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Very Different From Previous Iterations of Civilization
on September 21, 2010
I received my copy today and just started my first game a few hours ago. I decided to pause it and write my first review on Amazon to share my initial impressions. Let me start off by stating this Civilization is COMPLETELY different from previous versions of Civilization. While this may be problematic for purists, I'm enjoying the game far more than I thought I would. There's definitely a learning curve, as the gameplay differs quite a bit from its predecessors (The Civilopedia is going to be your new best friend). With previous versions, only some of the basics changed (i.e., changes in basic gameplay dynamics or the inclusions and Exclusions of technologies, units, wonders, etc). With this version, quite a bit has changed, making it very dissimilar to previous versions. Civilization 4 and 5 are VASTLY different games. I'd suggest trying the DEMO FIRST before you buy, as the changes may appeal to some and really push away others.
SOME OF WHAT'S DIFFERENT:
- Like every previous version, the graphics have been overhauled and improved. In my opinion, the graphics are absolutely BEAUTIFUL! (Just a quick note: I'm using an overclocked DirectX 11 capable card, so I'm able to use the High detail options along with DirectX 11 with no problem whatsoever, so keep that in mind if you have a system that doesn't have DX11 or a lower than the minimum specifications graphics card, as that will probably make your experience of the graphics differ from mine.)
- Hexagons instead of squares, which allow for more movement and attack options, necessary due to the change in combat and the removal of stackable units. This really doesn't affect the gameplay much, in my opinion it's a minor change that was necessary for this particular version.
- The inclusion of City-States is fantastic, but do require management to sustain the relationships you've developed with them. They can either be fantastic allies (that share resources or units), or a permanent enemy that wants nothing more than to see you wiped off the face of the planet (there's actually a couple of levels in between but those are the two extremes). In my opinion this adds some much needed variety as I've always felt limited by the set number of civilizations in previous versions. Once you've encountered all the other Civs in previous games (generally early on in the game), and developed strategies on how to deal with them, you can implement your strategies, change them slightly as needed and plan your diplomatic long game. With City-States, however, the discovery of a new one can force you to rethink your strategy as they may have access to a resource you desperately need or even be a problematic roadblock if they dislike you and are permanently at war with you. Their inclusion definitely adds a dimension to the diplomatic game. You can't micromanage the City-States, but if you want their help you have to maintain positive relations with them. This is accomplished mostly by furnishing them with gold and units, or even completing missions given by the City-State (i.e., destroy this barbarian encampment for us, or build a road for us, etc.)
- I was a bit worried about the combat system when I heard Civ 5 didn't allow unit stacking. However, in my opinion, the changes to combat are mostly positive. I like that you can't stack units as it requires more thought on how you're going to attack. If you encounter a city that is strategically placed to block off all access except for one hexagon, you're going to find yourself having to funnel your troops through the choke point, placing you at a major strategic disadvantage. In previous versions you could stack a dozen units and overtake the city despite such a bottleneck. In this version you will be required to push units through, and if one is destroyed, you'll have to use movement points to move the unit behind it into position to attack, this means that city placement and unit placement now have greater importance and require more thought. Archers, also, can't just go barreling into a city and shoot up the place... well, they can, but you can't overtake the city with a ranged unit. Instead they function much more effectively as a backup to melee units, making placement 2 hexagons away to bombard while your melee units attack the garrisoned units a much better strategy. For the most part, I think the change in combat is the best change so far.
- You can now buy land around your city to force expansion instead of waiting for your borders to expand on their own, I rather like this as now I can seize up some of those resources that are just outside of my borders instead of having to wait for my borders to grow.
- They've also included Natural Wonders (like the Great Mesa, and other natural formations) which add bonuses to cities built near them.
- How state policies are handled are also very different. Instead of researching a technology to unlock specific policies, you now have to spend culture points to unlock policies (that have different benefits) on an RPG-like policy tree that is under an overall ideology (which is unlocked by research). Some policies can be implemented at the same time, while others are mutually exclusive. I haven't played enough to know how this will affect the overall game, but so far it's interesting.
- The exclusion of religion is a major problem with this game, in my opinion. Historically, in both real life and in Civilization religion has been a major factor in both forming early alliances and in the starting of wars. In the early game, especially, I can feel the absence of state religions in my diplomatic options. I hope they include it in a future expansion pack.
- The exclusion of some of the civilizations and leaders from previous versions bothers me as I did have some favorites. However, if I'm not mistaken, I think there's some DLC's coming that will add additional civilizations, and we will most likely see additional civilizations in future expansions.
- CORRECTION: As Rob points out in the comments section there are additional map options beyond the Random, Continents Archiepelago and Earth options available in the basic screen. These can be found in the Advanced menu during the Pre-Game setup, thanks Rob! That helps quite a bit :)
(Original Release Day Comment: Limited map choices is also, in my opinion, a mistake. There are only a few options, such as Random, Continents, Archipelago, and Earth. I miss the variety available in previous entries.)
- Now... here's one of the most interesting changes. The addition of an in-game modification browser that downloads and auto-installs any mod you select from the browser. Civilization has always had a thriving mod community, but by integrating the new mod browser, people who wouldn't otherwise know to go to mod sites, now have access to the mods in-game. Some of the mods already available include unlocking the Celtic Civilization as well as additional map types. They do include a warning saying that these modifications are not created by Firaxis and may contain viruses (a necessary disclaimer, of course), so pay close attention to the details and if it gives you a link check the source. Just use caution and care when downloading as you would with anything. In my opinion, though, this is a fantastic change. Yes, mods were available before, but this makes it easier than ever to find, install and use; they are broken down into category if you're looking for a specific type of mod.
- Steam... Controversial I know. I'm not a big fan, myself, but that's just my personal preference. To be honest, while it's not my favorite system in the world, it's not really a deal breaker for me either. However, I think their use of steam is mostly for the benefit of the multiplayer experience (I mean besides the obvious copy protection reasons). However, I never really use multiplayer so I can't really comment on the pros and cons of the multiplayer. Apparently, your saved games are put on the Steam Cloud, I'm not entirely sure what that entails but I'm sure someone will elaborate eventually.
I'm giving this 4 out of 5 stars. I think this version has quite a bit of potential, but I think we'll have to wait for some of the expansions to see that potential fully realized. However, I've also felt that way about previous versions. For example, I didn't feel that Civilization 4 really came into its own until Beyond the Sword was released (just my opinion, of course). Will I stop playing Civilization 4? No. I think both games are different enough that they can stand on their own and provide different gaming experiences. Though, for the most part I'm pretty satisfied with the new version (though, some of the new aspects still feel a bit clunky and aren't as streamlined as they could be, but like I mentioned above that might change in future expansions). It's different and I'm going to have to get used to it, but so far I'm enjoying the game.
Keep in mind, my first game is still going, and I'm still pretty early into the game, but these are my initial impressions and I do hope they help anyone who is curious about what's different with this version. Happy World Domination everyone!
UPDATE: 8 hours into the game, encountered my first game-breaking bug during one of the diplomatic screen animations and lost a lot of my progress. You may want to wait for the first set of patches as others have suggested, or remember to save often as the autosave has been a bit buggy for me.
PATCH RELEASE: First Patch to address crash issues released on Sept. 28th. Hopefully that will take care of some of the crashing issues. It came faster than I expected, but we'll have to wait and see if the issues are mostly fixed or not.
ANOTHER UPDATE: While it's still fun, I'm starting to find myself questioning whether or not this has the same level of replayability as Civilization 4 for me (at least the Vanilla unmodded version of 5, but then again I guess that's what mods are for, but I do expect the vanilla version to at least hold my interest for a while). I'll know better in a few weeks (after finding the difficulty level and settings that appeal the most to me). Maybe it's getting used to the new interface, but I find my interest lagging a little (though I am still enjoying it, but probably not as much as 4) in a way that it never did with other Civilizations. I would like to drop the fun rating down a star for the time being, but Amazon doesn't seem to be letting me. Again, just a personal opinion, maybe after a few more games I'll have a better idea, but at the moment I'm just not sure I'll play this version as much as I played 4, I guess only time will tell.