I’ve been a massive fan of the Civ games ever since they were first released. Ramming square units into each other with naught but a numerical representation of their strength against the enemy squared unit seemed like the coolest idea ever back on my 386. While SimCity was building its huge fan base through allowing players to construct cities and maintain order, Sid Meier’s Civilization series literally allowed you to construct history
What’s more, the Civilization series was smart. Riddled with enlightening revelations of great people, monuments, world wonders, technologies and cultures, players not only partook in a unique gaming experience; they were also learning about our very own history on the go.
Since the first Civ there have been three other official installments, rounding out the number to a total of four. Beyond the four official releases, there have been countless expansions and platform-specific spin-offs, the latter of which has seen its latest release in the form of Civilization: Revolution for home consoles.
The most notable thing about Revolution is its accessibility. It’s still a smart game, to be sure, but it would be more accurate to call this "Civilization Light
" rather than Revolution.
Still, despite its pick-up-and-play nature, there is a ton of fun to be had here, especially online over the likes of Xbox Live, and the single-player campaign allows for plenty of replay value with a number of different ways to achieve victory, a massive list of civilizations to embody and for Xbox 360 owners, a host of unlockable Achievements.
For the uninitiated, the Civilization games revolve around your tribe pulling itself out of caves and into the wide-open world to build cities and expand. Once you’ve built your home-base, it’s time to build a militia unit to protect and explore, as well as other settlers to found new cities; all in an attempt to embiggen
The great thing about this is the baby steps you begin taking to the giant leaps you’ll end up striding. As a turn-based game (yet still very different to the average turn-based strategy title), Civilization is all about construction, making money and building power. This is all done through turns. So, for example, to build a settler unit, based on your city’s production, cash and the like, it might take five turns for the unit to come into play. Once it is, you can then move it about and have the city that built it move on to the next unit, building or wonder of construction.
Each action you make a unit or city make is all performed within a single turn. So you might have three cities, a settler unit, a military unit and a barge unit all together on the map. You can have each one of the cities focusing on different types of construction (one might be building more militia units to strengthen your army while another might be working towards completion of a world wonder) while the settler unit is moving toward a distant piece of land you think is ripe for setting up another city. The military unit could be moving into a position to better launch an attack against another civilization while your barge is simply out on the water exploring and exposing more of the world map. Once you have actioned all of this, the completion of the tasks is dependent on how many turns it takes for them to be fulfilled.
You can have countless cities and units performing per turn, which is where, after your empire has grown substantially, the game moves from baby steps to the giant strides mentioned earlier.
With Civilization Revolution the aforementioned intensification from small scale micro-management to large is less obvious. You still end up looking after a lot of stuff, but ultimately it’s never overbearing. This is both good and bad. On the one hand the game’s flow is almost uninterrupted in the single-player portion and you’ll find yourself completing campaigns in just a few hours depending on the way in which you want to win. On the other hand, this hand-railed way of playing can make things a bit too easy and therefore less challenging.
As mentioned above, you can win out in a few different ways. You can decided to focus your growth on military power with a goal to wipe everyone on the map out so your civilisation is the only one left standing, or you can choose less confrontational ways such as being the first to reach space, build a ship and find the next habitable planet. You might work towards being the most culturally advanced civilisation where your enlightened cities invite great people such as Alexander Graeme Bell or Albert Einstein, until you have enough high-brow citizens to create the United Nations Wonder which will render you the game’s winner. On top of military, technological and cultural, you can also win the game through being the richest civilisation.
What’s cool about any and all of this is your maps will always have other civilisations trying to outwit you and there’s no way of telling what sort of win they’re going after. To this end, spending all your time pushing to become the most technologically advanced nation can leave you wide open to attack from a more potent military power; however, spending too many resources and too much money on becoming a powerful militant civ can bring unrest to your citizens, halting production, crippling your economy and even leaving you wide open to yet more attack.
It’s working with this fine balance that made the first Civ games so great and I’m happy to say the balance is present here, also.
However, it’s prudent you start the game on a higher difficulty setting to get the most out of the balance system. Difficulty levels from easiest to hardest are Chieftain, Warlord, King, Emperor and Deity and I found both Warlord and King to be a bit too easy. Once you bounce beyond them to either Emperor or Deity though, the game’s real challenge begins to surface (it could be that I’ve played so much of the PC games though).
As a more Lite
version of the PC originals, Revolutions comes replete with an upbeat, almost comical presentation that, while displayed in HD, isn’t always that great. Given there’s very little power behind the game needed it seems a bit sloppy we’d be seeing so much pop-up and slow-down, despite the fact they’re not paramount to enjoying the game. It would have been nice to see a greater level of polish throughout. Equally, most of the videos shown are compressed and look pretty bad if you’re outputting at the highest res you can on a big TV. This would look awesome on a CRT TV, but on my plasma it really isn’t all that palatable.
I also found it annoying there’s not very much room in the way of customization. I realise it’s not PC, but one of the things I loved most about previous versions of the game was being able to choose what sort of planet you’d be working on; a more water covered place with less land (that would lead to more conflict to fight over the small shelves of habitable earth) or one with little water and more mass but less food and resources as a result.
Here each and every map you play is really very small which makes the explorative element of the PC versions almost null and void. It’s a necessary evil for the quicker pacing of the game, but one I’d have preferred to be in charge of.
The Civilopedia is back in full force though, which is a cool thing for anyone jumping into this series for the first time on home console. It has every piece of information you could ask for based on everything that’s in the game. Want to know how an aqueduct works or why they’re important? The Civilopedia will tell you. You can access it at any time as well as your advisors who’ll be able to not only point you in the right direction, but act as on-the-fly Civilopedias themselves.
Multiplayer is a pretty affable experience with a pretty neat match-making system as well as weekly maps designed by Fireaxis themselves to determine who is the best Civ player on the console planet. there are simple one-on-one matches or two-on-two team matches and from what I experienced it wasn't too shabby (there was a bit of shakyness here and there in terms of connection and slow-down but for the most part it was negligible).
With fairly fast-paced single-player campaigns on offer and a stout multiplayer option, Civilization Revolution is a pretty neat investment for anyone who likes this type of game. It suffers from a lack of depth due to its direction of accessibility and pace and could have stood to spend more time in the tightening stages of development for some polish, but for the most part is an enjoyable romp that will likely keep you busy for a few months both on and offline. If you pick this up for the first time and like what you see, it’s very much worth your time to jump into the PC iterations to see what the real fuss is about.