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|Apr 10, 2010, 11:07 PM||#1|
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: NY, USA
Civilization V Previews, Reviews, and Related Articles
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Civilization V Previews, Reviews, and Related Articles
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|Dec 03, 2010, 09:15 AM||#3|
Join Date: Oct 2010
Review of Civilization V and some suggestions for Civilization VI
Abridged review of Civilization V and some suggestions for Civilization VI
The full version of this review “berrikusketa 2 luze.zip” can be downloaded from the Comments Section of the Civilization V Previews & Reviews Page
The present review is based on five completed games, as specified in the full version, and a multiplayer session.
This isn't an introductory review for Civilization beginners – it doesn't attempt to describe the game's features and how games unfold. It's rather an experienced Civilization fan's evaluation of the current stage of evolution of the Civilization game addressed at 2K Games' and Firaxis' managements, John Shafer and others in Civilization V's Design, Production, Programming and Art teams, and to experienced players and modders, with constructive suggestions towards its future improvement. It's likewise addressed at 2K's, Valve's and Firaxis' lawyers.
The computers used in the review and the game memory and speed requirements are discussed in the full version of this review.
As games on huge maps with several civilisations and many city-states proceeded and the size of saved games encroached on the 3 GB threshold, demanding increasing graphic performance at the highest video options, the weaker PC and the laptop began to freeze and crash. By the end phase of those games they could hardly cope with the lowest video options either. The faster PC dealt unflinchingly with all games, huge maps and most demanding video options to the very end.
For all the eye-candy in the world, Civilization remains basically a strategy game. There is a category of strategy game lovers, who are aren't so much interested in action games with flashy graphics to invest in a high-end gaming computer. Firaxis risks losing these core Civilization customers.
Installation & loading:
As already widely criticised among Civilization fans, even the installation of a game CD bought from any other outlet than Steam requires the previous opening of a Steam user account and must be installed through the Steam platform. Civilization V players become Steam customers willy-nilly.
Forcing consumers, who buy a product, to use other products inescapably bound with it is called product bundling and is forbidden under Competition Law.
Having the game installed by Steam causes the user a number of inconveniences. The installation doesn't give the game owner the option of where in his computer he wants to install it but installs it by force in Program Files > Steam > steamapps > common > sid meier's civilization v. creating three unnecessary steps.
The Steam application is left permanently open in the host computer. By use of computer memory Steam is the 2nd heaviest application in my PC.
By installation default Steam opens the player's account and loads Civilization V every new game session. Firaxis' and Steam's claim that passing through Steam is not required after installation for playing games. This is true, as far as single-player games are concerned, but the player must either undergo the hassle of disconnecting from the internet every time he resumes playing, or go to the Steam Store and activate the off-line option. If he chooses the apparently more convenient second option, he will then be unable to play internet multi-player games, which unavoidably require being connected to Steam.
Steam's wanton interference in the private life of Civilization gamers, renders it impossible to play on the internet multi-player games with modpacks or scenarios on which the participating players have agreed upon. It even makes it impossible to play modded single-player games in the privacy of one's home. Once the game owner has modded game files, whenever he starts a play session, Steam “updates” the game, i.e. downloads again the original installation, thereby deleting the owner's modded files. This is destruction of private property, what constitutes a Criminal Law offence.
Further information and proof on these items are provided in the full review.
Game set-up, options: Civilization V offers the player the broadest range of connection mod, game types, play techniques interface, video and audio options, he may reasonably wish for, short of modding his own game.
The default numbers of AI players and city-states for each map size are fundamentally wrong. They produce too crowded maps. There are too few terrain tiles for all the players to access the necessary strategic and luxury resources, develop their civilisations and generate the critical mass to be able to research technologies, build wonders and progress in pace with the turn of years. In these conditions, players stumble into each other and with city-states almost from the start and war among weak opponents becomes almost unavoidable. All players, both human and AI lag behind, reach the Modern Era too late and, as a consequence, don't get the chance of achieving scientific (space race), cultural or diplomatic victories before 2050.
More detailed reflections on this and related topics are found in the full review.
Additions and omissions from earlier Civilization versions:
This issue is treated in detail in the full review.
Looking back at the history of the Civilization franchise, one gets the impression that the management and the developers felt compelled, when designing each new edition, to add many innovations and discard many earlier instalments' features. It seems as if they were afraid that die-hard Civilization fans actually don't like the basic Civilization concept and would need to be enticed with a lot of new features each time around. This trend has become increasingly noticeable among head developers since Civilization III. Before issuing Civilization VI, it would be advisable for the the Franchise's management to carry out market research among loyal Civilization players in order to ascertain whether they really want many features from earlier instalments to be discontinued.
By the same token, it appears that lately head developers want to leave their personal hallmark on the Civilization game by attaching too great a weight to the innovation of their fancy. In my opinion, Soren Johnson bestowed religion an excessive influence in the Civilization IV game play and now John Shafer incurs in the same exaggeration with his all-powerful city-states whilst wiping out religion.
Graphics & interface:
These issues are developed in great detail in the full version.
Civilization V graphics are a true pleasure for the eye.
The game interface is exquisite, insightfully displayed, accommodating to the individual player's needs, neither too intrusive nor far-searched, and intuitively easy to learn to use, even for beginners, I guess. Congratulations on this score Civilization V!
One of the first heralded innovations in Civilization V was the change from square to hexagonal terrain tiles. All I can say in this respect is that I adapted immediately to the new hexes.
Detailed reflections on other terrain related items can be downloaded from the full review.
Style is a question of personal taste. I find that the Western, Mediterranean, American and Eastern city styles and the changes in those styles over the Ancient, Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Industrial and Modern eras are less well individualised in Civilization V than in Civilization III and Civilization IV.
Information on this subject is to be found in the full version.
Play flow – units & actions sequence in turns:
The rhythm of play in single-player games flows steadily forward without much effort on the player's side. More details on play flow are found in the full version of this review.
In automatic cycle mode, hardly have you finished moving a unit, often even a fraction of a second before the unit has completed its movement, the screen switches over to the next unit at full speed. For the computer “next unit” doesn't mean closest by unit, it often means a unit at the other end of the map. I don't want to imagine the graphic power that is wasted in this way. In fact, often times my games froze or crashed when the computer was trying to shift from a unit or city at one corner of the map to the other. This is irritating any time you want to see the result of the action you ordered, for example when a worker completes a terrain improvement that turn, and is decidedly maddening in three situations: 1) when you're trying to put together a co-ordinated action by several close-by units, like when you're arranging a battle-front, and you have to manually go a long way back to each of involved units, 2) when you're exploring but you can't see the tiles your scout unit has dissipated from the fog of war in its last move until the next turn, and 3) in combats, when you have to go back to the site of the fight to see in which condition your and the enemy units have been left. I don't want to always have to press the “.” key and miss the convenience of a computer-steered play flow, but I do vehemently wish for a button in Civilization VI with which I could temporarily interrupt and re-start the automatic sequence at my choice.
Game pace - turns, eras, technologies, wonders:
The reviewed standard game (see full version) was expected to be paced so that the bulk of the players, both me and AI players, would reach the different eras, research the different technologies and build the era-typical buildings and wonders at roughly historically correct dates. That was not the case. I strained to follow the historical pace until half-way the Middle Ages; from there on I lagged helplessly behind. This timing imbalance of the default game constitutes a very serious flaw of Civilization V since it makes the Modern Era technologies, buildings, wonders and units of little use and the victory modes other than time victory superfluous.
An in-depth discussion on game pace at different settings is included in the full version.
As understood by Civilization V, social policies include elements of government type, political ideologies, religion, economy, production efficiency, welfare, military prowess, moral values, international relations and other advantages. The problem is that the default game doesn't provide by far the necessary resources or time to unlock but a fraction of them. Adopting all the policies in one or two of the policy branches for the sake of completing them, before adopting policies in other branches is not the best option from the point of view of the policy rewards most needed by the player at each conjuncture of the game.
More about social policies in the full review.
Balance – gold, happiness:
In Civilization V the effects of even minor fluctuations on the happiness scale are extreme. Even at low levels of happiness your civilisation grows so fast that it promptly falls into unhappiness and even mild states of unhappiness brings it to a stand-still. This results in ever amplifying stop-and-go cycles. The exaggerated effects of unhappiness effectively disable all the players from settling all the available land, exploiting all of it and availing themselves of the other assets included in the game.
For some mysterious reason, the Civilization game adheres to the belief that larger civilisations are unhappy civilisations. In the real world there is no clear correlation between big and sad. My best guess is that it is a ploy not to alienate players keen on waging war, ending games quickly and not having to bother with micro-management. However, Civilization offers such players all the necessary options to play their own way – quick start, duel-size maps, AI managed control of citizens, specialists and workers. The Game shouldn't alienate us either who like to develop and manage larger civilisations in more complex and sophisticated games.
The earlier city-specific happiness scheme was more discerning than Civilization V's civilisation-wide state of happiness.
As weird as the principle that equates growth with unhappiness is, the tenet applied in earlier Civilization titles that the further a city was to its Capital, the gloomier it must be, was even weirder. I'm very pleased that that folly has been abandoned in Civilization V. Perhaps the designers visited Hawaii and found that it isn't so.
Curiously, in spite of the Civilization V the civilisation with the largest population wins in game after game against all odds.
Playing well, you may be able to keep your current account balance in the black until the onset of the Industrial Era. But the available cash-making buildings, markets, banks, stock exchanges, and gold-yielding tiles simply don't generate enough gold at the default settings to pay for the maintenance of all the Industrial and Modern eras' military superiority units and the buildings designed to boost the end-game science and culture rush. Once again, most of what the Industrial and Modern Eras offer is unattainable, arrives too late or can't be upkept, so why bother having included all the late game assets.
That the capital (gold) balance in Civilization V doesn't work is not only my affirmation, it is proven by the Game's AI itself. In game after game, the AI players have no money left in their coffers in the late game and accrue astronomical budget deficits, of 1,000 gold and much more, every turn.
Much more on gold and happiness balances is found in the full review.
Exploited and non-exploited tiles:
The unnatural constraints caused by the gold and happiness imbalances leads to a sub-optimal exploitation of available resources. In none of the five reviewed games, was a single city either in my territory or in the AI's civilisations exploiting by the end of the game all the tiles within their influence hexagon. Moreover, in order to artificially suppress population growth to avoid falling into unhappiness, with all available specialists' spots full, I was often forced to take the economically stupid decision of switching a citizen from a high-yield tile to a lower-yield tile.
Regrettably the human player must check each turn the allocation of every tile because the AI doesn't respect human decisions on tile allocation.
Also regrettable is that the human player cannot replace the AI in the choice of expansion hex as, in this respect too, the AI is pathetically incompetent.
The AI choice of new city locations for AI players is very deficient as well.
A comprehensive discussion on tile exploitation and proof of the above in the full review.
Civilisations, leaders, city-states, barbarians:
The choice and balance among civilisations on historical, cultural and geographic criteria is open to debate. The Iroquois don't qualify as civilisation.
Barbarians let themselves be killed, for which they thank their killer with gold.
Go to the full review for an extensive presentation about civilisations and their advantages.
Alliances and teams: Alliances in Civilization V are a poisoned gift. The explanation in the full review.
There is an excess of defence related buildings that, due to your lack of resources, will be seldom used to train military units and, due to the enemy's lack of resources, to defend your cities, but must be maintained throughout the game. On the other hand, there is a dearth of gold generating buildings (market, bank, mint and stock exchange) or they yield too small returns. The last generation of Modern Era production (nuclear plant, solar plant), nurture (medical lab), and research (research lab) buildings come in line too late to make a difference. More on this in the full review.
Resources, terrain improvements:
The only strategic resource which in practice causes a bottleneck is coal, since in Civilization V every factory needs one coal.
Check the full version for a more complete presentation of resources and improvements.
Ruins: In some ways exploring ruins should be more rewarding or less disappointing. More in the full version.
Clearly, honing the technology tree has been one of the aspects of the Game its developers and modders have paid most attention to since Civilization II. Civilization IV's tech tree was streamlined but Civilization V's is superior. More on this in the full review.
It's difficult to reach future technologies in the standard game, but that isn't the fault of the tech tree's lay-out but of the cost and number of Renaissance, Industrial and Modern era techs and some other external factors.
Units, unit movement, promotions, upgrades:
In general, Civilization V's assortment of military units is more than enough for my purposes. I miss more civilian units like judges who could fight corruption, doctors who could improve people's health, teachers raising the cultural level, etc. I'm aware some of these functions were undertaken in the present or earlier Civilization titles by buildings or specialists but the human eye prefers to see a moving figure than a still icon. Moving units also have the advantage that you can move them to where they are most needed.
For the above and other reasons, I don't like how air units are handled by the computer in the latest two Civilization titles. They swoosh back-and-forth so fast one can hardly catch a glimpse of them. They've become practically virtual units. Humans like to handle things. I want to move that fighter-jet myself and risk crashing it if I run out of fuel.
Land and air units who turn into ships as soon as they reach the coast are a joke.
Much more about units, their promotions and upgrades in the full review.
Specialists are very useful in Civilization V, specially when you have to halt city growth in order to prevent unhappiness and you must put citizens on the dole, and they significantly accelerate the training of great persons. More on this in the full review.
The options for deploying great persons, the effects of each option and the frequency with which great persons are born are all fine. More on great persons in Civilization V and a suggestion for civilisation-specific great persons in Civilization VI in the full review.
Great efforts have been spent by Civilization designers and programmers throughout the Series in improving the Game's artificial intelligence. Considerable improvements have been attained in several respects and the AI has become much more sophisticated. Nevertheless, I still fail to see an overall vision, a sense of purpose in the AI's behaviour. Usually the AI does very well in the early game – I can see that in the Demographics. But as the game gets more complicated and goes in different directions, the AI becomes less active, as if paralysed. For instance, if it lags a little bit behind in research he may stop researching altogether, as revealed by the Demographics screen, which is fatal. The AI has to be taught to adapt itself to unexpected developments.
The AI continues to make simple decision faults. Read the full review for more on the AI.
Diplomacy is constantly improving in Civilization but it's still somewhat rigid and one-sided.
The full review features further reflections on Diplomacy in Civilization V.
The big discussion around Civilization V is on the exclusion of stacking. The unlimited stacking allowed in previous Civilization titles was becoming surreal. No stacking at all is impoverishing.
Civilization V's multi-turn combats are an awaited and very welcome innovation.
More on warfare in the full review.
Victory conditions: The variety of victory modalities looks great on paper but under the default settings there is hardly time to attempt a diplomatic, even less a space race or cultural victory. To make choice of victory feasible more technology, building and wonder frontloading is needed.
Resource management over time: This issue is handled in the full review.
The economic model with which the Civilization Game is played is rudimentary. Even with its basic economics, Civilization V is quite an interesting game to play for its economic aspects, more so than its predecessors. Maintaining a budget surplus is quite difficult in Civilization V, so the player must plan and execute the necessary economic decisions with intelligence, dedication and perseverance. If he leaves them to the AI his chances of winning the game will decrease. In this sense, Civilization V has a not negligible pedagogical value in providing an orientation on how macro and micro economy function.
The author of this review proposes an improved economic mechanism for Civilization VI in the full review.
Victory & defeat:
Civilization pays much attention to the beginning of the game with attractive introductory films and opening screens but the poverty of the victory and defeat screens are an anti-climax for players who have spent long hours playing a Civilization games. A more substantial criticism of this flaw is found in the full review.
Overall game balance:
The lack of game balance in key parametres and lagging timing spoil the solid improvements accomplished by Civilization V in several other domains and prevent players from enjoying late game assets. These shortcomings can be overcome in future releases with moderate effort by means of programming re-balancing.
Despite its flaws, Civilization V is ultimately one more success in the distinguished history of the Civilization franchise – it once more pulls off the “wait ... just one more turn” trick.
Plea for Civilization VI:
The author makes in the full version a plea for what Civilization VI should include.
by The dwarf paratrooper
The full version of this review “berrikusketa 2 luze.zip” can be downloaded from the Comments Section of the Civilization V Previews & Reviews Page
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