Sid Meier’s Civilization V

{Cliché}

“It’s past midnight, sweetheart,” Jessica calls from the top of the stairs. She’s using a mom voice, whose subtext is always “you know I love you, but you’re an idiot.”

“Just one more turn and I’ll be right there,” I lie.

{/Cliché}

It’s Sunday night, and I curse myself for living the walking commercial for a game. I have to be up early in the morning. But the Mighty Hiawatha needs my guidance. Without it, he’ll never teach that Bastard Napoleon who rules the world.

Civilization V isn’t just a good game. It’s a good game at the pointy end of 20 years of innovation in crack peddling.

---
Firaxis ran a short series of web advertisements before the launch of Sid Meier’s Civilization V, which actually isn’t a Sid game at all, but a game by his extremely young protégé Jon Shafer. In the ads, Civ players attend an AA style meeting where they confess their addiction, ending with a promise: No More Turns.

Now, all those addicts will fall off the wagon. And love every minute of it.
The headline changes are easy to tick off: it’s on a grid, units don’t stack but have range, the entire combat model was scrapped and rebuilt, and everything has hit points. The changes sound like wargame tweaks, and indeed, all of these changes work.

In wargame terms, Civ V isn’t particularly complex. Artillery, air support, ground forces and navys play expected and traditional roles. But without stacking, it’s extremely easy to build your “big” army with no more than half a dozen units - and of those, only a few will be involved in any combat. This makes the selection of those units critical, and their training moreso, whether it be in barracks and armories or out on the field of battle.

The XP system of Civ V won’t be on the box cover, but it’s emblematic of the dozens of subtle ways the combat now makes sense, and feels real. Hills matter. Terrain matters. Flanking matters. Unit matchups matter. And that means your decisions on each of these fronts becomes far more important, and victory incredibly satisfying.

-

“Whatcha doing daddy?” asks Jen, poking her head into the office. I guiltily Alt-Tab to my web browser.

“Oh nothing. You done reading for a while?”

I’ve been on the road for almost three weeks. I’ve crammed as much kid time in as I can, but when Jen said all she wanted to do this afternoon was curl up on the couch with a book, I did a little happy dance and went back to Civilization V. Cue the Academy Award for “Best Parent.”

“You’re playing a game aren’t you?” She reads through my lie like the pile of books she’s devoured this afternoon. “That’s good! You should play a game. Whatcha playing? Can I play too?”

“Sure!” I say. She grabs a folding chair and sits down next to me. I expect her to be bored in 5 minutes.

3 hours later, we’re co-leaders, making decisions for our fledgling American nation. She’s an endless stream of questions. Why can’t we be pious and rational? What does optics actually do for us? Time and again we consult the Civilopedia for the answers. At each major crossroads in research or wonder development, she insists that we check with our council of advisors.

“OK,” she decides mid-game, fighting a difficult two-front battle against city-states. “I think I’ve grown weary of all this fighting.” She throws her hand across her brow, in a gesture known as “Actorizing” in our house. How else can we win? We poke through the victory conditions.

“Science!” She says. “We can win by science!”

I try and let her down easy. “It may be a bit late. We’ve focused a lot on pure economic growth, keeping people happy, and fighting our neighbors.”

“Let’s try,” she says. “Can’t our mighty nation have a change of heart, and become the peace loving researchers who cure cancer and go to the moon?”

We dig into the cities, micromanaging our population towards two goals – research and the production of research facilities. 20 minutes later we’ve tripled our rate of research, and have great scientists appearing with free technologies on a regular basis.

We don’t finish the game - Dinner time comes too soon. But Jen goes to bed declaring Civilization the best game ever.

-

For all the changes, the core appeal of Civ V remains what it always has been: a sandbox for playing what if with the toys of an entire planet. Every ounce of that sandbox remains but unlike the radical simplification of Civ Revolution, Civ V is very careful about what it discards. Yes, Religion and Espionage are gone, but even for those who actually liked those mechanics, the loss is more than offset by the much more subtle “policy” tree, and the improved diplomatic model. Is it perfect? Of course not. The strong hand of Soren Johnson, Civ IV lead and as such perhaps the best strategy AI designer out there, is noticeably missing, as computer controlled enemies make the occasional boneheaded move late in the game. On the other hand, I'm not wiping the floor with it on the hardest difficulty just yet either.

But a less-than-incredible AI doesn't stop Civ V from being the most accessible version of the game ever made, not counting of Civ Rev. Thanks to the best user interface design I’ve ever seen in a strategy game (sorry Sins of a Solar Empire) 10-year-old Jen was able to grasp the core principles instantly, even without walking through the tutorials. More impressively, she walked away from that one game of Civilization asking interesting questions about history, science, war, religion, even geography.

I imagine it won’t be long before I walk into the office and find Jen, sitting at the computer, staring bleary eyed at the screen saying “Just one more turn, daddy.”

It will be very, very hard for me to say no.

Comments

Bravo, sir. Lovely article, and makes me sad I don't have a kid yet to introduce to Civ. Someday.

I tried Civ4 and did not care for it. Would it be fair to give Civ5 a shot, or is a case of "if you didn't like the fourth one, you probably won't like the fifth"?

Why didn't you like Civ4? There might be enough new in 5 to lure you in (new combat system) or not (in case you dislike the city management).

burntham77 wrote:

I tried Civ4 and did not care for it. Would it be fair to give Civ5 a shot, or is a case of "if you didn't like the fourth one, you probably won't like the fifth"?

It's Civ to the core. If you hated Civ 4 for the combat mechanics, then you might love it. If you hated Civ 4 because it was turn based, long, involved, whatever, it wont change your mind.

wizard_in_motley wrote:

I totally agree with early indoctrination of kids for strategy games.

I also remember what someone said after I gave a friend Civilization (the first one) for his birthday.

'Friends don't give friends Civilization'

I gave friends ( a couple) World of Warcraft back in 2004. They're still playing (and basically) addicted. Yes, I actually do feel guilty. I don't give games as gifts anymore

Keldar wrote:

Just keep telling yourself: "Just one more day, and then I'll buy it." If days run like turns do when dealing with Civ, it'll be the holiday season before no time.

I already bought it, but I admire your respective courage, and wish you all good luck holding out another three months. I would advise staying away from the Civ threads here in case the game is as awesome as all the reviews have described and we keep raving about it for the quarter of a year that you've all decided to refrain from partaking of this apparently delicious feast.

It is a delicious feast that will still be delicious in the Winter...even more so since I will have a ton of free time to play it then. Plus I'm getting my "just one more turn" fix with Elemental these days. I will be reading the CivV threads, though, so I can live vicariously through my friends at GWJ.

Gogamer.com won't tell me if it's shipped yet or not! IMAGE(http://rps.net/QS/Images/Smilies/emo.gif)

BTW, is there a hotseat option?

Imma get my copy from GOG!

I don't even know how some of you guys are able to resist buying this. You already knew it was going to be great and worth the money. Spend the extra 10-15 dollars you would save so that you can get 3 months of "early" fun. Spare yourself the stress of being tortured and tempted. One of us! One of us!

I just don't have the time to play. While I do want the game I'm not actually even tempted to get it now.

I resisted pre-ordering it. Until yesterday, at which point I relented, bought it, and pre-loaded it. It was supposed to unlock at 9 a.m. my time this morning. Due to the staggered start times of schools around here, the bus doesn't come until 9:08 a.m., at which point the kids went off to school. At 9:10, I clicked "Play".

Dammit, I always forget how much of a learning curve there is for a new Civ game. All my tried-and-true strategies from Civ IV aren't going to work anymore.

I can't wait until I get home and put the kid to bed (does that make me a bad parent?). Or maybe I'll take a book from Rabbit's page and play with him (though 8 might be a bit young for a non-action game).

I really want it, but I'm going to try to wait, preferably until the inevitable "Civ V Complete Edition" with all the expansions. Maybe reloading Civ IV will keep me content for a while.

I thought I got over being jealous, I thought I was too old and wise now... until all these "Goodjer X now playing Civilization V" Steam notifications started popping up. These four days between the US and EU release will be the longest of my life.

But then: Collector's edition time!

When I get home, it'll be there. Waiting.

I'm in so much trouble.

edosan wrote:

I really want it, but I'm going to try to wait, preferably until the inevitable "Civ V Complete Edition" with all the expansions. Maybe reloading Civ IV will keep me content for a while.

You're talking about years. Civ IV was 2005, Warlords was 2006, and Beyond the Sword was 2007.

Alien13z wrote:
edosan wrote:

I really want it, but I'm going to try to wait, preferably until the inevitable "Civ V Complete Edition" with all the expansions. Maybe reloading Civ IV will keep me content for a while.

You're talking about years. Civ IV was 2005, Warlords was 2006, and Beyond the Sword was 2007.

I know. I've purchased too many games only to realize I could have waited a year or so for the "Gold Edition" to get the $50 game and the $25 expansion for $20.

I already hate this game. I fired it up this morning to see how it looked and, of course, it made me late for work. Damnit!

So late last night as I'm looking at the 8 hours to go before Civ5 unlocks and knowing that I won't be able to actually play it for two more days (due to my 6-month wedding anniversary being today), I start to hear an unfortunate loud buzzing sound from my freezer, revealing the fact that it was running about 30 degrees warmer than a freezer should. Lo and behold I had to defrost it last night and then wait around my house for 3 extra hours this morning for it to dry, before I could start it up again and go to work. What did I do with that extra time at home? I played 150 "one more turns", conquered two City-States, and found myself knee deep in the Medieval Age! I'm torn between the annoyance of freezer repair and the joy of having actually spent some time with Civ5. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Steamworks may have intervened on my behalf and broke my appliance. It's nice to see companies like Valve and 2K go the extra mile on customer service.

burntham77 wrote:

I tried Civ4 and did not care for it. Would it be fair to give Civ5 a shot, or is a case of "if you didn't like the fourth one, you probably won't like the fifth"?

Unless I'm mistaken there is or will be a demo -- I'd say give that a shot before dropping the money. Based on my experience Civ5 is much more my speed than Civ4 was (which admittedly I played for the first time only recently.) I greatly enjoyed the few hours I've spent with it so far.

I have no choice but to wait until Christmas to play Civ5, after all I spent $170 after tax on the Legendary Edition of Halo Reach. I'm hoping that the Best Buys around me don't sell out of the Collector's Editions in the meantime.

Civ II is the only game I've played where I did not sleep for two nights in a row, among many other sleepless nights. Alpha Centauri was much the same. With RTS or shooters, I become exhausted physically and mentally after several hours of play, but with Civ's turn based gameplay, there's no physical limit. I get tired, and the turns take longer, but I'm not getting wiped out as I would playing more realtime games. It's insidious.

I bought Civ 4 six months ago, and still haven't played it. I'm too afraid of a sleepless night...

Yeah, I told myself I would hold out on buying this game.

Right.

my daughter is 5 1/2....you think she is too young for civ5?

I'd rather donate those 50 bucks to GWJ. If I need crack, I have a WoW or EVE account to reactivate.

That and Civ 4 didn't do much for me.

I have presented my forthcoming purchase of CIV V as an educational thing for my 11yr old daughter.

My wife can see into my soul.

help me........

Oh, man. I installed the demo, and this game SERIOUSLY chugs on my rig even with just one city. I can't imagine it being an even marginally playable experience in the mid- to late-game. I need a new computer so bad.

Well, at least there was a day-and-date demo so that I didn't waste $50 just to find out that I'm going to have to wait until I can afford a new rig before diving in.

For people who aren't huge fans of vanilla Civ and prefer historic scenarios and real maps, some modders have already done them and they're real easy to download and install from the Mods menu. Joy! The whole new combat system really makes this a way more strategic game. My archers rule!

hbi2k wrote:

Oh, man. I installed the demo, and this game SERIOUSLY chugs on my rig even with just one city. I can't imagine it being an even marginally playable experience in the mid- to late-game. I need a new computer so bad.

Well, at least there was a day-and-date demo so that I didn't waste $50 just to find out that I'm going to have to wait until I can afford a new rig before diving in.

What's your computer's specs?

XP SP3, 2 gigs RAM, 2.0 GHZ dual core Athlon 64 X2 3800 proc, Radeon x1950 Pro.