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A cogent explanation on the shortfalls of Civ V

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by masterminded, Oct 5, 2010.

  1. masterminded

    masterminded Chieftain

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    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 doesn’t feel like civ, etc. The result has been a flurry of responses claiming that players are afraid of change or that they don’t 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. It’s 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 doesn’t 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 it’s 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 can’t 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 ally’s 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 didn’t like you doing and who they didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 isn’t 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 don’t 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 it’s critical acclaim, was never a very accessible game—it is a niche title appealing to hardcore strat gamers—and I do not understand why the developers want to turn it into one now.
     
  2. Doctor Phibes

    Doctor Phibes Prince

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    Nice one. I almost completely agree, except for 'In isolation, all the aforementioned problems are not game breaking.' I would give odds that your point 3, Poor AI, *will* be game breaking - in isolation - if it is not fixed. And I can't see it being fixable in a hurry. Or at all, within any reasonable budget. 1upt, say no more...

    Oh! Welcome to the forum, by the way, masterminded! I'm kind of new too...
     
  3. Threedog43

    Threedog43 Warlord

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    I agree with most of your points.
    However, I disagree with your assessment of civ5's critics. I think they have been quite clear about what this version is lacking, including most of what your post contained. I don't think another of these threads is going to make a difference either way, this forum will still be a hellish place.... :(
     
  4. allisinthepass

    allisinthepass Chieftain

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    i have been trying to put my finger on why i cant get into ciV and i thing u just explained it. its not one thing, its the combination of many small irritants that make a less enjoyable experience (for veterans at least).:cry:
     
  5. mercury529

    mercury529 Warlord

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    I'll speak to point 5.

    Civ4 unconditionally rewarded expansion of the empire. There was essentially no victory condition where an increased number of cities wouldn't be beneficial:

    1.) Conquest/Domination: Military production is increased significantly with more cities.
    2.) Space Race: The moment a city generated more commerce than it cost in maintenance, it was a net addition to tech speed.
    3.) Diplomatic: Increased tech speed gives you the technologies/gold you need to bribe Civs to be friendly.
    4.) Cultural: Allows you to build more temples and increased tech speed gets you to key techs faster.
    5.) Time: More cities results in a higher score.

    Mastering Civ4 was a matter of mastering expansion of your empire. Virtually every situation rewarded you for expansion of your empire. It wasn't a matter of if you should expand, but when. This is not the case for Civ5, and I consider that to be a benefit. It encourages varying gameplay styles.

    Small empires are not at an inherent disadvantage to larger empires. In some cases (as in the case of cultural victory), you are rewarded for maintaining a smaller empire. In other cases, you can still maintain some parity with a larger empire (largely due to the global happiness mechanic, separation of research from commerce, and city-states). And in some cases, you are at a disadvantage, such as military conquest.

    This makes gameplay less one dimensional as it pertains to victory conditions. It does force you to make difficult choices (e.g. should I expand to that 4th/5th city for a military/tech advantage and effectively eliminate cultural victory as an option). It does attach more permanence to your decisions than the decisions made in Civ4. It means the cost of your decisions won't be relegated to solely opportunity cost. But I consider these difficult decisions the basis of a good strategy game. I consider the long-term ramifications of your decisions an improvement. The flexibility you miss, I am happy to see gone. It rewards well-thought out plans and foresight. And to me that is what a strategy game is about.

    The game certainly needs massaging. But ultimately I feel once more work is put into balancing the game, the decisions are going to be harder to make in Civ5 than they are in Civ4. The path to victory will be less evident than it was in Civ4. It's not there yet, but I look forward to it. The game design is certainly better set up for it than Civ4 ever was.
     
  6. Doctor Phibes

    Doctor Phibes Prince

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    Yeah. Unless we get Piety started on this forum. +2 happiness forever...
     
  7. Davor

    Davor Prince

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    But the critics were paid off. There is no other explanation why CiV would get such high marks. What is next, The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to win the Stanley Cup? :p

    On a serious note though, I agree with most things you have said. It's all the small things that make the game slow and boring at times.
     
  8. Slinko

    Slinko Chieftain

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    Very well written. I agree.
     
  9. Stiefel

    Stiefel Chieftain

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    What needs to be focused on is 2k's mad lust for money (the real thing hurting not only the players, but the developers who get blamed for Civ 5's massive failures.)
     
  10. Doctor Phibes

    Doctor Phibes Prince

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    First, can you cite some reasons for your statement of belief there?

    Second, for me right now it's a totally evident two-track road. Dominate the rubbish AI, which is utterly crippled by the 1upt problem. Or (which I am enjoying right now for the lulz), do my best to ignore the AI and do the city state/trading post thing. Or you can swap in and out of the two, doesn't matter, mix and match. But I really do not think it's going to be just a matter of massaging...
     
  11. Thormodr

    Thormodr Servant of Civ Supporter

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    Nice analysis and welcome to the forums. :)
     
  12. CyberTyrant

    CyberTyrant Emperor

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    I have to agree with the OP here.
     
  13. ds61514

    ds61514 Warlord

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    The short: learn to play.

    Moderator Action: This is inappropriate
    Please read the forum rules: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=422889

    The long:

    Isn't this the point of a strategy game, to deal with restrictions? If you have trouble, maybe drop to a lower difficulty level?

    You complain about rexing being hard, but did you ever think to stagnate your pop and work commerce/hammer tiles/specialists? You can get 10-11 cities by 0 ad, while running positive happiness + positive gold.

    Interesting. In Deity, I've built:

    1. Mech Inf.
    2. Tank
    3. Modern Armor
    4. Fighter
    5. Jet Fighter
    6. Battleship
    7. Carrier.
    8. Bomber
    9. Stealth Bomber
    10. GDR

    9 types of units is pretty good, don't you think?

    As for production, well, windmill + factory + railroad is pretty good for production.

    Can't agree with your findings. In the Deity game I referenced above, I had a 30 city-empire, ~ 5-6 puppets, a pretty good army, positive gold & positive happiness (enough for a happiness golden age).

    Nice one. Because we all know Civ 4 was better, where you could win a diplomatic victory with the only vote being...yourself!
     
  14. masterminded

    masterminded Chieftain

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    I'll respond to this with three points:

    1) I disagree with your statement that expansion was unconditionally awarded in civ iv. There are costs--direct and indirect. New cities, especially in the early game prohibited expanding too quickly, due to city maintenance costs. There were indirect costs as well. Getting too big meant getting entangled in diplomatic and military conflicts that could embroil the player in them.

    2) I also don't think you fairly characterize expansion. You claim it makes the game one dimensional because expansion helps the player achieve certain victories. First, it is only of marginal value in some victory types. Second, I don't think it did not make Civ IV one dimensional. While it was often helpful, it was never essential to victory. Civ IV gave you the choice. Civ V, as I argued and you did not address, does not allow for that luxury. If I want to achieve a cultural victory in Civ IV, I could have started out with different goals and expanded, then shifted given the geopolitical realities. Or I could have just planned to achieve one with fewer cities. That's not one dimensional; that's multidimensional. Civ V boxes the player into one approach. The same goes for diplomacy: buy off the city states. There is no centuries/decades worth of patiently building relations with the AI players. In a dominance victory, I cannot keep the cities without massive unhappiness and penalties that even affect the performance of my soldiers. My only choice is genocide.

    3) You completely sidelined my greater argument, to focus on a minor point. The point on expansion was a minor example of a larger section. You seem to inflate the importance of this. You completely ignored my extensive analysis of the meta-game and victory conditions, which strikes me as odd, as they directly contradict much of what you have to say.
     
  15. masterminded

    masterminded Chieftain

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    The short: Learn to read

    The long: This is a strawman, i.e., a mischaracterization of my argument. I never claimed that restrictions aren't necessary, but that they are too onerous in this game. They restrict playstyle to such a degree that it becomes inflexible and renders fewer strategies viable in order to make the game more accessible.

    Of course I have tried this. The result is more cities, but a smaller sustainable population since each city adds 2 unhappiness and luxury bonuses do not scale with the number of cities. The result is that you have to do less with more.

    The short: Obvious cheater is obvious

    The long: You counted industrial era units (tanks, fighters, bombers) and put them alongside their modern equivalents to inflate your number.

    Call me when you can find a use for guided bombs, destroyers/missile frigates, or submarines when production is already as constricted as it is.

    This is only possible in the very late game.

    The victory situation above is one where the player would already control a majority of the world's population, essentially close to a domination victory. I admit that it had its faults, but the situation you describe is irregular. My discussion of Civ V's mechanics were under normal conditions. You are taking an example under highly specific circumstances and inflating it. That is a poor argument.

    The short: Learn to argue coherently! kthxbai!

    The long: I'll put aside the snark if you do. My argument deals with the meta-game, the mechanics, and the victory conditions in depth. You did not present a cogent rebuttal, but rather a few disconnected and sarcastic points that did not even come close to addressing the heart of my argument.

    Moderator Action: Please don't flame other members, this "The Short, etc..." stuff is inappropriate.
    Please read the forum rules: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=422889
     
  16. Cueball

    Cueball Chieftain

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    Great read. You summed up a lot of my problems with this game pretty well.
     
  17. dexters

    dexters Gods & Emperors Supporter

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    I think some of the buildings can and should be used/given with a secondary purpose
    Stables +1 happiness w/ Horse then evolves to +2 happiness with a later tech.

    Seaports/Harbours should also give happiness and commerce bonuses for having fish/whale/pearls
     
  18. DaveGold

    DaveGold Emperor

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    I agree with the original post. I'll also suggest that the game lacks tempo, dynamics, and progression.
     
  19. Jolly Rogerer

    Jolly Rogerer Prince

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    So you'd be happy with a game that had an "I lose" button as its only option? Sure it's restrictive. Deal with it. That's the point of a strategy game after all.
     
  20. charon2112

    charon2112 King

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    Thank you for a well written, well thought list of your problems with Civ V. I can't say I agree, but I appreciate the good post.

     

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