It may not move games in Modern Warfare numbers, but Civilization is the definition of a venerable gaming franchise. Spanning nearly two decades, the series has seen five full games, a half-dozen expansion packs, and a handful of spin-offs. But this isn’t Call of Duty—there’s not going to be another core Civ game every year, or even every couple of years, so every version has to satisfy the fan base for at least three or four years.
So, is Civilization V good?
That’s not terribly surprising, so let’s get at the stuff you want to know: How does Civilization V change up the time-tested Civ formula? Basically, by keeping the best elements intact, while streamlining, polishing, and upgrading the rest.
Civilization V's new hex-based grid makes for much more natural-looking terrain.
Perhaps more than anything, combat in Civilization V has undergone a huge improvement. In one of the biggest changes the series has ever seen, you can no longer stack multiple military units on a single tile. That means no more 40-tank-strong unstoppable “stacks of doom” crashing through your territory. Additionally, the cost and upkeep on military units has been increased, putting the emphasis on smaller armies, smartly composed and commanded. All in all, the combat feels much more strategic—like a game of chess played across Civilization V’s hexagonal grid.
The game looks great, and that new hex-grid allows for more natural-looking, beautifully rendered landscapes to conquer and cultivate. Unit models are more detailed than ever, and the combat and movement animations are greatly improved. Civilization V forces you to make more strategic decisions about what to build in your empire. In previous games, you’d end up trying to build almost every building in every city, and carpeting your entire territory with roads. In Civ V, roads and most buildings have upkeep costs, forcing you to consider what each city really needs, and which routes are worth building roads on.
Many of the game’s systems have been streamlined, while others have been removed altogether. Religion is completely gone, as are espionage and corporations. Culture counts toward the new civics system, which does away with the all-or-nothing civics from Civilization IV, and replaces them with a “talent-tree” system that allows you to gradually unlock different bonuses for your civilization.
You'll visit your fellow world leaders in their fully rendered war rooms in Civilization V.
The importance of commerce in the game is increased, as money can now be used to buy land tiles on the map. Additionally, money is used to win the favor of City States—another major new presence in Civilization V. City States are single-city civilizations sprinkled liberally around the map. They’re easy to take over, but they provide even more valuable bonuses if you befriend them—through monetary donations or by completing small “quests”—instead.
The game is not without its flaws. The AI is a little fishy—it provides a challenge at any of the game’s many difficulty levels, but it doesn’t play like a real person, especially in combat.
Multiplayer also is oddly incomplete—the game turns off all animations when playing multiplayer, so it becomes a bit more like a board game, and it’s hard to keep track of your armies as they teleport from space to space. Additionally, multiplayer is missing the hotseat mode, which allows you to play with your friends on one computer.
The bottom line is that if you’ve ever been into a Civilization game, or you could see yourself getting into a deliberately paced, strategic game of epic proportions, Civilization V will grab hold of your attention and not let go. The multiplayer mode is marred by a couple of questionable design decisions, but the game is otherwise top-notch.
Sid Meier's Civilization V
An excellent refinement of the classic Civ formula; beautiful graphics.
A few odd omissions from multiplayer; some AI issues.