'Civilization V': On a slow burn to rule the world
October 22, 2010
Have you ever wondered how a civilization might grow over the span of 6,000 years? If so, would you be interested in finding out over the course of an entire weekend?
“Sid Meier's Civilization V” is without a doubt the most engrossing game I’ve played all year, but at the same time, it’s not for the faint of heart. This “Civ” game, like prior iterations, is rewarding if you can invest the time, but be ready to clear out a lot of it.
If you’ve never played a “Civ” game, think of it as “SimCity” with war. In this turn-based simulation/strategy game, players manage the growth of a tiny settlement and, over many hours and a huge world, it spreads into an empire. In its single-player and multiplayer setups, “Civ V” offers 18 historic civilizations to try, each lead by a great figure. The Americans have George Washington, Egyptians have Ramesses II, and so on.
In a standard game, you’ll play 500 turns, taking your civilization from 4,000 B.C. to 2500 A.D. To put that in a gaming perspective: Some games are long (“Super Mario Galaxy 2” was about 20 hours); some games are epic (“Final Fantasy XIII” takes 20 hours just to get through the tutorial), then there’s “Civilization V.” On standard speed, a single match can be 15 hours.
Luckily, “Civilization V” offers a deceptively simple interface, which makes it easy to get into but masks the depth for newcomers. Units move across a hexagonal map where each tile offers important resources. A forest will slow your units’ movement, but eventually it’s a good place to set up a lumber yard. Likewise, a mountain might seem desolate until you research the ability to find uranium.
While things like combat and developing land are straightforward, it’s easy to find yourself halfway through a game totally bankrupt and not understand how you got there. To understand each concept, Fireaxis has set up an extensive instructional library. As you become familiar with each unit, tile or building, you can find yourself heading back there again and again to try and figure out how best to utilize it.
But the real currency is time. Each player is racing against the others while juggling army size, resources, technology and social policies. As your empire’s reach expands, so does the complexity of each move you make. Can you afford to upgrade your archers? Should you build more workers, or will they put too much drag on your treasury?
On top of your economic, social and military juggling, you might also have trouble keeping up with the diplomatic scene — and you won’t be alone. Even the computer opponents have trouble keeping up with agreements and alliances. In several games, I found myself unable to declare war on another player for thousands of years. Sometimes the artificial intelligence will make shady moves against you, like three or four different players suddenly teaming up to declare war, or ending agreements claiming you’re too aggressive when you don’t own any military units to speak of.
These issues can make a rich, complex game borderline frustrating, but that still can’t keep me from recommending it. You can avoid the diplomatic bugs if you can find some friends to play with, but sitting a couple friends down for a dozen hours is a bit of a stretch. Though the game lacks specific save function for multiplayer, the online community has figured out a few workarounds for group marathoners — so be sure run a Google search before you start ruling the world.