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Monday, July 29, 2013

Game Review - Sid Meier's Civilization V

I only bought this game a few weeks ago (opening day of the Steam Sale, in fact) and I've already lost several days of my life to it.  It's addictive, and it's fun as hell.

As should be obvious from my obsession with Warhammer 40k and the like, I have a love of the strategy genre in video games as well.  One of my favorite older games was Age of Empires II.  I loved the diversity of choice you got in picking what culture you play as, with each getting some exclusive perks relevant to that choice.  Well, Civ V is the same... except better in every way.  The range of technology, units, eras of play, cultures, paths to victory, etc. are all very satisfyingly dense, giving this game some serious replay value.  I can't get through one game without already thinking about how I'm going to go about it "next time."

At the onset, you are asked to make a few choices to begin a game.  How fast do you want time to move?  Size of the world (and thus number of competing civilizations)?  Composition of the land (i.e. islands, continents, pangaea, or like our current continents)?  What culture will you take hold of?  I also purchased and installed the two expansion packs (Gods & Kings, Brave New World), so the amount of cultures to pick from was simply staggering.

Once actually into a game you start at roughly 4,000 B.C. with a settler unit and a warrior unit.  From relative simplicity, things will progress into the more complicated.  Choosing where to establish cities becomes key, as they expand your borders and gain you resource advantages if nearby.  This gets offset by a population happiness factor that is negatively impacted by higher populations and number of cities.  Finding ways to keep your population's happiness in check as you expand is vital mid to late game.  Early game typically is a mass land-grab by all the civilizations, if only to block off the others from resources, once the land is accounted for, war usually happens.  Different civilizations progress through "eras" at different speeds, depending on what they're researching, so you'll come across groups with varied technology depending on what routes they've taken in their growth.  This may seem simple enough, but then they throw "great people" and world wonders into the mix that give certain civilizations major benefits in specific areas, potentially rocketing them forward by large amounts.  Then come spies, which can monitor and steal technology from other cultures.  By late game, the focus intensifies with regards to the win.  There are a few paths to victory, but generally speaking you'll need to pick one and focus on it in order to gain any traction... and other civilizations are doing the same.

On my first play-through, I chose Harald Bluetooth of Denmark.  Map was largest setting, continents, time was normal.  I had the thought that I would beef up militarily and win by force of might.  As fate would have it, a military victory was not in the cards for my Danish vikings.  Copenhagen was placed on an isthmus separating a rather large peninsula from a much larger continent.  I would in later games discover this to be crazy-fortunate.  Blocking off the isthmus was easy, and allowed me to expand freely into the peninsula undisturbed.  With such a narrow land border, most civilizations flat out ignored me while they focused on shooting arrows at their immediate neighbors.  So I sat there for a couple thousand years amassing a huge army, building wonders, trading, and researching.

All of my actual confrontations with other civilizations ended up being strangely passive-aggressive as I wasn't exactly sure what the other leaders were getting at when they'd make demands or ask me for stuff.  The first of which was Venice, whom I discovered sending missionaries into my territory to start converting my cities to the Jewish faith.  Assuming this would have the effect of converting my unit to Venice (a la Age of Empires), I quickly started developing my own culture's faith, and founded the religion of Briantology.  I sent missionaries into his towns, some harsh words were exchanged, and we spent the rest of the game eyeing each other dramatically.
I have a Great Prophet within spitting distance of Venice, and he knows it
Past the Medieval era when technology really starts picking up, I found myself more and more at odds with Korea.  They had a spy in Copenhagen stealing my advances in technology.  My spies couldn't catch or stop him either; he was like some kind of legend.  Anything I did, Sejong of Korea knew... which meant any move I made resulted in an audience with Sejong's frown.
"I saw what you did there."
This was amusing for a while, but then upon reaching the Atomic era, one country in particular decided it had had enough of everyone's shit, and declared war on EVERYBODY.
I present to you Ghandi, Lord of chaos
Given how good the animations and voice acting were for the world leaders, I just stared slack-jawed at Ghandi declaring war on me from sheer shock alone; this was easily the last thing I expected.  Ghandi amassed his own army and bided his time until he could sow the largest possible amount of chaos and havoc.  Given that I was halfway around the world from him, I thought it funny and quite considerate of him to include me on the invitation to mass destruction... but after taking stock of where I was sitting in game, I realized that I had a good shot of winning a science victory if left to my own devices.  Especially if everyone else in game was focused on some major threat... so I secretly started sending Ghandi money and units.  There was no way he was going to last against all the others, united... but I had a ton of money and units sitting around.  So I fed him what he needed to keep them all at bay.
God, I KNOW that you know what I'm up to!  Shut up!
And so Ghandi became my Lord of chaos while I quietly built a spaceship and flew my viking ass into the cosmos to victory.

Any of you have good stories from Civ V playthroughs?  

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