|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Firaxis||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 1, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
March 31, 2010 - In the pantheon of strategy games, no series stands above Civilization. No one else can claim to have the type of legendary standing in the hearts and minds of gamers across the world (Starcraft is the only one that could hold a candle to it, but that's hardly a "series" yet). So, when Sid Meier and Firaxis announce a new civilization game, you had better believe people are paying attention.
We had the chance to sit in on a closed-theater presentation by the developers as they debuted their latest creation. First and foremost, Civ 5 isn't looking to be a complete reinvention of the series. The foundation of Civilization is astoundingly solid, so it would make little sense for them to stray from the roots that gained them their millions of fans. That said, there are elements of the game that they have pinpointed as needing significant improvement.
"There's always something new you can do with Civilization," said the developer walking us through the presentation. "That said, we're not doing something like 'Civilization 4.5' where we just add some new stuff."
There will be smaller refinements made to the overall system, such as a new and improved user interface and the elimination of the "road spam" effect that the previous games were (in)famous for. They're ramping up their efforts to improve unit AI so that when left alone they will improve the city sensibly instead of building malls for 400 straight years. They've even got a dedicated employee at Firaxis working on this problem specifically. But, there are also major changes that will affect the very way that the gameplay is carried out.
First and foremost is the switch from square to hexagonal tiles. It may not seem like much, but the developers made sure to highlight the effect this has on gameplay. It drastically smoothes out the landscape and ensures logical pathfinding.
Also new is the elimination of the "stack of doom," whereby players would place dozens of units of troops on a single tile to maximize their offensive might. In Civ 5, only one unit will be able to occupy a space at any given time. This has a huge impact on combat because players will now have to make far better use of the battlefield's terrain, location, and size in order to achieve victory. The developers even proudly mentioned that it will be possible for small groups of units to hold off entire advancing armies when placed in the appropriate defensive position just like legendary real world battles such as the Spartan battle at Thermopylae or the 101st Airborne's defense of Bastogne.
The other major addition to the gameplay will be unaligned "city-states." These cities will have no natural affiliation to any civilization, but can be wooed to your cause or outright conquered. These are supposed to complicate the game's diplomacy aspects dramatically. For example, if a city-state you're allied with gets taken over by a rival empire, do you help your friends? Risking war with a world-power, or do you abandon your friendships in the name of peace? Either way, these kinds of dynamic decisions will follow you through the game. You don't think your former ally is going to just forget you left them in the lurch, do you?
That's one of the themes that seems to be pervading this installment of Civilization. Firaxis seems to be making a commitment to longevity and persistent gameplay. It's not just persistent game mechanics though, it's also about a persistent experience that doesn't stop just because you ran out of content to experience. Firaxis has expressed their personal commitment to their modding community and they're dedicated to providing them with all of the tools they need to pour out mountains of content for the rest of the user-base to enjoy.
Our personal favorite part of the presentation was the excitement evident when the developers were talking about the way they've enhanced unit survivability. They stressed that just because a unit loses a fight, doesn't mean they're 100% dead. They may just be weakened. They love this idea because it means your legendary units can stay with you for literally hundreds of years. Your storied battalion of swordsmen from 1352 AD who heroically defended Tokyo when death seemed certain could later evolve into a mechanized infantry unit. It's the attachment that players get to their units that spawned this feature, and has the developers so excited.
Everything we've heard about Civ 5 so far has us extremely excited for the game to release onto the market. Unfortunately, at this point we have little reason to believe that's going to happen soon. We were told during the presentation that the product was still in pre-Alpha form, although many of the mechanics still seemed to operate without a hitch.
CCC Freelance Writer