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Sort of an alternate Civ experience, but not watered down. Bugs hold it back on Mac
on December 6, 2010
This is about the Mac version of the game, I've not played the PC version, though game mechanics should be the same.
I read a couple of reviews complaining that the game was "watered down" or dumbed down in some way, but I don't feel that way at all. This is more like your standard Civ experience than is Civilization Revolutions for counsels (now that was watered down!). However there are some big changes. In fairness, if you've read any articles about the games development, or any game previews or preliminary reviews from game websites/magazines, you would know the big changes; 1) Hex tile board layout instead of squares, 2) no more unit stacking, 3) religion gone and cultural sway over rival civilizations reduced, and 4) the strategic limits of resources (one horse doesn't mean unlimited mounted units but instead 1 -4 [depending on the specific tile] mounted regiments]
For those who have played earlier versions of the game, these are huge changes (except maybe religion which was an addition itself to Civ IV). It's up to the individual gamer whether they accept them or not. I think they're good changes. Not necessarily better, and sometimes I still boot up Civ II, III, or IV to play those versions, but I like this new one, and the changes add a certain different balance that, contrary to some reviewers, I feel adds realism to the game.
1) the hex layout is familiar to anyone who plays battle simulation games like Axis and Allies Miniatures or Warhammer or the new D&D. It's sort of been accepted over the past decade and a half as the standard and it adds more fidelity to the combat. I kind of wish the Civ makers went further and allowed for flanking units like these strategy games I mentioned do so that if you come from the rear or rear side (one of the three hex sides to the rear of the unit) than you would get a bonus to attacks, but the don't do THAT in Civ V. although the hex layout does allow for more nuanced confrontations in combat.
2) the no more unit stacking is, in my mind, a great idea. Someone mentioned in an earlier review on this site that unit stacking amounted to representations of 'Armies' and that, for instance Napoleon had one army that conquered Europe, Germany 3, etc... The thing is, the "Army(ies)" being mentioned didn't consist of one large mass huddled on one terrain feature! Unit stacking the way it's been done in previous Civ games was getting too extreme. This is a step in the right direction with this game. Though I think they went a little too far and could have nuanced a little and say maybe two something like three "human" (infantry, swordsman, worker, settler, etc) type units can be on one hex, or one mechanized/cavalry type unit and one human type unit, but never two mechanized/cavalry units. (I think that's how Axis and Allies does it). This would allow you to have a couple workers in one hex doing different improvements, or a unit of pikemen and a unit of archers in on spot which you can't do now. It's just one military type and one civilian type (worker, settler, great person, etc) in each square. This seems little overly restrictive.
3) the elimination of some of those ways to steal and disrupt cities isn't a outright bad thing. Religion was too preposterously powerful in the earlier game.And it needed to go. The fact you can't use culture to 'turn' a city to your empire seems fine to me.
4) limited resource loads and uses... this is a great thing and much more realistic. It' isn't like you should ever have unlimited resources since that isn't very realistic.
Basically, the whole change has been to make the combat more effective and realistic. In previous games it was treated almost as if you were in charge of individual soldiers, and you'd build an army of literally hundreds of units. The whole thing became too complex. Now you are clearly building regiments or brigades of troops and you won't often have more than 20 or so combat units engaged in a war. This is actually a lot more realistic. Commanders don't control individual soldiers, they control the regiments, groups and brigades. This game is trying to lean in that direction, and I think it's the right way to go.
There are other minor changes. Scientific research and gold collection are completely separate now, and you can't linearly choose between the two through a funds allocation slider (though how you place your workers does choose between gold creation and science point creation). Golden ages happen automatically, in addition to great person activated ways, through the accumulation of excess happiness points. Happiness itself is now empire based and not per city as in the past. happiness is really what stops empires from growing now, not gold. New cities make more and more money but at the cost of happiness points which stunt growth and put you on a path to destruction if you aren't careful. And I'm sure there are more I'm not thinking of right now. The game is really more different than it's predecessors than at any other evolution in the series (again, discounting the Civ Revolutions series of games).
now why for the lack of a star, well the game on Mac is less than good in terms of the amount of flaws and bugs that creep up. I would have thought that the release would have been a more finished product, but the game has a lot of glitches with freezing up and misssing features. I would have thought they might address some of those concers prior to release. I hear that the PC version is more polished, and I know that there are a number of add ons and download mods that work on PC but not Mac. I just have to hope that they fix this problem and patch the game when possible as well as convert the mods over to Mac as well. But the core game is good, so it isn't enough of a downer to cost the game all it's good will, just one star. So four out of five is my opinion, five for gameplay minus one for poor software design and lack of add-on options. Otherwise it's a good/great game.
Thanks for the question! I should actually update this post since there have been some notable improvements.
In terms of the downloadable content (extra stuff you have to pay for) the Mac version is now on par for the most part with the PC version. I think there are still a couple civilization mods that make it to the PC first, but I've been able to get most everything on the Mac.
Next, there have been, I think, 4 major patches to the game over the last year that have focused on clearing out some stability bugs and improving competitive balance. The end result is that the game doesn't crash in me nearly as much. They added a feature that lets me adjust the auto save timer so I set it to save after every other turn and so even in the rare instance when it does crash I can go right back to my spot.
They added a component to combat to account for flanking, addressing a comment I made in my second point in the original review. A 10% bonus is added for two units facing an enemy from non-adjacent hex squares - for a max of 20% bonus with three units surrounding one.
There have been adjustments made to the social policies since a couple added too much bonus early on.
Relations with City-states are more difficult to maintain. Before it was too easy to befriend a dozen city states and it was like a cheap way to have a mini empire without the overhead. That's more difficult now.
Overall the improvements have been welcome, and while I would still like to see more DLC items to include more leaders and more civilizations. And the fact that it still isn't possible to use the user mod feature to create your own layout on a Mac version like you can on a PC version is missed by some (not me really, I never use it) means that there are still some minor improvements that could be made. But I would now rate this closer to five stars as opposed to four.
Maybe 4 1/2 or 4 3/4 stars if that were possible. The PC version, which I've now played, would be 5 stars.