Unlike most kids, I grew up with a love of history, particularly the rise and fall of the world s great civilizations. Each had a cast of colorful characters, conflicts and cultures, and the lessons I learned from great battles, wars, and treaties are the reason I became a fan of the Sid Mejer s Civilization series of PC strategy games.
It was the closest thing to the board games of my youth like Risk, Stratego and chess. Until now, however, the Civ series was relegated to the PC platform alone, mainly because the Real Time Strategy (RTS) play was a little slow for the avid console gamers, who tend to like fast paced action. Recently 2K Games attempted to break that barrier with their newest title Civilzation Revolution.
Let s see how they did.
First you need to choose a civilization and difficulty level. I recommend starting your first time on the easiest level, Chieftan, in order to get used to the transition to the new control scheme. For new Civ players you can turn the tutorial on for the first time through to learn the ropes. It s basically a comical character in historical garb with a timely tip or hint. You can choose from 16 civilizations such as Americans, Egyptians, French, Germans, Mongols, and Aztecs. All the famous leaders from history are also there. Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Saladin, Genghis Khan and Otto Von Bismark to name a few.
Each player starts out with a group of settlers who can found a city. Each city in turn can produce more settlers, warriors, great wonders, etc. and your civilization will spread from there. There is a turn-based mode of play similar to Risk or many other board games where you can make necessary adjustments to your armies, settlers, cities, spies, etc. during your turn, but once you re done it s the next player s turn.
In order to eliminate lengthy stalemates, a time limit has been added whereby the one leading the world in the most categories after the time runs out wins the game. Although this will certainly make for riskier game play and shorter, more exciting games, it is frustrating as well, because it usually happens when you are just about to achieve greatness in one area or another.
As your empire grows from a mere village to a mega empire the game progresses through four eras of history, Ancient, Medieval, Industrial and Modern. Transitioning from one era to the next will cause your advisers to change their style of dress appropriately and will bring bonuses to your empire. Like the bonuses you receive at the start of the game the era bonuses are different for each civilization. All of this makes for a game with a lot of re-playability as starting with a different civ every time will give players a different experience.
Diplomacy is likely the most important aspect of the game and can be accessed with the R1 button. Players have the option to talk with other diplomats and barter for technology or knowledge. You can also declare war against your opponent or offer bribes for peace. Usually the treaty lasts for only five or six turns and a new era of peace will have to be negotiated. You can even convince your allies to attack a problem monarch that has been extorting riches from you since the game began.
Conquering other cities will add them to your empire and is the best way to increase production of your military. Since every army created will start from the city that created it you will not have to drag your whole force across the world in order to attack or defend a fortification. The only drawback to this is that you can t pass through another country s territory unless you break the peace. If you re on your way to attack another empire you may find yourself in trouble from two sides or you may end up having an army or group of settlers stranded and unable to access them without waging war. I found it best to keep most troops close to home and send them out to conquer a city only as needed.
Although graphics aren t extremely important in strategy games, this game has been nicely rendered and the historical figures are as visually well done as they are comical. The characters incoherent babbling is a bit annoying (as it has been since the beginning) but they are still fun to watch. The game controls are well streamlined for the consoles, with objects and menus no more than a single button-click away. 2K s focus on ease of use will be evident to both the serious Civ fan and the newbie.
There are four ways to win the game and rule the world, Domination, Economy, Technology, and Culture. Military domination is easily the most fun way to win, but it is probably the hardest due to the new battle with the clock. You can also achieve an economic victory by amassing enough gold to build a world bank, a technological victory by building a rocket or a cultural victory by building the United Nations.
While many Civ fans no doubt will be disappointed with some of the changes to make the console transition possible, I believe they will be happy with all that it still offers. All the micromanaging that was necessary for a successful civilization was modified to a more manageable level, allowing me to concentrate on my armies and diplomacy more like Risk and Stratego.
At last consolers can test their leadership skills on a world stage vying against the great leaders of history. If you get really good, you can take it online and play against people from across the globe.