(Imported from old blog 2008-06-30)
I realized last week that the new Civilization game was about to hit the stores now, and was fairly excited. Slightly concerned regarding the "Civ for consoles"-concept, but, after playing through the demo available at the Xbox Live Marketplace, I figured it was worth the buy. And after a long week of mad shippingdisasters in general, I finally got the game this friday, and I've pretty much been playing it all weekend, so, figured I'd write an ickle review or some such here before heading off to sleep.
I've played the Civilization games a fair bit in my life, mainly Civilization 1 and 4, as I figured the others weren't quite as tasty as those two, but still entertaining, and Civilization 4 + its expansions has been played thoroughly with friends online as well - in the standard 16-18 hours gaming sessions with excessive amounts of fun!
I decided to read up a bit on the game before grabbing it, and read that mr Sid Meier had designed the game from scratch optimized for consoles, just using the familiar elements from the series as a reference, not as a "must follow" basis for the game, as well as trying to shorten the gameplay duration drastically compared to the standard Civ4 games, as ... I suspect console gamers aren't that fond of spending too much time in front of their TVs ... or some such!
The initial impressions were quite good when I started playing. The interface was intuitive and easy to navigate, a simple check on all the possible buttons on the controller and you knew where things were fairly quick. You could get around to the relevant places you'd like to go in no time, and it seemed to have the smooth wrapping for the actual gameplay intact at least!
The gameplay bits here I'll compare with the previous versions of the game, so, if you haven't played any of the previous ones, it might be a bit cryptic... But! You still have the city control, tiles around the city you grab resources from and all that. Not as many different tiles, but enough to make the world look tasty. Now, the first *real* difference comes with the majority of the buildings in the city improvement section. The concept of workers/engineers are out, you can't manipulate the tiles at all, instead, you build buildings to improve the resources gathered from them - for instance, a granary now adds +2 food to plains tiles, and that's all it does. If your city doesn't have any plains tiles, you won't be able to build a granary at all there, as it's not needed! The ways of gathering food/trade is fairly similar to the last Civilization game, with the exception that you can't "build" any of them now, you need to build units/buildings/wonders, and you can't set a global percentage either, each city needs to specify if it should produce gold or science from the trade it gathers. You have the option of connecting your cities with roads as well, you pay gold and they're instantly built between two of your cities. The benefit of these roads are instant travel, if you're on a road and run around on it, you don't spend any movement points! Although a great feature, it's slightly dangerous when you connect your 5 cities and the opponent invades and places their army on the road in the middle of all your cities, having instant travel-access to whichever town has the least defense... :|
The basic setup on the standard singleplayer game is you vs 4 AI opponents spread around in a fairly small world from a "Civilization" perspective, this is most likely done be as they want the games to be shorter. You roam around exploring, fighting and trading with the others to win. There are now four ways to win the game, either by domination - capturing all the opposing capitals, economic - gathering 20k gold and creating a world bank wonder, culture - getting 20 wonders/great people/converted cities and creating the U.N. wonder or technology - winning the space race. Interactions with the opponents has been simplified slightly, you no longer have any treaties, it's either war or not, trading technology is still in, and buying/selling technology is in. One of the most interesting things they did there in my view is not letting people have "walk through my area" deals, meaning you can use an opponents area as a shield if he's between you and the person you're at war with. Also, creating cities in the small tight areas really seals off enemies in one place, as the sea travel isn't as dominant as it used to be.
Exploration has an interesting part in the game, as it seems all the maps have 2+ artifacts you can find, where all but one are located on islands requiring you to roam around with galleys to find. These reward you with anything from gold to an instantly built wonder in your main city. The last wonder is a "deep sea" wonder, Atlantis, which upon discovery, rewards you with three random technologies from the list you can research. This makes a huge difference when you're on the harder difficulties, and hunting these is something you should get used to as soon as possible.
Unit combat is fairly interesting, they've made an interesting change where you can group together three of your units and form an army of that unit. It will effectively be merged into one unit which has three times the stats of a single unit, and pretty much be annihilating its single counterparts fairly well. As such, early on you can do different strategies by either banding up your troops or spreading them over to cover more ground. An army of archers will most likely need an army of extremely much more advanced unittype to force them to leave a city they're defending. The use of nukes in the game has been changed a fair bit, the way it works now is that the person who builds the project gets one nuke to launch, and when that one is launched, you can't make any new ones. This makes all the SDI buildings fairly useless in my opinion.
I've been messing around on the different difficulties and finding the game to be quite enjoyable really. It had me awake till 5-6am both friday and saturday, and would've had me up till that point today as well had it not been for work in the morning.
What I'm missing in this game though, is a bit more customizability in the game-setup, so that if I wanted a long matchup or more opponents, I'd be able to specify that. As it stands, you're either doing a specific scenario-type, or you're doing the standard vs 4AI setup. I would've liked to set up team-maps and things like that in my games to get even more diversed games. Also, as someone who is really fond of the culture victories, I'm a bit saddened that they're in my view slightly harder to obtain than the other victories, especially in an even late-game matchup. The times I've won cultural victories were times I was way ahead in everything and held off winning the other ways to get a cultural win. I should also mention here that if you have insane amounts of buildings, the fact that you can't build science/culture/gold but need to build units/buildings/wonders makes you quite crazy after a while if you're ahead, waiting for space-race and all the cities are maxed out spamming tanks and battleships like there's no tomorrow... lots of buttonclicking to get through the last rounds.
All in all, I think it's a great game and would recommend it as long as people don't expect "Civilization 5", and I'm looking forward to trying the multiplayer portion of the game now that I'm at least slightly familiar with all the different mechanics!
As far as the achievements go, I've been grabbing 37 out of them so far, I found one to be fairly amusing, the "Curse of the Drinking Class" achievement is in my view only really attainable playing as Americans, with a Communism government... the irony!