The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Friday, September 24, 2010


An Early Review of Civilization V

I've been playing the game since Tuesday. (I preordered the game, which was scheduled to arrive on its release date of Tuesday, Sept 21. On Monday I saw that the game had not shipped and said to myself "guess I'm going to have to wait for it." At 6 pm on Monday the order was shipped from Philadelphia, it arrived in Oakland at 5 am, and was on my doorstep when I got home from work. Maybe Amazon or overnight carriers should be World Wonders in Civ VI.)

Here are my impressions, after playing about a third of one game:

- Civilizations don't share characteristics (Financial, Creative, Militaristic). Instead each civilization has its own special ability, such as "Father Governs Children" or "Sun Never Sets." (Civilizations do still have special units and special buildings, though it seems that some have two special units and no special buildings.) I think this is something I will miss; it was fun to develop strategies for the different characteristics, and try out different combinations.

- The terrain is very similar to Civ IV (and not so far off Civ III). A few resources have been eliminated (copper, crab, clams), a few added (cotton, pearls). Jungle now gives a food bonus (but a production penalty).

- There are fewer terrain improvements and their bonuses are smaller, more like Civ III than IV. Usually you get one extra food or production, or two extra money. You still need to create a custom improvement (mine, plantation, fishing boat) as in IV.

- The biggest change, of course, is that units can no longer stack; only one unit per space at the end of a turn. I am about to fight my first war and can't wait, the new rules should promote real tactics as opposed to loading everything in sight onto one infinitely dense stack.

- Roads cost money to maintain, so it make sense to run them only between cities or to strategic areas.

- Combat units have roughly double the combat strength of IV, which in turn had double that of III. (Swordsmen, for instance, have gone from 3 to 6 to 11.)

- The combat promotions are a bit more sensible. This is something that bugged me a lot about IV; what the hell does Pinch mean, for instance? How is it possible to train units to deliver more damage to their opponent ... only when that opponent is using gunpowder?

- Units are no longer transported across seas. Instead units with Embark promotion can launch themselves into the water, and "wade" slowly to their destination. This is bizarre, but probably mandated by the loss of stacking -- if you can't stack, it's hard to load up transports.

- Health appears to have been jettisoned, reverting to the III management where only happiness mattered.

- City border expansion has changed. In earlier versions you could work spaces adjacent to the city, then once you got some culture you could work spaces two distant. Further expansions pushed the border out but were of no use to the city. In V, cities expand one space at a time, which leads to a lot of fun anticipation as some city or another is always gaining a little territory. Also you can buy important spaces outright.

- Money and science have been separated, which means no need to choose whether to spend on science or treasury.

- City buildings are still mostly recognizable, as are the techs.

- There are no more revolutions. Instead total culture passing a threshold triggers the opportunity to adopt a "policy", and there are dozens of policies.

- Religion, espionage, and corporations have been dropped from Civ IV.

- Instead of barbarian cities there are city-states, which participate in diplomacy.

- The interface is very well done and very pretty. There are no more modal dialogs for city builds or science; instead the game puts notifications on the lower right which attract attention, but need not be dealt with right away.

- The Civilopedia supports searches. Lazy techie that I am, I instinctively expect autocomplete; perhaps Civ VI will have it.

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