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One too many a friend has talked to me recently about our recent comedy article about Civilization Revolution. Sadly, it usually comes down to one question: “What the hell is Civilization Revolution?” What really hurts is that while I can be sympathetic to not knowing this particular entry, there is an entire series of greatness that these folks have never even heard of. Since I do love my friends, I dedicate this article to them so they will someday know the joys of this lovely game.
Settling the First City
Sid Meier, the man that started it all
Civilization, as a series, started out as the brainchild of the legendary Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley released in late 1991. The title quickly popularized the 4X concept of turn-based strategy in video games, or the idea of “Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate.” Civilization had a level of complexity and depth that defined all of the future games in the series. As time and the number at the end of the titles continued, the amount of content became bewildering, expanding the number of options available to conduct your economy, diplomacy, warfare and scientific research. On July 8th, 2008, Sid Meier and his development house Firaxis, with publisher 2K Games, released Civilization Revolution for the Xbox 360 and PS3, a game Meier is quoted as saying was “…the game I’ve always wanted to make.” And he didn’t disappoint.
Exploring Your World
Instant cities from barbarians, and +50% trade from captured cities… Khan is a beast
Civilization places you as the head of one of sixteen great civilizations throughout history, like the Aztecs, the Russians and the English, each with their own unique advantages such as increased gold production, half-priced improvements and unique units. You begin with a group of settlers who will be used to found your first city. Once built, the settlement serves as a resource, growing in size, gather scientific research or gold and building units or city improvements. As you begin to explore, the map becomes bigger and you begin to come across barbarian settlements or those of your four competing Civs. As you research new technologies, you unlock new units, buildings, governments types and more, each providing some bonus to an aspect of gameplay.
With so many techs, Civs and paths to victory, no two games will ever turn out the same. Each Civ plays differently, and has a unique advantage towards certain strategies. Opponents are randomly assigned and all play distinctly. All four win conditions (Cultural, Economic, Military and Scientific) are attainable by all Civs. And if that wasn’t enough, the map is always randomly generated, adding to the mystery of what you’ll find around the next corner.
Click this and find which ones are Pikemen and which are Legions… it’s easy
As with most strategy games, the graphics can be a major boost to enjoyability, but usually serves best when addressing functionality. While the visuals are not of super high quality and definition, they are exactly what is needed. Units are easy to identify, even with the minor Civ-based details on each one. You will not be confusing your powerful Knights for weaker Horsemen, or your offensive Warriors with defensive Archers. As cities grow, you can see minor additions to their makeup and buildings contained therein. Combat is especially well animated, as each unit has its own attack sounds and animations keeping growth fun to keep watching.
The sound is kind of iffy. Unlike the PC games, there is no constant soundtrack, though events and movements come with sounds that are fitting for the occasion. Unfortunately, they aren’t anything special. In fact, most of the time you feel like you’re working on a soundboard; move this unit, make this sound. Build this wonder, make that sound. Actually a little disappointing, despite how it helps you focus on the strategy.
Communism is an interesting government. Want to learn more?
Reading the above, you would think this is a really complex game, too complex to really enjoy unless you were a strategy nut. If this were one of the computer versions, I would be mostly behind you. You could play Civilization 4 for months and it could still be one game under the Epic time setting, and even then there would be tactics you’ve never even thought of. This one, however, was designed with a 2-4 hour play time in mind. This game does take time to get down, but Firaxis wisely added a thorough, in-depth tutorial that continues throughout the game just in case you need it.
In addition, eschewing the thick-enough-to-throw instruction manuals of the PC games, this one has just the Civilopedia, a glossary of terms, concepts and information readily accessible with a press of the Y or Triangle button. In a rare feat for gaming, in addition to providing game information, the entries also provide actual history and information on every concept, which means that you’ll also be learning as you play. Sure, its good to know that a Legion has an attack power of two is important for gameplay, but the opportunity to learn its Roman origins with only a pause in the gameplay makes this as much a learning tool as a great game.
Conflict with Your Neighbors
Sometimes a battle is amazingly in your favor, but other times…
A game is only as good as the opposition the player faces. Here we are presented with one of the best difficulty programming I have ever seen. On the lowest level, Chieftain, unless you’re leaving your cities undefended or willingly not producing science, there are few mistakes that will cost you more than a few turns of progress. Each of the five difficulty levels incrementally increase the challenge until Deity, the ultimate challenge, where the enemies are merciless and more importantly, cunning. They will hit you when and where you least expect it. What makes it all the more impressive is that regardless of the difficulty, it never gives the impression of being unfair or cheap. It just seems like they planned better. And the next time around, you won’t make the same mistakes.
Multiplayer is sadly lacking. Civilization Revolution is definitely a game best played on singleplayer, simply based on the fact that in turn-based strategy a major component is planning. This creates two problems for multiplayer gaming; first is that, given an unlimited timeframe to play, and up to five players per game, that makes the game unbearably long. The second problem is, given a time limit for each turn, game times may be more feasible, but you sacrifice the tactics and the ability to adapt to finishing all your moves before you lose them.
One Manhattan Project, one Nuke, one city decimated
This is not your average flashy action game that you could play ten rounds of in an hour, and that’s exactly the point of it. It’s a thinker’s game, like chess. You take your time, plan your moves and act deliberately. you don’t finish your enemy with a couple of lucky bullets, you raise armies to clash against theirs and when you hear the message of surrender of defeat from your opponent, you know it was hard-earned and every battle was a sacrifice or a massacre. And when you receive your victory, you breathe a sigh of relief before you start-up another game. This game is one of the best investments I’ve ever made at $20, and I’ve received more than 100 hours of game time from it. I can’t say that about any other game in my collection, though XCOM: Enemy Unknown is getting there. If you have the mind for a slower paced game, and enjoy the build up and eventual conquest of your enemies, pick this up off the bargain bin and see what you’ve been missing.
Civilization Revolution is Rated E10 for Everyone 10+ for Alcohol and Tobacco Reference, Mild Suggestive Themes and Violence. It is available for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo DS, Windows Phone and iOS.
What was your favorite story of Civilization Revolution victory? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!