Civilization is one of the great PC franchises of all time, a franchise that has consumed countless numbers of hours since it was first released in 1991. It's also sadly a game that I haven't played a lot of. I know that as an old PC gamer that I've been missing out on something big having friends who have disappeared for weeks when a new version of the game came out. I've played other similar games like Master of Orion and Galactic Civilization but I've never had the chance to really sink my teeth into the franchise until now.
The concept of the game is simple enough, you start choose a famous world leader (such as Napolean, Cleopatra, or Otto Van Bismark) and then establish yourself as the dominant civilization on the game map. This can be done through military, technology, cultural, or economic means. Military dominance is the easiest and it just means clearing the map of the majority of the other civilizations. Technological victory is done by being the first to travel to Alpha Centari, Economic means being the first to 20,000 gold pieces, and cultural is collecting 20 wonders,people, or converted cities. I've played through the game twice and both were military victories which is in line with my typical pattern for these types of games. I'm currently working on a third play through with a technological goal but I have a feeling I'm just going to be creating a giant army at the end and just wiping everyone out.
The console version seems to be a reasonable adaption of the PC experience albeit on a smaller scale. I've seen some other previews comment that the maps are smaller than the PC version. The two games I played clocked in at around at around three hours each which does seem a bit shorter than some of the marathon sessions my friends have told me about. Is that a downside? I guess if you're looking for those epic matches it might be but the games I played were a lot of fun and I really didn't tweak any of the game settings at all.
The game does have a fantastic art style to it that's a bit tongue and cheek. Your advisers will push each other out of the way as they try to talk to you and as you progress through the ages of the game they will dress and change style to keep up with the times. There's even one adviser that ends up looking a lot like Condoleezza Rice by the end of the game. Unit design is also well done and well animated although by the late states of the second game I was looking for a way to skip through some of the more lopsided battles.
Managing your cities activities is crucial to winning the game and the console version makes it very easy to hover over a city and see what they are working on and it's just a few button presses to have your city convert swords to ploughshares or vice versa. The wonders from the previous game are there and are crucial to getting ahead of the other civilization. I'm guessing there will be strong strategies developed on how to best start off each civilization and there are tons of different strategies you can develop as the game progresses.
Where the console version of the game falls down a bit is in the latter stages of the game where you have a lot of cities and armies to manage. To switch between the various units you click the d-pad left and right to cycle through the armies and the left bumper to scroll through the cities. This works great when you have a small empire but towards the end of the game it becomes a chore to manage as you are constantly flicking between groups trying to find the right now. A list or the ability to create larger groups of units (you can only group three at a time) would have made this a bit easier.
I had a great time with the preview build 2K Games sent us and both of my game sessions went from "I'll just play for a little bit and finish the game in the morning" to "Oh my god, it's 2AM, where did the time go". There's a lot of re-playability due to the random nature of the worlds and the different mix of civilizations on each. I do wonder how the multi-player portion of the game will work out as the turn based nature of the game means that there's a lot of sitting and waiting in the later portions of a game. Nevertheless I think this is going to be a game that introduces fans to the franchise and causes a lot of sleep to be lost around the world as the game is super accessible and easy to pick up. Mastering the game, that's a completely different subject.
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