* Originally authored by FunkyJ *
Sid Meier’s Civilization series is one of the greatest PC series of all time. The deep and complex game takes time, patience and understanding to play and master, and the task of getting Civilizations to a console has proved difficult if not impossible in the past. The idea of taking one of the best, deepest and most popular strategy games and getting it to play well on a console has required a complete rethink and rebuild of the game. Although “built from the ground up for consoles” has almost become a cliché of games reviewing, Civilization: Revolutions is one game that encapsulates this term, and succeeds in living up to its goals of providing a Civilization experience on a console.
But let’s get something out of the way – this is definitely Civilization Lite. Many people may look down their noses at it because of this, but I like to think of it as the difference between driving and automatic and manual car. One is more complex to drive than the other, but unless you’re a really dedicated car fan, it doesn’t really matter because both types of cars are complex feats of engineering, both will get you from A to B, and in both you need to concentrate on the road ahead.
Those who have never played a Civ game before will appreciate the controlsCiv: Rev is like an automatic car. Its complexity has been stripped back making the ride a little more enjoyable and easy for those who want it to be, and making it much easier for learners with less gears and pedals to mess with. Those who have never played a Civ game before will appreciate the controls and take to them as easy as someone takes to controls in any console game.
The game is still turn based and on a grid layout, and playing it there is always that feeling of “just one more turn” that Civ is notorious for. However, because things have been streamlined, a turn doesn’t take as long. For example, you don’t set your workers to build a road – you have to open the city screen and spend gold, and they’re built automatically and in that turn. You can then activate inactive armies and move them from city to city, to defend or attack.
Whilst it may not be as intuitive as a mouse and keyboard, the control set up works incredibly well. You move around the world using the left thumb stick, and when you move over a selectable icon, such as troops, it will change and allow you to select them, for example. Simple things like mapping the left bumper to zoom to the city nearest the cursor. Build City for Settlers, Go To City for Caravans and Spies are mapped to the Y button, and for military troops A maps to “Go To” and X to “Defend”. The Back Button calls in your advisors so you can make changes to taxes, technology and government.
These controls are really a stroke of genius, because it quickly becomes second nature to a player and makes the game whip along at a faster pace that traditional Civ games. When you have a bunch on troops in a group, you can select between them with the up and down on a d-pad, and when you have 3 types of the same troops together, you can form an Army with a press of a Y button. Armies in Civ:Rev become tougher to overcome, and are very important in the early game.
Combat is done by simply selecting and moving your troop onto the tile of the opposing troop. In the early stages of the game, most conflict will be against barbarians, who are a little weaker than regular AI troops. You can also capture their cities and units after doing battle, and they’ll often reveal the locations of ancient artifacts which you can capture and significantly boost your civilization in a number of ways. However, opponent civilizations are often equal if not greater than yours, and attacking them outright can lead to an early demise.
Troops are given an attack and defence rating, and it’s simply a matter of who has the biggest strength. Terrain also gives bonuses and defences to troops, so it pays to know where are the best places to attack and defend. A group of hills will give 50% attacking bonus to them if they’re attacking onto flat land, although a river will subtract 50% if it lies between attacker and defender. This does mean, however, that a tank can effectively be destroyed by an archer, which seems ridiculous but it is a feature of the entire Civ series.
As troops survive battles, they get bonuses to their strength in certain areas. Some bonuses give you the ability to heal, whilst others help you defend your cities better. Others help you see the strength of opponent troops and cities, whilst others give you bonuses to attack cities or when on hills or in forests. Win enough battles, and a military leader will lead your troops, providing a significant boost when attacking. What is great about these bonuses is the units are differentiated by their bonus both in name and appearance. For example, a “Ninja Catapult” is a catapult that has the Infiltration bonus, and will have camouflage on its icon.
Further complexity in the game comes from how you manage your cities. The location of your city as well as the buildings in it will determine how much a near by square will produce. For example, harbours will double food production on sea squares, so that city will produce 2 apples for every fish tile near your city instead of one. City production is simpler– instead of clicking on the map to change the production of a nearby square, you just change your workers from the default to what you want; production, culture, food, science or wealth. Although you can set all your cities to the default – balanced production – as you play the game for longer you realise the complexity of having one city producing more gold and another producing more science to offset a high tax / low technology level so you can, for example, build more roads. You may have an enemy city near by, so you increase the culture so that city becomes part of your empire.
Victory conditions come in 4 flavours – Domination, Cultural, Technological and EconomicBuilding Wonders and researching tech before other players will allow Great People to be born. These can be tasked to help your cities either at once or over time, and also aid in the cultural victory. Victory conditions come in 4 flavours – Domination, Cultural, Technological and Economic. Domination is achieved by capturing all enemy capitals. Technological is by learning all the necessary techs to get into space. Economic is amassing 20,000 gold and building the World Bank, and Cultural is done by amassing 20 great people, wonders and culturally flipped cities and building the United Nations.
But be warned – although the game is rather easy on the first few difficulties, it does ramp up, and you will see the AI trying to do the same things as you are, and often at a faster rate. That’s if they’re not outright hostile to you because you’re not giving in to their demands. Like the traditional Civ games, your opponent Civs will pop up and ask you for aid in the form of technology if you’re more advanced than them, or simply threaten you if they think they’re superior, but unlike the tradition versions, they will nearly always become aggressive towards you at some point, and not be as open to negotiation. They will also tend to gang up on you and you can quickly find yourself fighting on 2 or more fronts if you’re not careful.
Online, the game pretty much plays exactly the same. Turns can take slightly longer to play out as you wait for other players, but for all intents and purposes the game is exactly the same. In the few games I played, the players all agreed to destroy the AI first before fighting against each other, and I ended up playing until 2 in the morning! You can rush your armies and try and wipe out the others quickly, but you’ll find yourself at a disadvantage if the opponents decide to gang up on you.
Although the game is less complex and games occur more quickly, there are a few negatives in that. The world map is much smaller, perhaps too small, and can be completely uncovered rather early on in the game. Both your and other civilization cities appear will be in closer proximity, and you can’t share world maps. There’s no way to customise the maps either, so after a while they do kind of feel all the same. The scenarios, which in the traditional version tried to recreate real world conflicts, are missing that, and are pretty uninspiring. The difficulty, as mentioned before, is quite laughable on the easier difficulties, but King and above is pretty tough.
Seeing your knights’ whomp an enemy’s archers is greatThe music and sound of the original are as great as in Civ IV, and if anything the fight animations are much better on the console. Seeing your knights’ whomp an enemy’s archers is great, as each blow is played out, and it’s hilarious to see a tank get taken down by a phalanx battalion. The models of your advisors are fully 3D and react to one another, as well as opponents who may interrupt your advice sessions. It’s funny to see the barbarians get freaked out by your science advisor. Something I have noticed, however, is all the opponent female leaders are rather busty… Sure, Cleopatra is meant to be one of the most beautiful women to ever live, but Catherine the Great was known as such for her service to Russia, not her impressive rack. Although there is something endearing about her flirtish little wave as she leaves the screen.
Civ: Rev is a great game, and I think most people will have a great time with this game, both online and offline. For the uninitiated, this is a fantastic introduction to the Civilization series and the concepts therein. Traditional Civ fans may be a little disappointed by the level of depth, but those like me who find they don’t have time for day long sessions will really enjoy the quick turns and fast action. The only people who may be disappointed with this game are a Civ IV fan who likes the depth and complexity involved in that game, but they should probably stick with Civ IV and it’s add ons on the PC anyway.
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