This is my first post on these boards; however, I have been lurking around here for years. Lately, I've noticed a lot of posters dissatisfied with Civ V. Unfortunately, many of their explanations are vague; i.e. the game has been dumbed-down, it doesnt feel like civ, etc. The result has been a flurry of responses claiming that players are afraid of change or that they dont appreciate the game on its merits. Essentially, those grousing about the game are hurting their case. Vagueness opens them up to attacks and scurrilous allegations--in this case, ascribing motivations that cannot be proven, a red herring and an unfair attack. (Those of you doing this should really stop. Its an unfair and blanket generalization that cannot possibly account for all the objections to this game. In turn, critics should stop claiming that 2k paid off reviewers. That is just as scurrilous and even conspiratorial, in a nutty kind of way.). I certainly do not like this game because of some alleged fear of change. When Civ IV was released, despite a few minor quibbles, I thought that it was an improvement on Civ III and immediately embraced it. The issue is whether I find the change to be progressive or regressive. While I cannot speak for everyone who is dissatisfied, I can certainly give an account of my misgivings in order to help improve the dialogue regarding the issue. I have played the game across numerous difficulty levels and accomplished each victory condition at least once, playing a different civ each time for a total of 65 hours. My analysis will be point by point in order to preserve cogency and brevity. It will not be comprehensive. I cannot overstate this last point. There is so much about this game that I do not like. However, I want to shy away from issues of preference (i.e. no unit stacking, simpler mechanics, etc.) and focus on where I think the game has serious and contradictory design shortfalls. 1) Onerous restrictions The restrictions in this civ (happiness and maintenance costs) are stronger than in past versions (happiness, health, and gold), requiring that the user pay so much attention to these resources at the margins that it renders the game less enjoyable, as the player is forced to contend with tighter restrictions than in past games. Culture is another issue. Like the other two mechanics, this one prejudices against more cities and expansions because the cost of accruing more social policies doesnt scale well with empire size. The result of these mechanics is that they contribute to a severely limited playstyle, as it renders many strategies ineffective, limiting the option of the player, since so much attention must be paid to these very unforgiving game mechanics. For example, fast expansions are now too difficult without a plethora of luxuries nearby. 2) Inconsistent mechanics Buildings are now rendered useless by many of the games restrictions. Given maintenance costs, the length of building times, and the necessity to maintain constant construction of gold producing and happiness producing structures, a lot of buildings are now useless. To use stables as an example, the time and cost required to get them operational is not worth the trade-off of building extra units without them, especially since this iteration of the franchise allows for fewer units and allows units to carry over xp when upgrading. Wonders are weaker in this Civ than in any other. While its true that every civ game has had its fair share of useless wonders, this one seems to have even weaker ones. Coupled with longer building times, this change makes even less sense. There are too many units, especially in modern times. You cant build them all, or even a good fraction of them, when unit maintenance costs and build times are higher, and when the stacking mechanic has been removed. Conquest has been rendered impossible or extremely slow lacking a genocidal bent. I will pay special attention to this one, as I find it to be one of the most game breaking and poorly conceived mechanics in the entire game. Just like in Civ III, where the costs of overexpansion were too high as a result of the corruption mechanic, there is a strong incentive to raze entire empires because you cannot afford to keep those cities. Annexing the city makes little sense as the cost of a courthouse in terms of maintenance and the happiness hit until that building actually erects is prohibitively expensive. Turning cities into puppets is just as expensive since the AI seems to like massing buildings, which eventually empty your offers in maintenance costs. Even without these mechanisms, massive conquests are too costly, as the happiness hit, even without the occupied city effect, is too restrictive for anything but slow and incremental conquests. 3) Poor A.I. The AI lacks any challenge in terms of combat tactics. The behavior of the AI during diplomatic negotiations is mercurial and blind. The player is often treated to bouts of anger for inexplicitly no reason. Concomitantly, the AI also seems to be unphased when the player commits some blatantly hostile acts, such as trading strategic resources to an enemy civilization. In addition, I cannot count the number of times that another civilization has griped about my forces massing on their border when I am trying to attack a mutual enemy that we are both currently engaged in war with on the other side of my allys empire or when I only have one unit near their borders, which is exploring. Sometimes I get this and I have nothing near them. Changing the difficulty does NOT improve the AI. It only gives them greater advantages in terms of production, etc., which you lack. This does nothing to improve the actual mechanics. 4) Inscrutable diplomacy As suggested in the last section, diplomacy is a mess. In Civ IV, there was a system that allowed the player to measure AI opinion. You had an idea what they didnt like you doing and who they didnt like. If you want to keep up with this in Civ V, you literally need to keep notes. This is one of the clearest examples of regression. There are also fewer options. Techs cannot be traded. Maps cannot be traded. There are no vassal states. The few additions, pacts of cooperation and pacts of secrecy, are difficult to manage, as they lack the aforementioned mechanics to properly monitor them. Finally, the addition of city states, while a nice and creative addition to the game, are easily manipulated and shallow considering the utterly simplistic mechanics behind them. Give them gold and they like you, showering you with ridiculously high benefits. 5) Inflexible and shallow victory conditions These are the most problematical aspects of the game. Given the restrictions mentioned in the first section and the requirements for some of these victory conditions, players must now choose a victory at the beginning of the game and stick with it. There is little flexibility to shift toward a cultural victory, for instance, when you conquered your neighbor or overexpanded. I cannot count the number of times in previous Civ games where the flexibility to change strategies to pursue another victory condition was needed, whether it was because I fell behind the tech race, angered too many AIs, or lacked the ability to conquer my foes. The option to change added depth to the game. That is now gone. Cultural victories are the best illustration of this problem. Build/conquer so that you have more than 5 cities and this path becomes inaccessible due to the very poor scaling of social policy costs relative to the number of cities. Puppeting cities does not help this because, as mentioned, they will bankrupt you. Diplomatic victories couldnt be more shallow. In past civ games, the player was required to actually build alliances and improve relations over time. In Civ IV, the AI even kept a memory of your past infractions. Now all that is needed is to buy off the city states before a vote. Dominance victory conditions are broken due to the already covered restrictions against conquest (happiness, maintenance costs, and poor social policy cost scaling) and the incentivization of genocide. My one dominance victory consisted of a small number of cities destroying every city I conquered, save for the capitols, which is prohibited. At the end of the game, the world had one continent with a few former capitols and my continent that was only 25% inhabited. That looks and feels ridiculous. There should be more options than genocide. Dominance victories are also too easy given the atrocious AI. I conquered the world with about 10 units in a relatively short time period. 6) Tying it all together: A note on the meta-game The meta-game is the overall approach to playing. The problem with Civ V isnt any one mechanic. In isolation, all the aforementioned problems are not game breaking. The problem is that when taken as a whole, these mechanics break the meta-game. The happiness/gold/low production mechanics coupled with the inflexible victory conditions restrict too many strategies. It sacrifices depth of play for ease of play. When there are fewer options and only a few mechanics to focus intently upon, the game becomes more manageable, more accessible, and more streamlined. The cost is depth. You are forced to utilize only a handful of strategies. Gaming acumen means less now because the aforementioned restrictions dont allow much room for maneuver. You have to pick a strategy and stick with it. The strategies are simpler (i.e. only need to conquer capitols for domination, shallow diplomatic victory, etc.) This must be done with fewer cities and fewer mechanics to balance. Even all of the options, such as buildings and units, given to you are illusory, as they are either redundant or poorly implemented, a result of trying to use some of the advancements of prior civs, such as buildings that give XP on creation, with a whole new system of mechanics that render such advancements pointless. The sheer sloppiness of design in this game is apparent at every step. For many Civ veterans, this is boring. We are accustomed to more strategic depth. Sure, accessibility has its advantages. This is obvious. But civilization, for all its critical acclaim, was never a very accessible gameit is a niche title appealing to hardcore strat gamersand I do not understand why the developers want to turn it into one now.