization Revolution has taught me that the Roman Empire fell because the enemy had developed cannons before the Romans did and no matter how many legions you have, cannons have a better attack.
“`Even though I watched in horror as Roman legion after legion, city after city, fell to the opposition’s cannon armies, and as I tried desperately to make alliances to revive my empire’s fortune, I knew I had experienced something special. Every once in awhile a console game is released that reminds you what gaming is all about; it’s about fun.
“`I wouldn’t call Civilization a revolution at all, but rather a revelation. It brought me back to the hours of my life I spent playing the original on my old 486 watching little icon-squares that represented units move around the low res screen, hoping to be the one who dominated the world.
However, this new console version of the game, is not merely a trip down nostalgia lane better suited to Xbox Live Arcade with the other retro-titles, or a port of a newer Civilization PC version trying to appeal to the console masses. Rather, this Civilization is a more refined, shorter, and easier to play game that stands on its own and is perfectly suited to the variety of console gamers, casual and hardcore alike.
Unlike most strategy-styled games, which these days seem to be more about rapid button-pressed upgrading, hero units, and mass rushes of troops than about actual strategy or enjoyment, (yes I’m looking at you Lord of the Rings and Command and Conquer), this game has gone back to the idea that you should have a variety of choices in approach and time to think about those choices.
What might initially seem like over-simplification instead becomes refreshingly enjoyable. The control scheme can sometimes be a bit fiddly trying to get different units to go first, but it is by far the easiest strategy title to learn I’ve seen on a console. No longer do I have to spend so much thought and time on long upgrade trees and awkward button combos to move or improve units while making sure that I’ve remembered to gathered enough resources, then throw everything I have at the enemy, only to miss watching the battle because there are more important things I should be doing to prepare for the next one.
Civilization, with its turn-based approach rather than real time strategy, is like an old strategy board game where you can win by making different choices. You focus not only on using military strength, but on your accumulation of cultural buildings, wealth, technology, and famous people, or by making your cities “wonder”-full- literally. Instead of just building army units you can build wonders like the pyramids, which will give you benefits almost as good or better than many military victories.
What makes this game so much fun for everyone is that it lets you concentrate on the important choices you have to make instead of micro-management. Unlike more recent Civilization games, the console version has an automatic aspect to it that makes it streamlined, simpler, and satisfying to those not wanting a long drawn out sit down. It takes the most fun aspects of Civilization and lets you at it so that even the most inexperienced player can wing it.
For example it has an automatic aerial view and zooms in on its own for battles, instead of requiring a button press to zoom in and out. Three of the same unit can be combined into an army, and these can earn veteran status, special abilities, or a general automatically through successful battles and against the odds victories, or technological advances you’ve made in your cities.
This approach allows you to focus on the opponent and along with the added ability to communicate with other civilizations to form alliances or extort new technologies or gold off them means it is a much more rewarding multiplayer game as well.
The game has a variety of difficulty levels in single player mode but it really does shine in multiplayer, either by system link or online. The risk with a turn based multiplayer game is that, like in chess or some board game, the opponents might take forever to decide what to do and you could rapidly get bored. Civilization gives a time limit as soon as any player has finished a turn, making this sort of delay impossible.
You snooze, you lose, but without the extreme sweat-inducing panic of real time strategy games where those with the quickest (not necessarily most strategic) minds and speedy fingers win. I did experience one game freeze during a system link multiplayer game that frustrated (I was winning), but it seems not to be regular.
The presentation is cute and cartoony, but effective and adds to the sense of fun. With the notable exception of the nuclear strike (rare but effectively shown), the graphics, animations, and sound are functional without being anything spectacular. There could be more diversity of world environments and there are occasional strange animations that look pretty average. For example, during some battles some units just stand there while they are being pummeled, dancing on the spot, even when they have a higher statistic point advantage, or another example is when units walk underwater to reach a boat.
Each civilization has different special strengths, like the Romans with their cheaper road-building ability, which makes it interesting to try different leaders. You can choose from a variety of them, from Caesar to Saladin or even the distinctly non-peaceful Ghandi of India, who seems to me to be the biggest back-stabber of them all in single player games.
Because maps are randomly generated each game, memorization of maps isn’t possible so everyone is on equal footing to start. This random nature of map generation can sometimes be unfair, however, and add to your struggle too. In one game I was sandwiched between three different civilizations who decided to all pick on me at once.
This tendency toward aggressive play can also be the weakness of the game. You may begin with the intention of becoming a cultural and economic leader that attracts many other cities to join your civilization without firing a shot, but even in single-player your alliances can quickly fall apart and then you are inevitably forced to concentrate more on war than building wonders.
If you have devoted much of your time and resources on peaceful pursuits you may not have an army that is up to speed (thus my legions got walloped by cannons). In single-player games even backwards civilizations will break an alliance and commit suicide against your superior forces, which doesn’t make much sense, especially if you are being peaceful.
Any strategy game can seem repetitive, going through the same procedure to build things, but the random maps and ability to change alliances helps to reduce this. The 3 point achievements are a bit of an oddity too, but at least you can get points for doing a variety of things.
The Xbox 360 has often been accused of being deluged with shooters and racers and the strategy genre itself is usually dismissed as impossible on consoles. Here is a title that challenges those perceptions; it provides a successful strategy game both in single and multiplayer on a console that may need something a bit different. It is appropriate for all ages and for both casual and hardcore gamers, something very rare indeed.
With this game, as I discovered, Rome can not only be built in a day, but also lost in that same day. Re-write world history your own way and have a good time doing it. This is a must have for any game library; it is a unique gaming experience in a sea of copycat games.
©2008 David Hilton
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