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GDC 2010: Civilization 5 Preview
Post by trog @ 01:38pm 18/03/10 | Comments
We got a first look at the recently announced Civilization 5 at GDC 2010!

Civilization is one of those games that is responsible for large periods of your life going missing, being replaced only by vivid memories of epic battles as you managed to displace some other expansionist state on your way to world domination. There’s a significant chunk of my high school days that I simply do not remember because of this game.

As such, the announcement of each new iteration of Civilization is met with two different, but connected, feelings – an almost extreme, uncontrollable joy of what will surely be another excellent gaming experience, and an unholy dread at the potential amount of your future that will no doubt be consumed by it.
Firaxis were on hand at GDC 2010 in San Francisco to provide a first look at the game, and AusGamers were more than happy to be there. While we only got a brief look at the game (no actual hands-on, unfortunately), it was enough to form some initial opinions about how it looks and plays. Firaxis marketroid Pete Murray took us through a fifteen minute presentation showcasing the game and touching on its core features.

The biggest and most obvious change is the new hex-based tile system. Pete explained that one of the main reasons for doing this was to take advantage of the improved gameplay mechanics that hexes offer - more dimensions for movement, for example. It also removes some of the ambiguity of the game board – the previous system might have shown what looked like an unpassable path through mountains, but in reality it was just a trick of the graphics and it was, actually, passable – something you might find out to your detriment when someone attacked through there. The hex tile system apparently greatly improves the relationship between the visual look of the tiles and the actual properties of those tiles.

Some other changes have come along with the hex system – you can only have one unit per tile, meaning the “stacks of units” issue is completely gone. It is hoped that this will encourage a more tactical approach to combat, with players focusing on better deployment and positioning.

Civ5 also offers all-new ranged combat. We saw archers in action, firing over a tile to their target (again, adding to the tactical nature of the combat). They are very weak when it comes to typical combat to balance out their usefulness, but it’s clear that this will add an interesting new dimension to the gameplay.

City defence has also changed – cities will now defend themselves without units needing to be garrisoned in them. This was demonstrated and it looked similar to an archer attack – you see arrows fly out in a nice parabolic arc to fall down and slaughter the opposing force. Cities now have hit points, which presumably can be augmented as your technology progresses, so you can easily see how your defence is tracking.

One thing Civilization has always been renowned for is the ability to mod it. This, fortunately, is a key tenet at Firaxis, which was expounded on by Sid Meier himself at the GDC keynote – modding is good for your game. While this is obvious to gamers, modding has somewhat fallen out of favour in recent times as the commercial benefits of DLC are realised – so it was great to hear that Civ5 will have excellent support for modding as well, including a central managed repository for all mods.

Visually the game is looking pretty impressive. Firaxis are striving to ensure playability even on modest PC hardware configurations, but it’s also a goal to make it scale nicely so people with high spec machines are going to get a nice graphical experience. The graphics might not stand out as unbelievably stellar, but this has never been a major driving force behind the Civ series. The tile sets look really nice; we heard that there are tilesets for Europe, Africa and American terrain planned, which provides some hints as to what you can expect to see.

That pretty much wrapped up the demo that we saw. While it was pretty high level, it provided glimpses into the plunging depths of gameplay that is the trademark of Civilization. The new changes look like they offer a fresh, new take on some of the key gameplay mechanics so there will be enough there to entice most people to upgrade, while at the same time keeping a lot of the same basic core that makes Civ such an awesome game to play - a fact which Pete Murray hammered in at the end of the presentation with a Firaxis saying: "It's never a Civilization game if Ghandi doesn't threaten you with nukes."

Latest Comments
Posted 01:56pm 18/3/10
"it's never Civilization if Ghandi doesn't threaten you with a nuke"

I lol'd
Posted 02:06pm 18/3/10
Nice writeup trog. I have to say that this is the game I'm most looking forward to this year. Absolutely love the civ series.
Posted 02:25pm 18/3/10
Bring back Hammurabi!
Posted 02:51pm 18/3/10
Can't wait to burn many hours on this. Looks great, nice preview.

The no stacking's going to really shake things up.
Posted 02:55pm 18/3/10
The more I think about it the more I like the no stacking thing, I never really found civ battles engaging beyond "will my stack defending this square outlast their stack of attacking units? jesus nooo my tank"
Posted 03:16pm 18/3/10

nailed it. civ 4 was epic in every way except for the combat system imo.
Posted 04:28pm 18/3/10
jesus nooo my tank


I didn't play Civ4 much (played a lot of Civ Revolution on the Iphone though) but I'm looking forward to getting into this. Combat system over-haul sounds good.
Posted 04:39pm 18/3/10
Actually now I'm seeing this as waves of units trying to push against each other, trying to hold the line. Sounds even more awesome.
Posted 05:36pm 18/3/10
Spent most of my senior years at high school playing Civ II on Deity. Love the civ series.
Posted 02:35am 20/3/10
Been playing since Civ2 back in high school and I'm still giving Civ4 a good thrashing!
Hexes are long overdue which will hopefully give the game a more natural feel.

Perhaps I should hibernate this winter in preparation for sleepless nights ahead ...
Posted 04:51am 20/3/10
Have they fixed phalanx vs tank yet?
Posted 11:24am 20/3/10
My elite phalanx will pwn your tanks. What you don't know is that in the future the phalanx managed to gather up some C4.
Posted 11:44am 20/3/10
c4 on a stick? heh

goddamn i want this game to be out already!!@#!
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