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Civ5: It’s good to be the king

Diplomacy is not going as planned.

It’s been a while since I could do any straight up PC gaming, but I finally had a chance to pick up Sid Meier’s Civilization V (or five, for those of you who don’t speak Roman) this weekend.  As someone who has been playing Civ games since I was too young to really understand what was happening in them, Civilization 5 stays true to its original source material while adding new features, tweaking old ones, and generally screwing up history to the point of hilarity.

The game was produced by Fireaxis Games and 2K games, and has the same basic general plot we’ve all come to know and love from Civ games.  You play the role of one of history’s most famous leaders, over a legendary society that is either destined for greatness, oblivion, or mediocrity.  Well, eventually, anyway.  At the start of the game you’re given just a lone settler unit and some warriors to keep barbarians at bay, and essentially told “okay, now go do something.”

I'm watchin' you, FRANCE.

Finding a suitable place for your capital city can take a bit of planning.  Do you want it to be a coastal town?  Are there resources nearby?  You didn’t accidentally spawn in the desert, did you?  Are you too close to someone else?  What about food?  And then after about three minutes of that, you just kind of shrug your shoulders and roll with the cards you’ve been given.

The game doesn’t really come with any kind of instruction manual.  There’s just a lone pamphlet that says “Okay, cool, you bought this game, neat,” and a fold out wall poster that shows you your civilization’s potential tech tree, possible military unit promotions, and social policies you can eventually adopt somehow.  But because this map is friggin’ huge, and folding it and unfolding it is about as annoying as a road map, so I usually leave that in the box.

Gameplay is very trial and error, interspersed with endless windows and advice from your foreign, domestic, scientific, and militaristic advisors.  Each advisor will recommend a project for you to work on in your towns, whether it be a military unit, a new settler to found a new town, building projects, or even the fabled wonders of the world, which can bestow handy bonuses to your people if you can manage to build them before a rival Civilization snaps them up.

What? What'd I do? Why's everyone so mad at me?

Judging this against previous Civ games, Civilization 5 is probably the easiest to pick up for new players.  I can remember picking up Civ2 way back in the day, reading about three pages of the included 100 page novel instruction book, and then chucking it off to the side and saying “eh, I’ll be fine.”  An hour later, my people had starved to death, barbarians were eating London, and Gengis Khan was laughing at me.

This time around, your advisors let you know of just about anything that you need to pay attention to.  This includes units that you need to direct, cities that need a new construction project, social policies that you need to write, what the next  research project should be, and whether or not your civilization is happy with what you’re up to.  The game will not let you end your turn until you’ve dealt with EVERY problem that needs your attention this time around.

You don’t actually need to listen to them, of course.  When your city is surrounded by angry samurai warriors who are a little pissed that you sacked several small towns on their border and then parked a tank outside of feudal Tokyo, odds are you’re not going to want to dedicate those resources to building a new theater for the people.  Marines might be more handy.

Behold! The Great Wall of Mongolia! This will keep the Chinese out for sure!

Checking with your advisors can be handy, though, and they can let you know everything from how big a rival nation’s army is to how much science and technology you’re gaining each turn.  Each one can lead you toward victory.  Either you can wipe out your foes with an iron fist, build a colony ship and settle on distant planets, absorb countries with nothing more than your culture, buy everything, ever, and more.  It keeps on going.  That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.

Two bad parts about this game you should keep in mind.  While I like the tedious over thinking that comes involved with building a civilization that stands the winds of time, not everyone will feel the same way. You do not, for lack of a better way to put this, get to “frag aliens with a bitchin’ laser sword.”  This game will definitely be intimidating, especially if you’ve never played Civ games in the past.  Also, gameplay is a bit slow, especially in the beginning stages of the game, and since it is turn based, you’ll have to wait for a while before your next turn while the other civilizations get work done.

There is a multiplayer element to this game too, but honestly that never appealed to me too much.  Civ is a very, very long game to be playing with people without taking a break.  You can always speed up the clock, but anyway you look at it, starting from 6,000 BC and going through until the distant future is going to take some time.  I don’t think I like other people enough to commit that much time to a game with them.

Cities can now rain death down upon attackers. For some reason.

To me, the best part about this game is the messed up history scenarios that develop as you play.  The Mongol horde will construct the Great Wall of China in an attempt to ward off the expansionist, warlike Spanish empire, China will develop a Democracy, France will be the first civilization to discover Buddhism, and more.  I recently constructed the Great Pyramids as Japan, shortly before conquering Songhai for committing the unforgivable sin of BUILDING TOWNS NEAR ME.  This irritated Persia, so I told my city-state ally (which act as single city civilizations that have no chance to win the game, but can bestow bonuses if you ally with them) Dublin, to go mess them up for a while.  The Mongolians were all “dude why do you have to go attacking Persia?”  and publicly denounced me as a monster, so I stopped trading them horses because they SUCK.

This time around, Fireaxis Games actually included an in-game way to download mods for Civ, which can keep things interesting.  I haven’t had a chance to search for a sweet dinosaur era mod yet, but I’m ever hopeful.

One thing I found a little strange.  When I popped the disk in to install Civ V, it was unable to start installing with autoplay.  This is because you need to search through the files first and install the online game purchasing and community client Steam if you ever want a chance to play this.

I’ve never seen a game, fresh out of the box, require something like this.  It makes sense, since PC gaming is moving more toward programs like Steam anyway, but I’ve never seen a fresh-out-of-the-box game demand a steam install.  Caught me off guard, I guess.

Anyway, check out Civ5 if you’re up for some good old-fashioned society building/ruining shenanigans.  You’re civilization may not last  forever, and barbarians might dance on your grave, but all things considered it’s good to be king.

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5 Responses

  1. “It turns out I’m Egyptian and not awesome at all.”

    • I was actually going to use that as the title for this article, but I didn’t want to get hate mail from pro-Egyptian groups. 😛
      Turns out this time around, they don’t let you alter the name of your nation, your leader’s name, or any of those shenanigans. So I am now completely unable to be King Kickass of the Awesome people.
      Self esteem -1 point.

  2. Poor, poor Tophat. I’m sure you find other ways to make yourself awesome in the game. My husband just got Civ IV… should I be worried? Is it addictive?

    • Ohgodyes.

      It’s one of those games when you’ll be plugging along, minding your own business, and then you’ll look at the clock and it’ll be three a.m. And then you look back at your computer screen and say something ridiculous like “Okay, well, I’ll go to bed right after I discover military tradition.” And then after you discover that, you figure you should probably get building on some troops, just in case. And then, since you have troops, you figure maybe you should go harass the Aztecs a little, just to soften them up for the next time you play. The Aztecs will retaliate, as is their wont, so you start researching basic flight to get the one up on them. Then you die of starvation, since four days have passed since you looked at the clock.

      My advice is to provide him with an endless stream of chicken wings to prevent him from dying. He’s locked in now, at least until the end of civilization.

  3. […] Steve Ogden of Sid Meier‘s fame, and in particular he was heavily involved with a game called Civilization. At least at the beginning of the series the elder Ogden gave his son a little boost by coloring […]

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