Developer: Firaxis Games | Year: 2010 | List Price: $39.99 | Buy from Amazon
Back in 2008, when I was but a wee lad of 10, I begged my mum at a Walmart to get me a DS game that had Napoleon, Cleopatra, and Genghis Khan on its cover. I’d enjoyed Age of Empires: The Age of Kings for a while, and I thought Civilization Revolution would be the same. It was actually pretty different, and because I didn’t really understand it, I didn’t play it much at first. But after playing it more and more a couple years later, I began to learn how to play and it still actually ranks among my favourite strategy games.
I had a similar experience with Civilization V. I tried it almost two years ago, playing a couple of matches before deciding I still preferred the faster gameplay of Civilization Revolution. Last week, though, I got the Complete Edition bundle when it was on sale, and boy oh boy! have I forgotten how good Civilization is! In the past three nights, I’ve played three games over 16 hours, playing as the Spanish, the Hawaiians, then the Inca, and winning twice (Cultural and Domination). I’ve by no means touched everything the game has to offer, but I feel qualified to give a decent impression of how I think the game is. Note: The only other Civilization game I’ve played extensively is Civilization Revolution, so I can’t really compare Civilization V to earlier PC titles.
If you’re unfamiliar with Civilization, it’s a turn-based strategy game that has you leading one of 40+ historical civilisations from the dawn of man to the near future. To win, you’ll have to manage units and resources, conduct diplomacy, and wage war. Civilization is not for those short of time, however. Even if you crank the game speed to quick, you’ll still spend between 5-7 hours to finish matches with computer opponents. This is at once to Civ V’s benefit and its downfall. You can’t simply pick the game up and play it. Civ V takes over your life and doesn’t let it go. But because of this, finishing a game (and hopefully winning!) is really satisfying. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel compelled to finish games in a single sitting. And if there’s a single strength that Civ V has compared to Civ Rev, it’s the endgame, meaning you can’t just spam ‘End Turn’ to victory like you used to.
What I really enjoy about Civ V is how newcomer-friendly it is. Yes, it’s certainly more complicated than Civ Rev, but it does such a good job of teaching you all the systems that I could honestly recommend this game to anyone willing to give it 10 hours and a little patience. I remember using the tutorial the first time I played the game, but I actually think the best way to learn is to start a proper game on an easy setting and simply letting the in-game advisers lead you through. Even the hex-based grid system, which seemed a little jarring at first, is actually more intuitive than the traditional grid, in my opinion. Though it may look intimidating, Civ V’s learning curve isn’t actually too steep, and after only one or two games, you’ll be able to turn the advisers off.
Civilization games have never pushed the limits of graphics, opting instead to use computer resources to compute gigantic sprawling maps, and Civ V doesn’t break the mould in this respect. And yet there’s something undeniably charming about Civ V’s visuals, from the cartoony, almost steampunk art style to the colourful environments and units. There’s also a ton of great music to he heard. What music you hear depends on what Civ you are, and I think it’s cool that if you choose a Western civilisation, the music is comprised of classical music. I especially like Franck’s ‘Panis Angelicus’, Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, and Dvorak’s ‘From the New World’. I often listen to music or podcasts when I play video games, and Civilization seems like a great game to play while doing so, but surprisingly, I really do enjoy listening to all my advisers’ voice acting, and the epic soundtrack that plays when I invade other nations. It really makes the player feel like they’re writing their own version of history.
The Complete Edition of Civilization V includes the two expansion packs and all the DLC, bringing the total number of civilisations to a whopping 43! There are also numerous map packs and scenarios to try out, and you could easily spend hundreds of hours getting through all the content the game has to offer. Because I didn’t play much vanilla Civ V, I can’t really tell you what exactly makes the DLCs and expansion packs worth it, except for the revamped endgame from Brave New World, which I definitely noticed. There’s a new tourism system that completely changes the way you approach a cultural victory, and the addition of a World Congress makes for some interesting diplomatic situations in the modern and post-modern era. I’m a big fan of the cultural victory option, and these new systems really serve to keep my interest, when in older games I would have just sat around idly pressing the ‘Next Turn’ button.
Civilization V is a must-buy both for longtime fans of strategy games and for newcomers to the genre. I’ve already spent many hours on the game and don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface of what the game has to offer.
Design: 9/10 Civilization V screams quality from every nook and cranny. Everything is designed in a way so as to be approachable and understandable while still offering a challenge to those seeking it.
Visuals: 9/10 You won’t find next-gen level graphics here, but Civ V still looks amazing thanks to a charming, colourful aesthetic and a clean interface.
Sound: 10/10 For a game that you’ll be spending dozens and dozens of hours, you’d expect to get sick of the music after a while, but I can say that I don’t actually remember hearing the same theme twice in a match. Civilization V is a game about the history of the world, so get ready for a huge variety of musical styles represented.
Gameplay: 10/10 Gameplay is the central focus in Civilization V. It’s something that’s not immediately engaging, but if you give it some dedication, you’ll inevitably find it immensely satisfying to see a game play out before your eyes. Civilization V has a whopping 43 playable civilizations that all seem to work rather differently while still being relatively balanced. There just isn’t a game that epitomises scope more than Civilization V does.
Value: 10/10 If there’s a game that’s worth $50, it’s this one. If that’s too much for you, you can get it on sale rather frequently. But in any case, there are literally hundreds of hours of gameplay that await you (I have a friend that’s clocked over 1000!), and plenty of different ways to play that’ll extend your playtime even longer.
Total: 48/50 (A+)
List Price: $39.99 | Buy from Amazon
I really should stop playing Civ V, since there are actually games I was planning to get to this Spring Break! Anyway, I think I’ll be able to get you guys at least one more review before this break is up. It might actually be a hardware review, who knows!
Until that time, though, see the rest of our videogame-related content right here, and check out an always-up-to-date ranked list of my favourite computer games of all time! (It’s significantly smaller than my console games list.)