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Civilization 5 Hands-on Preview

Sid Meier's Civilization 5 Hands-on Preview

Platform: PC exclusive
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: September 24, 2010

Civilization is, we think, one of the scariest series of games we’ve ever played, mainly because once you’ve got in to it then it’s almost impossible to get out. Sure, it looks like just another grand strategy game and it can be forbiddingly complex when you first approach it, but appearances can be deceiving. Once Sid Meier grabs you then he doesn’t let go until he’s wrung you like a chicken.

The odd thing is though that, to us, what’s always made Civ so great isn’t the massive scale tactics or the ability to manage every single nuance of our civilisations. If we wanted political detail then we could look to the likes of Paradox’s Victoria II, while tactical depth is found a’plenty in the likes of Total War.

Civilization 5 Hands-on Preview Civilization 5 Hands-on Preview
The cows amassed their puny army in the northwest and northeast...

Instead, what makes Civ so moreish is the gradual growth and struggle you lead your chosen country through in each game – and the dribble of smaller achievements that come with that. The start of every game is slow and hard, but come the mid-point you’ve gained enough momentum that you’re usually finding or doing something new every other turn, be it technology, resources or simply other people to fight. At the same time you start to feel closer to each of your cities, your sense of protectiveness moving from being selfish to oddly parental.

Civilization 5, or Civ V if you insist on going with the Roman numerals for some silly reason, retains that slow building empathy and gentle trickle of rewards. That’s why, even though 2K and Firaxis have changed some of the fundamentals this time around, we’re not worried about how Civ 5 will eventually turn out. Firaxis could shift the setting to space and, as long as it retained that focus, we’d still adore it.

Civilization 5 Hands-on Preview Civilization 5 Hands-on Preview
Suddenly, as if from nowhere, giant six-sided Mysterons attacked!

Besides, with so many people eager to point out that the series reached its peak with Civilization 2 (sorry, II), you have to expect some changes and tweaks. It wouldn’t do to just stand still, even for a title as legendary as Civ.

Some of the tweaks are a little bit unusual though, it has to be said, like the removal of unit stacking for military units. Now if you have a large force then you have to be constantly aware that they can’t finish moves on squares occupied by friendly forces. On the plus it means you can no longer shove something like 50,000 men into one tiny section of the board, but on the other it makes certain types of geography difficult to navigate. Cities built on long, thin peninsulas can be more of a pain in the ass than an enema with boiling vinegar.

Still, even then there are upsides. It seems like Firaxis has removed stacking as a way to drive Civ 5’s battles to a larger scale, which has definitely worked. Besieged cities used to look quite underwhelming, with only a few stacked armies stood up against the walls – now, with forces practically queuing to take their shots, you get a much better sense of the grandness.