A True Civilization Revolution!
Sid Meier is a video game luminary that has long driven innovation. His games have always been marked by complexity, strategy, and most of all, fun. Civilization Revolution (Civ Rev) for the Xbox 360 and PS3 is no exception.
Since 1991, the Civilization franchise has been a cornerstone of PC strategy titles. I remember visiting my brother at Syracuse University as a fourteen-year-old and playing that game for hours upon hours. I was hooked, and there was no turning back. Subsequently, I’ve purchased and played all iterations on PC since and even had a go at Civ II on the original PlayStation. Needless to say, I’m a Civilization diehard. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical at how my favorite PC game would translate to consoles. The Civ titles are extremely detailed games that take hours and even days to complete. Furthermore, as it happens with RTSs, turn-based strategy games are notoriously bad at getting ported from PC. Fortunately for Civ Rev, Sid Meier is at the helm; he recently oversaw the successful transition of Pirates! (another one of his PC classics) to the Xbox and PSP, so much of my apprehension was allayed by Meier’s and Firaxis’ competence. Thankfully, I was right to trust in their judgment, as Civ Rev is a completely re-imagined Civilization and a must-buy title for strategy fans of all walks.
In case you were wondering, Civ Rev is not a direct port of Civ IV, though it definitely shares, borrows, and modifies many of that game’s best ideas. I can’t get into every nuance of how the game is played for the uninitiated, but suffice it to say, Civilization Revolution has players take the role of a great leader of one of 16 civilizations (such as the Americans, Germans, Japanese, Spanish, Aztecs, etc.) – each with their own characteristics. Players then manage the creation of a flourishing civilization from its most tenuous moments as a fledgling village in 4000 BC to an expansive economic, cultural, and military juggernaut through the various eras of human history.
Players enjoy diplomatic negotiations, establish lucrative trade opportunities, create works of art that stand the test of time, and enter into combat with savage barbarians and other more civilized interlopers at the edge of their realms. There are four ways to win Civilization Revolution, all of which take a good deal of skill to pull off. They include cultural, domination, economic, and technological victories. In fact, truly great Civ players will try and pull off all of these victory conditions rather than sticking to just one playing style. The combination of cerebral gameplay, a vast array of micromanagement options, a steep degree of challenge, and a very accessible interface has made Civilization a PC gamers’ dream title. So, how does it work in the living room?
Amazingly, Firaxis was able to translate all the best parts of the Civilization experience, while managing to streamline the options and interface, and greatly increase the pace of play for console gamers. Despite the toned-down feel of the title, micromanagement is still very deep. Tons of options and reports can be accessed with the touch of a button. Checking up on and managing your cities, issuing orders to your armies, researching technologies, harvesting resources, entering into diplomatic negotiations, and government are all present and accounted for. Moreover, vastly varied unit types (including Combat Units, Great People, Spies, and Caravans), terrain limitations, and the effects of culture on opposing civilizations are also all here. The only difference is that some of the more ponderous elements such as worrying about starvation, issuing individual worker commands, building roads, varying map characteristics, and extended anarchy and civil unrest (now just one turn long regardless) have been eliminated or substantially “nerfed.” For hardcore Civ fans, the PC titles are still the way to go, but even they will find tons of fun to be had in the lightning-fast pace and seriously compelling multiplayer action.
A hallmark of the Civilization franchise has been the editing tools. Alas, players will not find an editor here. That means there will be no user-created mods – at least out of the box, that is. According to the Firaxis list of features, official mods will be available though, as Civ Rev includes a Play Scenario tab in the single-player menu. Plus, Firaxis will allow gamers to download new maps in the Game of the Week feature, play them, and then submit their scores to the leaderboards. These features, along with the stellar multiplayer options, will make Civ Rev a game you’ll be playing for a very long time to come.
Ever since Civ III: Play the World, fans of the series have headed online and battled it out for hours on end with other civilization fanatics. Online play is tremendously challenging and rewarding, but also arduous in that it requires an almost unreasonable time commitment. That has been completely remedied in Civ Rev. Online play in this version allows up to four players to wage epic Civilization contests in a couple hours, tops! Plus, the ability to jaw with players in-game via voice chat and then switch to a private parlay make multiplayer battles both fun and strategically limitless. Moreover, technically there’s no lag, and hosts are able to make turns last as little as thirty seconds, which really puts players under the gun to make rapid decisions. All in all, the multiplayer experience in Civ Rev is reason enough for PC veterans and more casual console players alike to give this title a look.
The presentation of the game is very nice indeed. The visuals are lush and interesting, while the sounds are hilarious and engaging. The environments, unit sprites, animations, leaders, and advisors are all very well recreated and pop off the screen with vibrant colors. The game moves along at a fast clip, and the graphics nearly keep up with it. Unfortunately, you will notice some lag and shuddering when leaders and advisors pop in and out of view. However, this doesn’t substantively hamper gameplay, but it is a bit unpolished. As far as sounds are concerned, combat grunts, bombing runs, and the clever use of “Firax-lish” by the leaders and advisors are great. None of the in-game avatars actually speak coherently, but somehow the characteristics of their native tongue or features of their personalities come through (it’s a lot like The Sims that way). Despite how enjoyable this is initially, it can get pretty repetitive, as your domestic advisor just can’t get over saying “Hootoo!”
When all is said and done, Civilization Revolution is an exquisite experience for strategy junkies. PC purists may turn up their noses at it, but I dare them to play through multiplayer with a pair of headsets on and not get giddy. It’s true, Civ Rev is not as deep as its PC counterparts; in fact, there are only five levels of difficulty (what happened to Sid difficulty?), and the maps can feel somewhat uninspired. Nevertheless, advancing through the four eras of history, developing your civilizations, dominating the battlefield, and setting off for Alpha Centauri is an experience that console owners simply should not miss!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The characters, combat sprites, and animations are quite nice, but the game does marginally suffer from framerate shuddering. 5.0 Control
Activating commands, reports, and other pertinent information have been masterfully translated to the console controller. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sounds are an absolute riot, but they can get quite repetitive. 4.5 Play Value
The strategic options are still myriad, multiplayer is a blast, and the prospect of additional content translates into big fun! 4.5 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.