I’ve been playing a lot of Cyber Nations lately as it’s a great way to kill time. Strangely enough, this is the closest thing I’ve ever played to a Civilization game. I simply had never really given the long-running turn-based strategy series a chance. I kind of figured it was just another popular sim franchise. Boy, was I wrong. Civilization V is an amazing game in almost every facet and I was absolutely blown away by just how involved and addictive it can become.
Visually, Civ 5 isn’t really anything special. When you’re zoomed out (and you’ll want to be; the more that you’re aware of, the better), the game looks good enough, and the detail on the various types of terrain tells you what you need to know with a quick glance. But zoomed in, units and buildings start to look really janky and odd. I played the game in DirectX 9 mode, so maybe it looks better for people with more up-to-date computers. Regardless, this is a very minor issue and the fact that I had to really stretch to come up with this complaint should say something about the overall quality of Civ 5.
The game features some all-around great sound. The voice acting for each individual leader (of which there are several) is very immersive and the use of native languages really adds to it. The music is as it should be, easy to listen to but not intrusive while you’re thinking hard about your next move or turn.
Speaking of turns, you’ll be going through a lot of them. Civ 5 doesn’t demand your time; the turn-based structure makes it easy to save and jump out when you need to stop. However, it does absorb your time. You’ll eventually develop a “one more turn” attitude and the hours will just disappear.
For the uninitiated (like me, before I took the plunge), Civ 5 is a turn-based nation building game. That may not sound like anything outstanding, but when you consider all the little moving parts and the sheer scope of the game it really starts to impress. When you found the first city of your civilization, you’re in ancient times. The only thing your people understand is agriculture and the only thing your warriors carry are sticks and stones. When you finish a game of Civ 5, the year is 2050 (if I remember correctly) and your military will be developing massive mechs known as “Giant Death Robots.” The process of advancing from ancient times to future times can take up to 800 or more turns (all depending on your pace setting).
I mentioned that there are a lot of moving parts in Civ 5 and it may have been an understatement. There are so many things to check over, keep track of, and be wary about that even turns when you aren’t moving units (military or other) around you’ll still have plenty to do. For example, every action you take might make an impression on one of the other nations in play. Settle a city or buy land too close to someone else’s border? They may get angry at you. Attack their ally? They will get angry at you. Even just having a military unit standing near someone else’s border can cause international drama (as it should). You must also be wary of your relation with many small, independent city-states. Then you also have to consider how you want to advance your nation: through military, science, culture, economics, or all of the above.
This may seem like a lot of things to think about and keep track of, and it is. But the amazing thing about Civ 5 is the way that it presents all this information to you. The basic interface while playing is actually rather minimal. You have a minimap, info on your current funds, and info on your currently selected unit. That’s about it. There’s less on-screen in Civ 5 than in StarCraft II. This is great because while there is a ton of extra information you can access through the interface, you are never forced to. Sure, you can open up various windows and manage your production city-by-city. But if you don’t want to do that, the game doesn’t ever come to a point where you’re required to do it anyway.
This whole philosophy of keeping it simple and offering more details to those who want them really complements the overall feel of Civ 5. It is very much an “easy to learn, hard to master” game. Just looking at the list of leaders/nations to choose from alone lets you know that there is a lot of content to approach. Also, the leaders are so varied and different that you’ll want to play them all. Each one has a few unique units (Washington/America gets minutemen eventually, while Alexander the Great/Greece gets the famous hoplite soldier much earlier in history). There are 18 different leaders/nations to play as and each of them have a couple unique units and abilities.
It’s also refreshing just to see support for the PC as a gaming platform. PC gaming has really been bumming me out lately (culminating in Call of Duty: Black Ops) and sinking time into Civ 5 has been quite the relief. One of the nicest things about Civ 5, and PC gaming, is the support for mods and the mod-making community. Civ 5 even goes so far as to have an in-game menu and database of mods at your disposal. No having to worry about going to strange web sites or mess around in the game’s file structure; you just have to go to the mod menu and pick what you want to use (at the very least, use one of the mods that adds a clock to the game).
Civilization V is successful in everything it attempts to do. If you like to play with AI, you’ll find surprisingly detailed behavior (especially after this latest update) and you’ll easily get sucked into the world in which your nation exists. The game supports multiplayer as well, and when you throw real players into the mix things can get a lot more challenging. At the end of the day Civ 5 is just absolutely engrossing and fun. But, seriously, turn on the clock mod. Otherwise, you may find yourself losing entire days as you try to ensure the success of your civilization.