Sid Meier’s Civilization 5 is a 4X turn-based video game developed by Firaxis Games, released in June 2010, where a player builds a civilization from scratch as a famous leader from pre-historic times to modern day and beyond. Available to play singleplayer or multiplayer, Civilization 5 is complimented by DLC packs ‘Gods and Kings’ and ‘Brave New World’. The game plays like a European board game, with military pieces and civilian counters, where it pays to “appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
The hype surrounding the release of Civilization 5 is fresh in my mind. The images that Firaxis released looked great, with hexagonal tiles rather than square ones seen in previous editions allowing for a map that looked and felt immersive. I could tell straight away that I’d put a lot of hours in to Sid Meier’s latest title, both single player and multiplayer.
Upon release, the game was a massive hit according to both players and critics. The first ten turns feel fresh, completely different to previous versions in mechanics while familiar in foundation, which is how a sequel in a long-running series should be made. A new combat system takes away the ability to stack units and the introduction of city states, sovereign states with whom players can trade with for resources and production bonuses. Use them or abuse them, these political entities are useful in many ways, whether it’s capturing a strategic city, receiving bonus’ or sneakily stealing a worker for your own lands – my personal favourite.
Gracefully combining the perfect components will see your civilization bloom. Cities need to have enough food and income to survive, while producing the culture and faith to thrive. Players can micro-manage each citizen in order to ensure the output of each city is what’s needed. I love experimenting with this and when you get good you can skip from wonder to wonder with some glorious combinations, providing an economic boom.
The building up of cities and road networks around the glorious features of the world is what makes you fall in love with your civilization and want to do anything to protect it. Each city can be given a touch of individuality through the building of wonders; all based on real life wonders of the world and provide different advantages. I must admit, it’s slightly odd when India builds the Great Wall of China or when England becomes the home of the Pyramids, but it adds more personality and an element of risk, with players often competing to finish the same wonder first and rake in the rewards. In my first game I chose Harun Al-Rashid, who gets bonuses for his trade networks – which leads to lots of cities and roads connecting them. I was a merchant, accruing riches and building the wonders of the world. Sure, I may have ignored a lot of other stuff but my civilization was wealthy and gorgeous… until it was plundered by the evil, powerful Mongols.
The individual personalities of the AI players really help characterise the game, too. I’m sure that a large proportion of Civilization players have an indescribable hatred of Ghandi, while the Askia, leader of the Songhai strikers fear in to the heart of all close to him. There’s no reasoning with that man, he must always be crushed. Meanwhile, it can be annoying to start a war with Oda of the Japanese, with his samurai honour leading him to refuse every peace treaty offered, even if he’s clearly losing. And I respect that. I knew what I signed up for and now I have a thorn in my side whenever I try to turn my attention elsewhere.
I enjoy the combat system, with a very thought out approach that leaves little to luck (unless it comes down to a rush between two players to move their unit first.) Units are like chess pieces and get advantages based on terrain, positioning and training. As war rages, great generals such as Napoleon arrive, one of 9 different great people, giving your troops the benefit of being under their command.
Great people can be used as a one off for an instantaneous boost or over a period of time and often help you reach the next level. I personally take great pleasure in plonking a citadel with its defensive bonuses right in a mountainous choke point between me and the next player, bravely fighting over it for a century. Similar tactics can be deployed by the other great people, all named after famous pioneers such as Leonardo da Vinci with his landmarks and explosions of culture or Thomas Edison with his manufacturing expertise and speedy production.
There are several victory conditions including Cultural, Diplomatic, Domination and Science victories, as well as the building of the Utopia Project. This gives you the options to annihilate your enemies, embrace them with an unavoidable smile or out-tech them and beat them to the moon. You can usually tell what victory condition an enemy player is attempting if they start amassing units, skipping through the ages or being a bit overly friendly, which should ring alarm bells when you notice it and spur you in to the action of stopping it.
The different combinations of civilization, buildings, wonders, technologies and cultural policies provide a great replayability, with a lot of different components to be controlled, but it’s really not too complicated and after an hour or so you should get it. The overlay is simple and easy to understand while not dumbing down the game.
With each fresh start there’s a new empire to fall in love with. There are different game speeds which reduce the amount of turns it takes to produce things, which helps especially when playing Civilization online versus your friends and other gamers. I personally ensure Quick Combat Movement is ticked and a Turn Timer instilled in order for the turns to flow at a reasonable speed. After you’ve seen the fighting animation a few times you realise it doesn’t change or affect the outcome, while wasting more time than you’d imagine, especially when there’s 8 different player turns to process.
Civilization plays like a European boardgame with an element above the game, a lot of bluffing and sizing up of adversaries. Progressive technology puts a cold wind up your enemies kilt just as much as a large, approaching army. My favourite turn-based strategy game of all time, I’m not sure whether the storyline develops on the screen or in my head, but it’s hard not to love.
Buy Civilization 5 for £8.69 from Funstock Digital and build your own personal civilization, all for a great price. Will you stand the test of time?
If you already own a copy of the game, check out our section of Civilization 5 Guides.
Since the vanilla game was finished the modders have done a great job both adding to gameplay dynamics, graphics and of course re-skinning it. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones mods are fairly easy to find and there’s a great site to download all sorts of modifications from here.
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