Civilization V Review

Whenever a new iteration of Civilization comes out, it's heavily anticipated, and the same goes for the latest offering to sport Sid Meier's name, Civilization V. Thinking Firaxis could do no wrong, I bought the Collector's Edition of the game to show my support of the series and to also get a neat soundtrack (or at least so I thought at the time). Does Civ V live up to the greatness of its predecessors? Read on to find out.

Sound (5/5)
As with most Civ games, the sound/audio is exceptional. There are the sounds of war as your units go to battle, the sounds of people going about their business as you zoom in on cities, and the sounds of the countryside as you cross the hills, mountains and plains.

The best part and a new feature to the series is that the AI leaders actually speak in their own respective languages! They're not reading the lines verbatim mind you, but it still adds a bit of authenticity to the experience!

There's no Leonard Nimoy to add a voice to the Technology quotes, but Morgan Sheppard does a pretty good job.

Music (4/5)
A lot of effort went into the music of this game although I think it was somewhat misdirected effort. Sure the music is top notch, and it's performed by a live orchestra, but just because you add a sitar to an orchestral piece, doesn't instantly make your track sound Indian! I think they would've been better off just playing some traditional and authentic pieces from the respective cultures, but I digress. Overall the music is good but some particular pieces I find annoying.

If you want to read more about the soundtrack, check out my review.

Graphics (3/5)
If you're a dumb sod like me not playing your games on Windows 7 to unleash DX11 goodness, then you're in for a shock when you play Civ V since the graphics actually look worse than Civilization IV (or at least are on par). Worse, I get little red scabs on my terrain when it gets generated which is strange, since they don't appear to be artifacts but are part of the game (and my friends don't experience this issue when using non-Windows XP systems).

The game also has very low framerates and my system exceeds all the recommended system requirements, besides the aforementioned operating system... Consequently I can't really hype much about the graphics, but just as well for Civ series, graphics were never really its forte anyway...

Plot (5/5)
As with every Civ game, the plot is determined by you, and the plot involves world history, which is totally awesome! Since no two games will ever be the same, this is what makes the Civilization series great.

Gameplay has improved somewhat - although I reckon they made units slower to produce and occupying one space just to get rid of the nightmare the game becomes late in the game with 500 units moving around each turn! However they've actually failed in this regard it gets much slower later on in the game - huge performance issues.

In terms of specifics to what they've done, I guess the major additions to gameplay include the addition of City States, social policy and the hexagonal grid. Now you have mini-civs which are one-city states that can help or hinder your progress in the game. If you be nice to them, they may give you free units, culture or food. If you aren't, then you can find yourself at war (and they are more likely to ally with each other if you take more than a couple - which is awesome since it's emulating the formation of the Allies in WWII or the United Nations during the Korean War).

The Social Policy has two purposes. It is here where you can choose what are essentially the government types from previous Civ games and completing a requisite number of Social Policy tracks enables you to win the game with a cultural victory. So as you can see, culture has been somewhat revamped.

You also now have the hexagonal grid which doesn't actually seem to do much but it does mean the fronts are now much larger in the game plus there are a whole bunch of combat modifiers in the game that rely on adjacent units - consequently, with a hexagonal grid this opens up more opportunities.

There are many more changes to the game, but they're mostly minor (e.g. some tweaking of the tech tree) or returning back to the game mechanics in previous Civ games (e.g. making ranged units actually ranged).

Replayability (3/5)
Thanks to the addition of Steam achievements, I guess the game is even more replayable before (I'm getting to use that line a lot nowadays - damn you Steam!). The Civilization series was always immensely replayable thanks to the fact you could play on randomised maps with different civilizations. The addition of multiplayer in latter iterations was a welcome addition too but sadly, multiplayer isn't so great in Civ V, in fact it's probably taken a turn for the worse.

Sure it seems more stable and I've yet to see any sync errors, but there is less customisation as you're not allowed to customise your Civilization name or your leader, yet you're allowed to in single player for some reason. Also gone are the combat animations when units attack each other, making battles more like one chess piece taking another. Admittedly, getting rid of the animations does speed up the game somewhat, but I would argue that saving a few seconds a turn by removing the choice combat animations is making the game lose some of its charm overall.

And while we're on the poor multiplayer, unlike in single-player where you can zoom in on threatened units, you can't do so in multiplayer making it very easy to lose units with "Go To" orders or are automatically exploring. Oh and did I mention that you can't actually save multiplayer games and that you have to instead rely on autosaves? This I suppose is a functional system but what happens if you want to have more than one multiplayer game running at a time with two different groups of friends?

I think more harm than good was done to Civ V's multiplayer and sadly, it consequently suffers in the replayability stakes.

The game is generally well polished but it does have occasional bugs (often involving the ending of your turn) and the game froze on me a couple of times while alt+tabbing. Also, the cutscene can't be skipped at the beginning of the game which is a pretty major oversight. Fortunately it can be quite easily rectified with a little tinkering.

Overall - 8/10
There are a lot of good ideas here but unfortunately a myriad of performance issues and a sloppy multiplayer mode prevents this Civ iteration from true greatness.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off Steam.