Civilization V

Abraxas reveals what is best in life.

There are few games that stand the test of time.  A few manage to stay relevant for a sequel or two, but most end up in the rancid gutter of suck pretty quickly.  But some games, some games rise above all those flaming bags of crap to a legend status.

Civilization is one of those games.

The original game, Civilization, launched for DOS (yeah, that old) back in 1991.  It was one of a few turn-based strategy games out on the market at the time, but it had one fundamental difference that set it above the rest- scope.  The other games were limited to a certain time- colonization of the North American continent, certain historical battles, or naval era’s in parts of the world.  However, Civ started before the Stone Age and took you through the Space Age to launch a colony ship to the nearest habitable star system.  You guided the shape and direction of one of 16 societies over the course of millennia.  It involved political systems, economics, diplomacy, and military aspects.

The game was huge.   Like epic huge.

And the follow-ups have only made that scope bigger and better.    Later games added different paths to victory other than a simple score or launching for the stars.  But in all its iterations, the same basic idea guided the design of Civilization- take over the world.  And Civilization V stays true to that goal.    Of course, in true video game tradition the V (5 for the homeschooled), isn’t actually the 5th game to have the name Civilization.  If you exclude the expansion packs, there are 7 distinct games released under the Civilization flag. If you include expansions as separate games the number rises to 14.

So, yeah, Civilization V is the 5th game in a series of 14.

Anyway.  If for some reason you have never played a Civ game, you start out a group of unwashed, unlettered tribesmen that are kind of tired of walking all the time and decide to settle down.   From there you direct the goals and construction of the city to build a society that will endure through the ages.  Of course you’re not alone, there are several AI societies out there competing for the same limited resources and space that you want and need for your society.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “Abraxas, how does this relate to what is best in life?

And the answer here is simple- in Civ 5 you can crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and listen to the lamentations of their wimmen.   Get it?

Well, I thought it was funny.  Anyway.

There are a lot of changes to the way the game works under the hood, but it’s still got that same heart- take over the world.   The biggest change is the loss of stacking.  You can’t stack units anymore.  Which may seem trivial to you non-Civ players, but that represents a major shift in tactics for the game.  Previous versions allowed you to group units together in a “stack” and use the best stat for defense and offense.  This allowed you to rampage across continents, destroying whole cities in a matter of turns if you got the right stack together.    My fav combo was Roman legions with Catapults.  Unstoppable.   You could have half the world under your boot heel before the invention of gunpowder.

Oh, yeah, you don’t have to play in the real world, and cultures don’t follow a real time-line.  You can start out as stone-age Americans or Romans, or Soviet-era Russians.  Each culture has its own benefits and bonuses, each of them designed to compliment a style of play.  This version has done away with Governments and Religion, instead replacing them with cultural landmarks that have their own distinct benefits.

While I don’t miss the governments or religions, the new cultural pathways aren’t all that much of an improvement.

Oh, I should mention one thing- it’s still turn based.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Gah!  That sounds so-o-o-o-o-o slow!  How can anyone play at that speed?!?

You’re right, it is slow.  Deliberately slow.   A fast game, set at the right challenge rating for you, should take about 8 hours.  A hard game should take almost a week.     That’s right, 168 hours of game play to complete one game.   What?  You wanted the total domination of the planet to be fast?    Go back to playing WoW, n00b.  This is a game for adults.

I could spend days talking about the finer of difference in this version of Civ from the previous versions.  I mean, I have been playing the game almost daily since its launch in September, and I’m only posting a review now!   The game is huge.

Are there bugs?  Of course, if you drop a nuke on a city and then attack the city that same turn with your Giant Robots of Death (actual in-game unit) then the game will lock up.  But, that’s forgivable in a game of this size.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “Whoa, did you just forgive a game a bug?”   And, yes, I did. And that’s because this game is so huge, so epic, that things like that are going to happen.

Let me cut to the quick- if you’re a long time player of Civ, you’ll like this game.  There will be some adjustments as the build orders you’re used to using to win won’t work, but there are new strategies to embrace that will lead to quick victory.   There is massive internet support for the game now, meaning you can play against other people.

True Game Story: My wife once forged secret peace agreements with every computer society and then bribed them all to attack me on the same turn.   She got them to destroy my resource chains, and then she launched a major offensive that eliminated me from the game.   So, yeah, lots of ways to crush your enemies.

Anyway, if you’re a long-time player of the Civ series you’ll like this installation.  It maintains the same epic scope and spirit of the original game, and re-organizes the way the game is played to freshen up the tactics and adds online play.

If you’re looking for a game you can play every day for the next 3 years, this is your game.

If you’re looking for fast, explosive battles with the latest graphic engine, this is not your game.  Go back to Black Ops, n00b.

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