Thursday, September 23, 2010

Played Lately: Sid Meier's Civilization V

  • It was not a sure thing that I was going to buy Sid Meier's Civilization V. It looked beautiful and the articles were interesting, but I have a love/hate relationship with the series. Mostly hate. I first played Civ back with the very first iteration. I was fascinated by the sprawl of history at your fingertips. But I was also frustrated by what felt like odd design choices. It never felt to me like the game was quite matching up with history. Or maybe that it couldn't. I tried Civ II and III, fell in love with Colonization for some reason, and even played Civilization IV. A couple times. It never clicked. They never compared to those wonderfully creative titles by SimTex, Master of Orion and Master of Magic.

  • But after reading about the new features of the game (especially how lead designer Jon Shafer was borrowing from Panzer General when updating the combat) I know I would have to try it out. Just 24 hours before the game launched, I prepurchased and preloaded it, ready to try it all over again. I'm happy I did.

  • Just before it was time to leave for work, I decided to launch the game, just to see how it looked on my computer. I started with the default options, ending up with Montezuma of the Aztec, and built my first city. When I next looked at the clock, it was fifteen minutes after when I should have left for work and I had to race to avoid being late.

  • Since it was my first game, I didn't have any idea what strategy I should follow. Instead of figuring that out, I did a little of everything. That meant building a few military units and any building that looked good to me. For a long while, it felt like I was just going along with the game without any purpose. But then the Japanese settled a new city just to the west of my empire. I couldn't have that so I immediately went to war and began my siege of the newly settled city of Osaka.

  • A centuries long siege, as it turned out at that time scale, because evidently this was exactly what Oda Nobunaga was waiting for. His own military units marched in to defend before I could take the city and decimated my forces. To save face, I had to strike back. But the stalemate went on for several turns because, for one reason of another, I could not bring enough force to bear on the city to take it. Eventually though, it fell to my Aztec warriors and joined my empire.

  • I had enough of war for a while, so I started to explore the rest of the continent. Then when my scientists developed iron working, I discovered that there was a major deposit of iron on the far side of the Japanese. In order to secure those resources, I raced my remaining army around his borders along the southern coast and established a settlement right on his back door.

  • At about this time, the Americans were becoming pretty belligerent so I mobilized my armies again and started besieging their cities. They put up a good fight, but I couldn't let them recover and hound my people. I wiped them out and then, for good measure, finished the job on the Japanese.

  • At this point I had the continent all to myself, except for a few city-states. I knew there were three other civilizations out in the world, so I started exploring the rest of the world. On the other continent I discovered the Indians, the Iroquois, and the Ottomans. Instead of trying to destroy these new empires, I tried making treaties with them. Of the three, only Gandhi turned me down (if you can believe), so I knew he would be the next to go. I spent many turns roaming the continent, meeting with various city-states, and paying them heavily to secure alliances. Then the most amazing thing happened.

  • When I declared war on the Indians, the other empires and all of my city-state allies declared along side me. A huge general war broke out on the continent. I only had a few units in the mix, but it was chaos all around. It was the most amazing thing to see the entire world rise up and fight my war for me. In the middle of all the fighting, I developed the technology necessary to upgrade my riflemen into a modern infantry. At that point, I knew the game was mine. After finishing off the Indians, I made a pair of decapitating strikes against the two remaining capitals. As my civilization was the only one holding its historical capital, I won by dominating the world.

  • And then it was three in the morning and I had to get to bed. While the game can feel a little dry, I think this is the exact Civilization that I have been waiting for. The combat is amazing. I would never tried to do something like this in one of the earlier games. Fighting always seemed like a waste of time before. Here, it's a necessary part of your national strategy. Civ IV was the pinnacle of Sid Meier's original design, but it's it was so fiddly and dense that I could not get my head around it. By moving the series is a new direction, they have built an amazing new game that feels like the original without slavishly copying it. I'm looking forward to playing again soon. Hopefully on the weekend when I don't have to be up in time for work the next day.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. I've been debating whether or not to get this game. Posts like this one make it hard to resist. Even a written account of it sounds so exciting, makes the mood of urgency and adventure seem almost tangible. It's been a while since I've played a strategy game that's made me feel that way.

  2. @ MMOGC - I was pretty surprised that is got as intense as it did. I was used to that from MOO and MOM, but never from a Civ game. Usually it would become pretty obvious early in the game whether I was going to win or not.

  3. @Anjin - Yeah, I enjoy not knowing, keeps me on the edge of my seat until the very end. Well, the debating is over, my husband just came back from a business trip and told me he really wanted to play it, so we just got it off Steam as well.

  4. It's funny how divergent out gaming backgrounds are. I played tons Civ 3 and a little Civ 4 but never touched MoM or MoO. I've only played a single short (?4 hours?) game of Civ 5 but enjoyed it quite a bit.

    I think you'll find most stories about Civ gamers have the phrase, "And then it was three in the morning," in them somewhere. :)

  5. I really like the changes in Civ V, and it's much less intimidating to new players while still having the same flavor that vets remember.

  6. @ GeeCee - One of us! One of us! Don't stay up too late. :)

    @ Blue Kae - Ha ha! That is one of the cool things about games. There are so many out there that you can't ever play them all.

    @ Jayedub - Oh yeah, this was a very easy game to slip into. I'm sure it's going to be a bear and the higher settings, though. I wonder if I'll ever get out of the Chieftan kiddie pool.