Video Game Review: Civilization V

Details: Originally released in 2010. Purchased the Game of the Year Edition through Steam for about $12.50. Bought the Gods and Kings Expansion for about $7.50. Bought the Brave New World Expansion for about $7.50. Bought the last few pieces of downloadable content I was missing for about $1.50. Played for about forty-three hours. The official site is https://civilization.com/civilization-5/

Score: 7.5/10

When Civilization V was first released, it received a ton of glowing reviews and near perfect review scores. Without really knowing much about the game, I subsequently purchased the game and all of its downloadable content never having played the game or any of its predecessors or any other game in this genre. I wish I had known at the time that Civilization V is simply a fairly complex electronic board game.

As said above, Civilization V is an electronic board game. It is kind of like Risk and Settlers of Catan combined into one game. It belongs to the genre of video games known as “4X.” 4X simply refers to four gameplay mechanics: explore, expand, exploit and exterminate.

In Civilization V, you play as a civilization. There are dozens to choose from with the downloadable content adding even more. You play on a world map divided up into many many hexagons. Each hexagon has terrain or resources that you can exploit. Every player takes turns building cities and structures, building units, researching technologies, managing economies and trade, managing the happiness of your civilization, establishing a religion, encouraging the arts and culture, or discussing diplomacy with neighboring civilizations.

Your goal (or the win conditions) in this game vary depending on whether you purchased the base game alone or any of the expansions. Essentially, you win by either conquering your enemies with military force, establishing a dominant culture and tourism that surpasses other civilizations, a diplomatic victory where you win a vote at the United Nations to be the world’s leader, or researching enough developments to be the first civilization to launch a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri. There is also the time limit victory where if by 2050 AD, no one wins through any of the other methods, then the person with the highest score wins (the first turn takes place in 4000 BC I think).

My experience with this game was long and arduous. I never played any of the four predecessors in this franchise, but I had heard that this one was the best and most complete (Civilization VI is out now but they are still releasing expansions). I first attempted to learn by playing. I went through the tutorial for a few hours and then gave up because it was too boring. I tried a second time to do the same thing and gave up after a few hours for the same reason. Finally, I decided to go online and simply read the instruction manual as well as fan written strategy guides. That took like a day and gave me enough of an understanding to finally dive in and play.

This game, like most multiplayer games, is highly dependent on player skill and is ridiculously time consuming. The more you play, the better you get. The first full game I played too completion took about fifteen hours. The second game took another fifteen. Throughout my experiences, I could tell that I was just barely scratching the surface of the game, but I felt supreme satisfaction knowing I was learning the rules of this game and the many facets of its gameplay.

While there are many systems in place, most of them (excluding military) involve building or researching something and just waiting for the benefit. Much of the game is simply planning and management. You need to know your terrain as well as what your neighbors are like.

The most distinct and arguably straightforward aspect of the game is the military aspects. You build units and can send them against your enemies. Terrain definitely plays a factor as well as unit level and unit weaknesses. I’ve found that military victories are tough because of the time limit… unless you nuke the life out of your enemy… or start early I guess.

The production values for this game need a mention as they are great. This is, at its core, a board game, but the game takes all the artistic liberties it can within that frame work. The music is classical and is top notch and very epic feeling. All other civilizations have their own cut scenes when you talk with them and they all speak in their respective languages.

This game is also noteworthy in the accuracy of its history. All of the civilizations are real civilizations taken from history. You can play is American, China, the Incas, the Byzantines, etc. There are too many historical civilizations and they all come with their own civilization reflective perks and a few unique units.

Overall, Civilization V is a electronic board game that is ridiculously complex. Even after you get a handle on all the rules, there’s the meta game and strategy to contend with. Further, games on average take upwards of ten hours per game. With all that said, I still enjoyed Civ V and all its complexity. Unfortunately, I got to go to work and pay the bills so I simply don’t have the time to invest in multiplayer games like this. I imagine most working adults are in a similar situation.

If you have the time and are thinking of getting this game, know that you could probably purchase it and all of its downloadable content for about ten dollars online.

Score: 7.5/10

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