In another game named so generic that it has to add the developer’s name to the title, “Sid Meier’s Civilization V” is the fifth entry in the turn based hexigrid strategy game series. In Civilization series, you are always competing and aligning yourself with various other leaders on your way to world domination through several means. The game lets you grow your empire through conquering cities, settling new ones, through trade and other forms of diplomacy.
Civilization V feels and plays almost the same as previous entries in the series with a few upgrades, combat tweaks and a fresh coat of paint to make it feel modern. Is there anything wrong with having an updated game to a beloved series? Nope. Does it make me want to play it when I played previous iterations of the game twenty hears ago? Nope.
The game begins in ancient times and you will work your way up through the millennia so any Civilization takes a long while. You select a leader each with their own perk, select a map size and your desired type of map. Then the game generates a new and unique map making every play through unique. There are eight difficulty settings and four paces for how long you want the game to last. My play through on normal difficulty with a standard pace with a small map has surpassed six hours.
You start with a single city. Each city lets you produce something, either a unit to move around, a building to increase resources or a wonder. Over time the population of a city will grow depending on your food and the happiness of your population. Have too little food and the citizens starve and the city shrinks. With more citizens, the faster you can produce something.
Creating one building in town will unlock other building choices. Its a level of micro management that gets old when you have a dozen big cities with short production times that you are always producing stuff for them at every turn. Plus someone thought it was a good idea to have the produce button on the right side away from the list of stuff to produce on the left side.
Units have two major types: military and workers. Workers enhance the area around your cities. They can make connections, roads, mine, farm and you can chose to let them do the work automatically. If a worker is captured by a military unit, they are lost and become the enemy’s worker. Military units have three forms, ranged, melee and siege to use against cites. Each unit has its own move distance of one or two tiles, attack distance, attack strength and so on. Creating specific buildings unlocks new military for that city.
Once you’ve unlocked the appropriate technology, most units can set sail in ships. The only catch is they’re vulnerable to attack. Combat ships and long range attacks can sink the transports.
You can set a unit to move across the map, and see how many turns it will take them to get there. Then they will automatically move each turn unless you have them stop. You can have them do nothing, stand alert or go to sleep which in some circumstances is good as deleting them because I’d usually forget they exist for a few centuries. Military units can garrison cities and gain their defenses. Like other games of the genre, there is an automatic explore, which is good for scouts.
Combat takes place on the hexigrid world map. Simple battles play out between two units and you have no control, just the strategy of having ranged units can attack from two tiles away rather than one tile away. All units have ten health so when a unit takes damage they can fortify themselves which wastes a turn, but heals them a single point of health. Any fight will give the unit experience and leveling up gives a choice of certain perks such as better damage against enemies on rough terrain or clear terrain. Others gain one hit point per turn or 50% better defense.
Conquering cities is quite a task and requires too much effort. It can slow the game to a halt at least on normal difficulty. First you need to bombard the city with ranged attackers and mainly catapults or cannons. Then once the city has been weakened, you need to send in your melee attackers. Its a process that benefits the defenders. Taking cities turns into tedium as you can amass a giant army, then just go from one city to the next. Cities have a ranged defense mechanism that does little to deter my troops. I just have one troop take a beating and fortify themselves while other troops pummel the city. If the fortified troop gets down to one hit point left, take them away and replace them.
As you’re playing, you acquire science points and gold from each city. Gold lets you quick buy units or buildings rather than taking the time to make them. Science lets you research technology quicker. Technology enhances one thing or another and can unlock new buildings or units.
Everything in the game is designed to unlock something else, to build something else to make it faster to build. With that in mind, the entire game is a grind,but its a grind that is just easy. So easy that its engaging because you’re just making choices with some combat to give the game some diversity. Even the combat requires a only a small amount of thought.
There are heroes and several types of them with their own uses. A battlefield hero can increase effectiveness of those around him, and he can also make a citadel at the expense of his life. Science heroes can expend their life to get an instant technology. Another type of hero gets a project done instantly.
You also gain political points that let you unlock certain theologies and then perks that come long with them. Just another choice to keep you entertained. Engaging in war hurts your political points, but in return, its easier to bully your opponents. On the other hand starting a war may get several nations to hate you. Gandhi in my first game started out as a friend, then he wanted me to declare war on some nation he had a hatred for. When I asked him to wait ten turns, he agreed. Then when the tenth turn was up. I went to war and so Gandhi ended up going to war with me because I went to war with the one he wanted me to be at war with.
Some leaders will buy a peace treaty with you for X amount of turns. Agree to the terms and you never have to leave their borders. However, when I stocked up and surrounded cities of a nation I had a treaty with, once I declared war they threw everyone out of their territory. That took a lot of time and coordination across ten turns to get them put in and the game just nullified that. Oh but that never stopped my victory and that’s a problem with the series, you know when you’ve won long before you’ve conquered the world, just as you know when you’ve lost long before the end.
To make the world feel more alive, there are barbarian tribes which have no alliance. They spawn soldiers and archers until you destroy them. Its interesting coming across a tribe of barbarians int he 1800s. In fact a lot of things are interesting in the 1800s like how a city still needs a coliseum, but I suppose its a fancy way of saying arena.
Its a toss up to recommend a game that is so easy there’s no challenge, but its so easy that its relaxing. Its just a big grind that throws never ending choices in your face while you’re conquering the world. Its fun for a play through, but after the daunting task of painting the world with my empire, its a journey I never want to take again. When all is said and done, its still the best looking hexigrid turn based strategy out there with over twenty years worth of depth and choices that keep you occupied and make each time unique.