After Hours

Geek Gifts 2010: Sid Meier's Civilization V

Sid Meier's Civilization is one of the most enduring and endearing computer game franchises ever and the fifth version only enhances the legacy.

Sid Meier has been developing computer games for a long, long time and he is very good at it. The Civilization series has been one of his most successful endeavors and the fifth version builds on that success with subtle but significant changes to game play.

Specifications

  • Product: Sid Meier's Civilization V
  • Company: Firaxis Games
  • Minimum requirements:
    • Operating System: Windows XP SP3
    • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1 8GHZ or AMD Athlon X2 64 2 0GHZ
    • Memory: 2GB of RAM
    • Hard Disk Space: 8GB Free
    • DVD-ROM Required for disc-based installation
    • Video: 256 MB ATI HD2600 XT or better, 256 MB nVidia 7900 GS or better, or Core i3 or better integrated graphics
    • DirectX Version 9c
  • Recommended requirements:
    • Operating System: Windows Vista SP2 / Windows 7
    • Processor: 2 4GHz Quad Core CPU
    • Memory: 4GB of RAM
    • Graphics: 512MB ATI 4800 or better, 512 MB nVidia 9800 or better
    • Internet Connection: Broadband Internet connection recommended

What I like

Graphics: This version of Civilization has received a significant graphics facelift. Taking full advantage of DirectX 9, 10, and 11, Firaxis has developed a Civilization game that is beautiful and functional. Information about what a unit is doing, what resources are available, and what is being produced is all presented in an easy to decipher manner. Digestible presentation is very important in a strategy game with so much information to process during each turn.

Research: The research tree in Civilization V has been streamlined and honed to allow the player to better determine which new technology leads to which new unit or building. Players can follow the progression of innovation and determine an overall strategic plan, as well as an immediate tactical plan, just by following the research tree. Once again, it is the design of the presentation that gives the player the tools to more easily process the necessary information. Combat: There are several subtle, but very important, changes in how units move, stack, and engage enemy forces. First, this is the first Civilization game to use the hexagonal  mapping system. Old war gamers like me are very familiar with hex-based play, especially when it comes to combat and the importance support units.

In this version of Civilization, only one combat unit is allowed to occupy a hex at any one time. That means players now have to use strategy when attacking enemy positions - just as we had to do when we played a war game like The Operational Art of War. And, now cites themselves have defenses, so players often cannot just attack with one unit, they must coordinate, use siege weapons and other support units. Overwhelming an enemy with superior numbers is no longer enough, now a strategy must be employed.

Simplification: In general, Civilization V concentrates on streamlining game play and it does it with great success. While there are strategic resources to fight over, the number of them is not overwhelming. Depending on the match at hand, players will have to figure out which resources to go after as vital to victory and which are merely helpful for the sake of efficiency. The streamlining makes the game feel like it is playing faster than Civilization IV, for example. Social Policy: The other significant streamlining change is with the social policies. Instead of deciding what government to use, what economic system, what religion, etc., players can now choose a social policy that incorporates parts of all of those dozens of separate policy decisions into a single choice out of eight. The social policy can still play a major role in your civilization building, but the granular decision making of the past is now consolidated.

What I don't like

Enemy strategy: This is a problem will all of the Civilization games - computer controlled opponents do not have very good strategies and can be predictable. Human players will find their budding civilizations at war for no apparent reason and then, just as inexplicably, peace will be declared. Diplomacy: The available diplomacy choices in the Civilization games in the series have been the one area where simplification detracts rather than enhances game play. I would like to have more choices than war or peace. For example, I might like to supply warring parties with support, and make a profit for my effort, but that is not really an option. Bugs: Civilization V is one of the first games to use the latest graphical features of DirectX 11, but the implementation is a little wonky for players that do not have the very latest video cards and the most up-to-date drivers. On one of my PCs, I have to force the game to play in DirectX 9, or a memory leak will cause a crash around the fifth move. This problem should be patched soon.

Additional information is available from GameSpot.

Bottom line

Civilization V sets a new bar for how a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) strategy game is supposed to play. By making some seemingly small changes to how units stack on the map and streamlining the research tree, Sid Meier and the development team at Firaxis have freshened the genre and once again made a game that will have you thinking "just one more move" way past your normal bed time.

Geek Gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: ****
  • Geek factor: ****
  • Value: ****
  • Overall: *****

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

20 comments
jonrosen
jonrosen

Have it... And right now I wouldn't suggest it. 1) MUST install steam even buying the CD. But if you like steam, great. may as well get it through Steam because there's: 2) No manual. Their 'green' savings.. which saves you nothing. Game costs the same as if there'd been a physical manual. 3) Multiplayer is barely even at Beta stage. They think it's complete 4) While it LOOKS great and for those able to do a good 'suspension of disbelief', it's fun for short-term. It's really more like Civ Revolutions (360, PS3) for PC than a worthwhile continuance of the tried-and-true series.

baz
baz

It's got steadily worse and worse since Civ 2 as gameplay has been reduced to a minimum, the 'approved' path has become more and more proscriptive, the disapproved of military combat has gone from difficult to near impossible to profit from, and the Sid Meier in the title has become a symbol of that out of touch liberal tyranny that has left the real world in such an appalling mess! It's no longer a game ... just an extended lecture on the virtues of democracy, peace, and so-called green policies. If I want a diatribe like this I can get one for free at any political meeting. If Meier's so utterly convinced of his case then perhaps he should be financing the distribution of this latest propaganda piece himself. Oh that's right. Capitalism first, democracy second!

bhughes923
bhughes923

I love Civ V and previous versions of the game as well. What I DON'T like about the new system however is the addition of STEAM, which requires you to be online to install and play the game even if you've purchased the CD box version. (You can make a change to disable the online requirement for game play, but it is not intuitive or easy for casual gamers.) I've had the game refuse to load due to high server load at the STEAM site, despite the fact that the game was already installed and I had been playing that very day. I understand that we're moving away from CD distribution in games, music, movies etc... but there's gotta be a better way than this. I also dislike my computer game advertising at me with other games as I turn the game off every time... another STEAM addition.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Hex is hexadecimal, while Hex is hexagon... albeit similar of form, they're not identical in meaning :p Sorry about the title. Couldn't be helped.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I have been playing turn-based strategy games for many years now and it is still one of my favorite genres. How about you ? do you play strategy games?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I have been using Steam for a few years and like the convenience of not having to have the CD to play. However, I as not aware that even if you buy the CD you still have to use Steam - that is a new wrinkle. I don't like that at all.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I liked Roller Coaster Tycoon (especially #2), until they went 3D, and the SM Golf Tycoon and most other SM Tycoon games. But CivV is just boring as al hell compared to the 2nd one.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Just download a patch from one of the torrent sites that offer the game for free. Then you can play with your legit CD (if you choose to) and ignore the online requirements. rlslog, scnsrc, demonoid, all4nothin, there are heaps of them that offer the same, well tested and trusted files.

ValintineDaigle
ValintineDaigle

Im with you on the online factor.Ive had software Ive bought at the store that was basicaly unusable without Int.connection. Ive also bought and payed for stuff that I had to signup and pay more once I was connected. This is a trend Im rapidly growing to hate and I personally think something needs to be done about it! Val

dionesius3
dionesius3

I love this game and this type of game. It is to me the very best computer game genre.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Thanks for the warning - the perils of depending on spell checkers - wrong word spelled correctly. :) Changed it in the post.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I usually bore easily of TBS games but in these cases I just download a copy, play for a bit and if it doesn't grab me I'll ditch it, nothing lost. One thing about downloading games, if you use it as a try before you buy method of testing, it works out well. Civ V, I think the older versions Civ 2 for example were MUCH better.

Ocie3
Ocie3

but I have always preferred turn-based strategy games (Avalon Hill and SPI in the boardgame era). MMORPGs can be interesting, too, but they often involve just too much time spent in combat, usually a series of fights or battles. For me, first-person shooters and player-vs-player "gladiator" games are the least enjoyable.

LouCed
LouCed

Any good recomendations? Loved all but Civ 2, liked MOO 1 & 2.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Otherwise I'd look a complete dumbass. Now I just look a complete wiseass.

cbourles
cbourles

How many turn-based strategy games are available presently. Does anybody has a list of such games ?

Ocie3
Ocie3

and you will find that all but a few run under Windows, whether they use the Windows API. At least one game in the results can run on Linux. Some popular MMORPG games are not "Windows programs", just programs that run on computers which run the Windows OS. For example, [i]World of Warcraft[/i] can be installed in any directory that the user chooses, because the software does not create any keys in the Windows Registry. It probably reads some keys, and it certainly uses Windows security features as an obstacle to players who want to cheat. Else, it doesn't seem to really need any particular Windows API functions. For about 95% of its output, it uses industry-standard instruction sets and sub-systems such as DirectX 9/10/11 to render graphics.

Ocie3
Ocie3

of them insofar as Scroogling "turn-based strategy games" yields at least 100 results. Most of the games are simple, because ones such as chess and checkers are included in the genre. Some links are for various turn-based e-zines, and for reviews of Sid Meier's Civilization V. But there are others which could be more interesting than backgammon, such as: #42: http://www.battlesofnorghan.com/ #43: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/battle-dex-turnbased-online-war-strategy-game/ #47: http://www.ageofconquest.com/ (#47 can also be played on Linux, Android and iPhone) That list is just a sample. First-person shooters and wargames such as [i]World of Warcraft[/i] (and its predecessors) get far more attention from the game-playing press than turn-based games, if only because those two genres combined total more game developers and games than those who develop turn-based games can produce.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Or just the newest and shiniest? Mmmm... abandonware! Do they have a windows7-capable Dosbox yet?