Sid Meier's Civilization V Reader Review
I think it’s terribly important for fans of games to take up the mantle of reviewing games they come to know and love months down the line from the release date. Professional reviewers only have so much time in the week to sink their teeth into a long game. Some games take 20 hours to just get ‘good’ how can someone justify over 20 hours to maintain fidelity to the whole game experience while at the same time not be seen as a lazy bastard by the boss turning over one review in the time it takes someone to review 10 mobile games!?
Civilization is one of those series that really needs numerous globetrotting play-throughs to fully sink the dirt between your toes. At its release the game had good polish however problems came up when digging a bit deeper as the diplomacy system was raw and the city-states were grossly overpowered. Aspects of the previous iteration of Civ were removed outright and shook the fan base to the sound of outcry as players could no longer adjust the economics of the empire on how money is spent on research and culture or that the world was now arranged in hexagonal tiles as opposed to octagonal ones.
There were however some notable steps forward, most notably the loss of the infamous “stack of doom” and the introduction of the one unit per tile system. The outcome of Army clashes are no longer decided on unit composition but also strategic unit placement. The new leader system is fantastic with each leaders advantages being key in how you play your game. On top of that as well is how you customise the world you play in, how much water? How are the bodies of land laid out? How abundant are resources? This all affects how you play the game however some of the gameplay mechanics were just a bit too under developed which limited the number of strategies that you could evolve. All-in-all Civ V offered an enjoyable albeit shallow gameplay experience, a faux pas for a series which treasured it’s depth in empire building. With two steps forwards in some areas and two steps back in others, many Civ fanatics decided that the need to move on was premature and stuck with Civilization IV.
The month of December however ushered in a glorious patch to turn Civ V into a true standalone wonder. Where most patches to games have the equivalent impact of throwing a deck chair off the Titanic, the December patch has more of an impact equivalent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A true game-changer in the literal sense of the word. It would be too much to write down every single alteration and the affect they have had on a play-through so I’ll sum up briefly.
The combat tactics of AI are improved to provide a more challenging fight, new buildings have been introduced to provide some much needed depth in city construction choices, the famous research tree has been refined but the most notable difference I noticed was in the diplomacy system.
It use to be a case that if you had a weak army, your opponents would just bulldoze over you as if you were an annoying ant mound in the way of their new multi-story car park. On the other hand if you had a power army you could demand opposing leaders luxury resources, technologies and first born daughters. Things are different now. Actions that would’ve pissed you off now piss them off too. Claiming land near their borders, lining up armies near one of their cities or backstabbing them will earn the ire of world leaders and will all of a sudden force you to promote army production to defend your offending cities as they realise that you have exhausted all diplomatic avenues to a peaceful resolution and resort to a move that you must take seriously (That's war if you didn't know).
City-states have also been taken down a notch; they’re now all useful without being overpowered. Being allies to them will take a strain off your own economy at the same time; you should never be dependent on them. In one game, I was engaged in two wars while in a move I could only respect the genius of, a separate civ decided to buy up all of the city-states affections a few turns just before they completed the United Nations granting them diplomatic victory! I was shocked and awed by my opponent who had not fired a shot in my direction. I had learnt my lesson, I need to respect every one of my opponents out there!
On the technical side Firaxis have declared their own war on bugs and have performed admirably. Crashes have been reduced and the number of graphical errors I have experienced have nose dived to great joy.
On a whole, all the changes are fantastic! I don’t miss the stack of doom whatsoever, I love chasing empire saving resources, I love that I have to take care of my cities and units instead of dumping all my research for a huge money injection to bail me out. The decisions I make from early on still reverberate with impact down the line. (Tip: Be sure to always scout out the coast line of your continent so you don’t get surprised to find out it’s twice as large)
What use to be a game where you would tap through turns idly waiting for production queues to finish; the game has evolved to a point where keen attention must be paid to your opponents actions at all times to make sure they don’t fleece the carpet from under you. A game once with the veneer of promise and a body of filler that was owed to previous iterations, is now a game with the veneer of superb polish and a body of killer gameplay!