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Sid Meier's Civilization V PC DVD

Published by: 2K Games
Developed by: Firaxis Games

I’ve been playing Sid Meier’s Civilization V for quite a while now and the experience has been an odd one. I have to admit that I’m usually a big fan of Sid Meier’s games and find them very enjoyable with an extremely high replay value. I’m also a big fan of the Civilization series in particular. You might think then that Sid Meier’s Civilization V would be one of my favourite games I’ve played this year. However, as I said a few moments ago, the experience of playing Civilization V is an odd one. In parts the game really impresses, in parts it disappoints and in others it baffles. In short Civilization V isn’t exactly the game I was expecting but it’s still worthy of your time if you’re a fan of the series or turn-based strategy games in general.

The switch from squares to hexes certainly adds more tactical combat options to the game as does the new ranged combat feature and the removal of stacked hexes. Only one military unit at a time can occupy a hex preventing the dreaded “stack of doom” forces that the AI used so effectively in previous Civilization titles. On the whole I’m very pleased with the battle system in the game but the AI is another matter entirely. I also like how cities have fairly robust defences meaning they aren’t just open to an invasion, if you happen to have no units defending it. However, the AI seems far too aggressive and either goads you into war or attempts to lure you into a war with other civilisations. In fact because of the aggressive AI, the diplomacy in Civilization V actually feels quite poor and to make matter worse, the path to victory through aggression is much easier, which only serves to compound the issue.

Civilization V introduces City-States to give you other nations to think of rather than just your main rivals. These are minor nations made up of a single city and each has its own resources, trait and personality types. They are there to be made friends with or enemies of. Conquer them and grind them into the dust or make friends with them and have them provide you with extra units. They will even go to war with you if your friendship levels are good enough. To earn their friendship you’ll have to do things for them or shower them with gold. AI controlled civilisations will also attempt to befriend them in order to acquire allies too.

Whilst culture is still present in the game, religion has been cut. You’ll also notice that there are no specific government types here. Instead there are Social Policies which you’ll purchase with culture points. There are ten policy branches to choose from (Tradition, Liberty, Honour, Piety, Patronage, Order, Autocracy, Freedom, Rationalism and Commerce) and you’ll have to pay some culture points to unlock a branch. You won’t be able to open up every branch as certain combinations are prohibited. Each branch has five polices that you can purchase. Should you purchase all five policies for five policy branches you’ll be able to construct the Utopia Project for a cultural victory. If there’s a criticism of social policies it’s that once you’ve made your choice, you’re stuck with it. This reduces the ability for your nation to be flexible which is just silly over the course of many virtual centuries.

Out of the box, Civilization V includes a wide range of civilisations (18 in total) to play as or against and they each have their bonuses and special units. However, there are some very surprising omissions. Probably the most notable omission is the Spanish civilisation but there are many other important civilisations missing too, which is annoying when you consider that civilisations have been included that haven’t contributed anywhere near as much to the history of the world. Of course the Spanish civilisation has just been released as DLC but  it’s irritating having to pay extra for a civilisation that should have been there from the start.

I haven’t experienced the online game enough to be able to give an authoritative verdict on it but there are a couple of aspects about it that annoy me. First of all I was disappointed to find there are no unit animations when playing online which seems bizarre. Secondly, and this adds insult to injury for those who purchase extra civilisations as DLC, you can’t use any civilisation that has been purchased as DLC in an online game. Why? If you’re purchasing additional content you should be able to use it in both single and online multiplayer games otherwise it’s of little value. Probably the biggest complaint about the multiplayer experience is that as yet there is no hotseat multiplayer option. Yet when you look in the Documents/My Games/Sid Meier’s Civilization V/Saves directory there is a folder for Hotseat saves; I can only assume that it will eventually happen but why not include it for release when it’s such a popular multiplayer mode within the Civilization community?

One of biggest sources of annoyance with the game is the time you’ll be sitting there whilst the game processes the turn. Playing a standard game on a normal sized map with four AI controlled civilisations I found the game got bogged down long before the end phase of the game. The latest update for the game does shorten the length of time you’re hanging around between turns but it’s still too long in all but the early phase of the game. Previous Civilization games could also be a drain on your CPU if you were playing on large maps with many AI controlled civilisations during the later stages but Civilization five is much more demanding and I suspect few will be able to run the game smoothly with existing CPU’s.

Visually the game is impressive providing you have the hardware to have the graphical settings set to maximum. The game does seem to be processor intensive however. You’re given the option of running the game in DirectX 9 or 10/11. DirectX 9 is a little smoother but still you’re going to need a beefy PC configuration if you want a smooth experience. I’m really impressed with the look of the interface, particularly the icon design which has to be the best ever in a strategy game. The interface does a great job of presenting you with lots of information at a glance. However, what I will say is that on my fairly small 17” TFT PC monitor (by today’s standards), the interface takes up too much of the screen. There is an option to reduce the size of the interface but it doesn’t appear to do anything. Maybe this is something that will be addressed in a future update.

For the most part, Civilization V is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. The opening movie isn’t subtitled which is disappointing but hardly a problem. The other information in the game is displayed through text, numbers or really impressive icons. All of the advisor recommendations are given in text. Your odds of a victory for a proposed battle are shown in text and text descriptions for each of the technologies are given. All of the civilisation leaders’ speech is subtitled too, although the reason for this is probably because each of them speak in their native tongue (or a close approximation of it in the case of some civilisations) so the need for subtitles here is great for everyone. On the whole then there aren’t any real accessibility problems here for deaf gamers.

It’s always difficult to compare a new Civilization game with previous ones in the series. I find it difficult to truly remember what Civilization IV was like before the expansions came along and made it arguably the finest game in the series and it’s difficult to compare a game that’s fairly new with a game that’s matured over several years and been improved with some cracking expansions. However, I do remember being much more impressed with Civilization IV on its release than I have been with Civilization V. I understand some gameplay concepts have been removed to streamline the experience but in some respects the gameplay seems a little bland. The diplomacy in the game feels limited and the AI doesn’t seem anywhere near as sharp as in previous games in the series. Some of the new stuff, such as the City-States and the much improved combat system, certainly pleases but the overwhelming feeling is that Civilization V, whilst impressive in some respects, could have been better. Let’s hope the inevitable expansions can make this the ultimate turn-based strategy experience it should have been.

In our opinion this game is: Impressive.
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