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Civilization V

Developer: Firaxis Games | Publisher: 2K Games
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 09/21/10 | Genre: Strategy

Civilization V is one of the most eagerly anticipated strategy games of all time. Ever since I last saw the title at E3 2010, I have been waiting for the moment to get my hands on the final version. That time has finally come and the only thing disappointing out Civilization V is the addicting gameplay that takes you in and never lets go. If you're the kind of gamer that wants to cut to the chase and skipped reading a lengthy review, then save yourself some time, go out and buy civilization V, and you can thank me later. For the rest of you, I see you may need a little more convincing. I'll need to elaborate on why this is one of the best games ever made.

In years past getting your hands on a new video game meant waiting for a boxed copy to arrive. With the rise of digital services like steam and Direct2Drive, more and more companies are adopting these services to digitally deliver their titles to consumers. Civilization V is no exception to this. In fact, I expected the publisher to provide us with a review copy via a boxed disk copy. To my surprise, a steam voucher was given to me for the purposes of this review. I quickly copied and pasted the code into steam and eagerly awaited the download to finish. Little did I realize, but these few moments before the download completed or the last my body would see of rest, sleep, or social interaction with any other human for many--many days.

As the title would suggest, Civilization V is the fifth installment of the grand civilization franchise. Created and conceived by the genius creator Sid Meier, civilization allows you to take control of one of the many world empires and create your own legacy for you and your people. Your choices are plentiful and you can be a vicious dictator, peaceful ruler, or a manipulative politician waiting for the right moment to strike. Of course, fans of the franchise are already familiar with this brief description and the title brings so much more to the table.

In your quest for dominance, you begin with a single settler unit and a warrior unit. For newcomers to the series, Civilization V dozen excellent job of providing tutorial menus and pop-up messages to guide the player throughout the game. These are completely optional and can be turned off at any point--but are nice to have just in case you need a slight push in the right direction. The first was the player must make is to find a suitable location for their capital city. Normally any location nearby where you start is a good place to found that city. At this point the player must then begin to work on improvements to their city, build workers to improve the land, train additional soldiers for protection and to scout out the area, and select the technologies they wish to research.

The first big difference players will see in Civilization V is the change from a square to a hexagonal system. Along with this change is the removal of multiple units per tile. This means that a player can only have a single unit on a tile at a time. What this does is create a new strategic elements of Civilization by providing the players with choices on surrounding foes, guarding precious land resources, and surrounding cities for capture. Yes, even cities aren't able to stack units. With this change, however, cities are much more difficult to capture and will require a multiple units--usually three or four--to even have a chance to take over the city.

Once an opposing city has been successfully taken, the player has a new choice to make. You can choose to annex the city or make a puppet. If a player chooses to make a city of puppet, the city will still be within your nation--you will gain resources from the city--but you will not have control over what the city produces or researches. The advantage to choosing this option is it creates much more happy citizens. This makes sense because who wants an opposing nation to come take over their city and tell them what to do? The other option is to annex the city. This will provide you complete control over the city--what the research and produce -- but will result in very unhappy citizens. Due to the important nature of keeping happy citizens and the damage unhappiness can result in your military, making a captured city of puppet is not a bad idea. In fact, you can even change a puppet city into an annex city at any point during the game. However there is no way to take an annex city and turn it into a puppet.

Another big change to Civ V is the inclusion of City States.  These are independent nations that act on their own and are not part of a big empire. As you encounter these City States, you can befriend them by helping them with requests. This mostly revolves around needing specific supplies, killing off Barbarian camps, and even destroying a nearby City State.  If you complete these tasks, or pay them enough gold, the City States will eventually become your ally. This will provide you with access to move units freely throughout their territory and they will declare war on anyone who you are at war with. Another thing you can do, if you wish, is to attack these City States and use them to expand your empire. The danger with this action is that it will cause other City States and nations to fear you. In one game, everyone decided I was so strong and powerful that they would all just fight me. So be careful how aggressive you are.

Later in the game, when someone has the United Nations built, having allies is important in winning. You have to get 7 votes for the win. If you are at war with everyone or kill off all the City States, there won’t be enough votes for victory.

With the change of the hexagon system, civilization five walks much more realistic. The developer, Firaxis Games, has been able to create landmasses that resemble the real thing. In fact, owners of the limited release collectors edition will find an art book that details how the developers went into creating real world elements into the game. Despite looking more realistic and lifelike and past Civilization titles, Civilization V is by no means a system killer. Even the recommended system requirements are 1.8 GHz quad core CPU 4.0 GB RAM, and a 512 MB video card. Civilization V is also optimized for Direct X11—but will work fine under DirectX 10 and 9. As long as you have a 1.8 GHz Core 2 Duo system, 2.0 GB of RAM, and a 256 MB video card, you'll be fine to play Civ V. Even if you turn down that graphical settings to medium-range, you will find a lot of difference. No, Civilization V is not really a showcase for visuals. This game lives and dies by its gameplay.

It's been a while since I last booted up a civilization title. Even with my lengthy departure from the series, it did not take long until the hook of Civilization V grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Things start out very simple: you're one settler unit and one warrior unit. From there the game gets as complex as you make it. I found the inclusion of achievements, via this steam works title, added challenges that I sought out to complete. Unlike past Civ titles, I was not content with just winning the game. No, I wanted to win with specific parameters set out by these achievements. Though achievements have been around for a while--it is arguably the greatest innovation this generation of consoles has brought. I'm glad that developers are supporting this on the PC and that's steam is also pushing achievements.

Due to the sheer amount of playable civilizations, the replay value is vast. Civ V does not stop there. Firaxis Games has added built in mod tools to deliver new content to the community. This allows players to created and post new civilizations, city states, maps, and other modifications. 2K Games has also announced that they will be delivering paid DLC for Civilization V. But with the inclusion of the mod tools, will the community support the DLC or copy it themselves?

Civilization V is really geared towards new players and veterans. Firaxis Games has done a wonderful job providing great tutorials and help screens as the player encounters new elements. This makes a very complicated game seem approachable. Another great thing about Civ V is that no matter what skill you are, you can have a good time. Don’t feel bad about starting out on a lower difficulty. It may take time to build up your strategic skills in order to gain victory. Once you have a grasp of the concepts, you can then move up to a tougher difficulty. To make things even more challenging, there is a full multiplayer mode available. For me personally, I prefer a single player experience though.

Overall, Civilization V is arguably the best game released all year. While some may boast that PC gaming is dead, this title alone says “I don’t think so.” If you love strategic gameplay, are a fan of the franchise, or just looking to play one of the years’ best, Civilization V is a must have title. Since there is a free demo, there is no excuse. But don’t blame me when you get hooked and realize you have been playing until the wee hours of the morning.

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By Kaleb Rutherford - 10/01/10
ESRB Details: This is a strategy game in which players manage a nation from a single settlement to a prominent civilization. Players can develop their nation's culture and technology, manage its economic and social infrastructure (e.g., diplomacy, trade), and expand territory through military conquests. Combat with nations is presented from an overhead perspective, and military units are represented by small armies of soldiers on a gridded map. Battles include brief animations of sword fighting, gun fights, and vehicular combat, resulting in icons exploding, collapsing, or disappearing. Nuclear weapons can be developed and detonated over opposing nation's territories. Historically based text includes descriptions of violence (e.g., assassinations, murders, suicides) and a reference to the opium drug trade (e.g., 'where they could engage in extremely profitable business including the infamous opium trade.').
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Screenshots for Civilization V

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