Sid Meier has done it again with the latest installment in his popular Civilization computer game franchise. Civilization V (Civ V) does not deviate greatly from the premise of its predecessors – conquer or be conquered – but what makes Civ V so entertaining is how smoothly it plays.
One of the greatest pitfalls for video games is striking a balance of game play that will satisfy both casual and hardcore gamers alike. Civ V does just that with its multiple layers of play. Novices can lean on the game’s panel of AI advisors to help explain every aspect of the game while they’re playing it (a helpful feature for impatient gamers such as myself who cannot be bothered with reading an instruction manual), while veteran Civ players still retain the option of micro-managing everything from infrastructure improvements for their civilizations and fine-tuning their city’s build orders.
Adding to this smoothness of play is a completely revamped graphics and layout system. Since the dawn of Civilization, Sid Meier’s turn-based strategy game has always been based on a grid system restricting movement to only four directions (up, down, left and right), however, Civ V features a hexagonal grid that allows units to move diagonally and makes the game as a whole feel more organic. Your territorial borders are no longer neat squares that protrude out like some odd Tetris shape, but rather, in Civ V, they grow amorphously much like how real-life territorial boundaries would look.
This emphasis on realism is also reinforced in other aspects of the game. What irked me in previous Civilization games was that the graphical representation for units almost always consisted of one iteration of the corresponding unit type. It was ridiculous to see a single warrior walk in and capture an entire city by itself. These “one-man-armies” are a thing of the past in Civ V. Units are now represented as a phalanx of multiple soldiers, with the soldier count diminishing based on the unit’s health level.
Diplomacy has also gotten a slight tune-up. Although all correspondences with AI players are exchanged via English, Civ V adds a touch of color by having a voice actor greet and/or berate you in the opposing Civilization’s mother tongue to often comedic effect. (I found the flustered German AI calling me the bloodthirsty one to be of particular amusement.)
In short, if you have a couple of hours to spare and an urge to rule the world, Civilization V is your answer.