Civilization V Review
The Civilization franchise has been around since 1991. Almost two decades later we are treated to the fifth iteration of the game: Civilization V.
Or so you might think from the Roman numeral at the end of the title, but in fact this is the eight released title in the Civilization franchise, not counting the various expansion packs. Suffice to say that the franchise has a very rich history and it has been a rather constant presence in the past twenty years of computer game history.
Despite this large number of releases, their best game, at least from this reviewer’s point of view, was Civilization II. I say this because both III and IV, while updating the graphics, introducing various new features and having cool soundtracks, did not feel like they evolved from the gameplay point of view; they were basically Civilization II with better graphics but without any of its particular attraction and charm.
Then finally, Civilization V comes along and manages to break the stuffy mold, bringing us a truly outstanding gaming experience. Although it shares the name and the general concept with the franchise as a whole, it brings changes in a few crucial spots so as to make it so much better than just “Civilization II with better graphics”.
In an effort to keep this review as short as I can make it, I won’t talk about all the changed features of Civilization V. I will focus on the few that I consider make the greatest difference from both a gameplay and flavor perspective.
- Pre-battle statistics
The importance of this feature cannot be stressed enough. Knowing what the result of a skirmish will be, before you actually decide to attack an enemy is something that we didn’t have in the older games and there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your units getting killed by what you perceive as being a weaker unit.
Not only does Civilization V tell you who is going to win a particular engagement, but it will also tell you why. It will enumerate the various bonuses or penalties that the units benefit from. This is very important as you might not be realizing that you’re planning to attack an enemy by crossing a river which means that your troops will be incurring a penalty, which might make your otherwise stronger unit, lose the fight.
- Units don’t stack anymore
Unit stacking was a big issue in the past. The fact that an unlimited number of units could be stacked on one square meant that you could never be sure of how many units of your own you would need in order to defeat them.
Civilization V has done away with this pitfall. You can’t have more than one unit on a hex at any one time. This has allowed for the developers to introduce the concept of Flanking. Having units trained to Flank will give them a bonus when they are near other friendly units – it makes a hell of a lot more sense than stacking them.
- City expansion control
It used to be that the boundaries of your cities would expand once each city reached certain levels of Culture influence. While this is still true in Civilization V it doesn’t work as it used to in the past. Your city’s boundaries will still increase as their Culture level increases, but the growth will be considerably less than in the older games. This is due to the new feature that allows you to purchase nearby hexes.
This feature is much more important than you might think because it allows you to control the direction in which your city’s influence grows. It also means that you can focus on purchasing the most beneficial hexes that surround your cities. You can go straight for the hexes that contain valuable ore, animals or any other special feature.
- From squares to hexes
A change that has been a long time coming but for one reason or another never materialized in the past versions is the changing of the overall grid format from a square one to using hexes. As far as modern gaming goes, hexes make way more sense than squares ever have (sorry chess and DnD) – they offer more movement options to your units, which helps with the realism as well as with various tactical choices when moving your troops.
Honorable mention: Despaghettification
No, this has nothing to do with the physics concept of spaghettification. When talking about the Civilization games, the word has a very literal meaning.
In the older games you would reach a certain point in which all of the hexes that you controlled were covered by roads and/or railroads. This would lead to the entire map looking like a plate of spaghetti, taking away from the esthetics of the graphics.
In Civilization V this doesn’t happen nearly as much. First of all, the hexes don’t get any benefit from having a road running through them, except for the fact that units will travel faster on a road, and secondly that the roads cost a lot of money to maintain, so covering all of your territory with roads will become extremely costly in no-time.
There are of course many other facets which make Civilization V a much more complex and ultimately good game. Many other things have changed as well, the approach to selecting a government being one of them, but I chose to focus on the ones that make it stand out amongst its predecessors.