What am I missing?

The Islander

Apr 12, 2017
Me and my brother have both been avid Civ players for over 20 years, we've played every iteration since 1. We have a running argument about which is the best version. I'm a big fan of 2, 3 and 5 as these are either nostalgic (2, 3) or I've played it the most (5).

Here's the thing. He maintains that 4 is the best, as do many people on the forums. Admittedly, 4 is the one i've played the least, and I actually bought it a few days ago to have another go after a particularly heated Civ debate with my brother, but I still don't get it!!! For me it's ok, but I don't find anything special about it. I know lots of people prefer the AI, but again, there's nithing fantastic about it.

Why does he, and lots of forum goers rate it so highly? What am I missing?
There's no mutual exclusivity - or inclusivity either as far as I'm concerned.

Consider these things that are in one game, but not the other:

1UPT -- Unlimited units per tile
Hexagonal tiles -- Square tiles
Faith, Tourism -- Espionage
Global Happiness -- Happiness per city
Limited resources -- Unlimited resources
Embarking units -- Only ships at sea
Variable religions -- all religions the same

At what point does one consider two games unrelated anymore? If I would remodel and reskin Age of Empires, and call it Starcraft - would that be reasonable, just because they are both RTS games?

There's no point arguing which is better, but to me it's partly visceral (art style, interface, sound design, Leonard Nimoy), and there's a more sandboxy feel to Civ 4: you're handed a set of tools, and it's up to the player -- wherereas in Civ 5, the game herds you down these select routes and patterns.

Also the vibe in Civ 5 feels impersonal and depressing: the small units, the color palette, leader portraits, these anonymous city-states, how you always feel isolated and lonely just minding your own business, etc.
Then the turns grind on, stuff is being built, hours go by... But nothing really happens, there's no equivalent to lowering guard for 10 minutes, and end up dog piled in Civ 4 -- so I gradually begin to question why I'm playing, eventually exiting the game. That's my general experience.
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It's opinion. Go over to civ5 forums and you'll find all those forum goers prefer civ5.

Really for us who still play 4 constantly and don't like 5 (if we did we would've moved on), it's because 4 is still distinctly civilization. Civ1 - civ4 are all like increments of the same game. Lots of new features added between them, but they all remain at their core the same empire building and management game.

Civ5 was a drastic step in a different direction so that it doesn't resemble the old series. Some people liked this better, some didn't, but there's no denying it's a completely different game than it's predecessors.
Perhaps a recent Reddit post of mine fits here:

IV is the last true Civilization game. That is, an empire-builder game. Indeed, Civilization V's optimum strategy is building three cities, ever.

From I to IV, including Alpha Centauri and Revolution, Civilization was about empire-building, about expanding over a whole wide world, immersing oneself, conducting diplomacy, building up your civilisation. V and VI ditched this fundamental vision of what a Civilization game is.

For one, they lack meaningful diplomacy and other AI interaction. They lack an AI that makes sense. Seeing '-1 Our close borders spark tension' and such factors is vital to that, so that you can clearly see 'ah, yes, I see why this AI dislikes me'. AIs should have friends, and should be angry at you if you declare war on their friends, or if you trade with their enemies, so that different blocs may form of AIs that like each other. That is miles better than the warmongering penalty of VI that everyone ignores, or the intrusive denouncement pop-up that doesn't matter a lot. Further, it is better than irrational agendas - complaining about not having nuclear weapons in the Ancient Age, or outright contradictions between two agendas - and irrational AI behaviour in general; a 'play to win' AI is inherently not an AI that is conductive to immersion.

One good thing; AIs still have their own personalities (some prefer gold over science, some care more about sharing the same civics over sharing the same religion, some prefer building units while others prefer building wonders...).

And mind, these are personal opinions; you might care more about competitive play, about winning the game, instead of being the co-author of a story, of watching history unfold in your game, and such things. That is perfectly fine! But this change of focus is a step away from how Civilization was in the past, even if they halfheartedly tried to rectify it (adding visible modifiers to V, adding agendas to VI - it's lacklustre and not enough, to me, but still).

For two, the newer Civilization games lack scale. IV works on a larger scale than the latter Civilization games, which reduce this scale in a variety of ways; one unit per tile, ranged attacks, a minimum city distance of three, three rows of tiles to work for cities, one district per tile in VI, smaller maps, and so on. All these mechanics serve to reduce the scale. Arguably, irrelevancies like archaeology reduce this scale even further. And even making roads have an upkeep cost contribute to this more tactical, or medieval-esque feeling, as opposed to an empire-builder. The newer Civilization games play more like a medieval-fantasty tactical wargame, such as Warlock: Master of the Arcane (ironically, I would argue that IV's warfare has more strategic depth than V's, but let's not clutter this post).

Was IV the best, regarding scale? No, III had the largest scale. You can pretty clearly see this if you simply compare random screenshots from Google. Count how many tiles, and cities, you see in a screenshot. III's maps were also the largest, both objectively and subjectively (one unit per tile and all serve to make the maps seem even smaller).

I think these two points are the main points that make the newer Civilization games feel so different. One can, of course, pinpoint underlying mechanics, but they serve to add to the above feelings. One unit per tile is the most important point here, that I have not addressed yet. Entire epics have been written of it by now. An important point - more important than being the last piece of a paragraph, but alas - to note is the interface; IV's interface had its problems, but it is objectively (yes, as in, verifiable) orders of magnitudes better than V and VI, and this truly cannot be overestimated. But it has little to do with immersion and scale, so I won't further comment on it.

There are plenty of other mechanics that I have opinions about. VI's implementation of religion is terrible - but V's one was superior to IV! V, too, found more uses for culture, making it matter on a global level, which was also a very nice change compared to IV. Hexes are also probably better than tiles.

Or the whole concept of 'wide versus tall', which is a dichotomy that should never have been invented. 'Wide' must inherently be better, otherwise you do not have an empire-builder game (what value, then, has land? But wanting more land is inherently part of 4X, and a core part of empire-building). And yes, any tile where you place a city will always be better than any other tile, because this city-tile can contain dozens of buildings that yield so much (and on that note; Civilization V uses a lot more +flat yield modifiers than Civilization IV, where buildings all use +percentage yields). So the optimal strategy is to create a city in every single spot where you can.

But that is only the optimal strategy over an infinity of time. Civilization III's corruption mattered little; receiving one production and one gold, instead of ten, is still a profit. Civilization V's global happiness was downright silly and had more or less the same effect; produce a Colosseum somewhere and done. In both games, REX'ing was obviously the superior tactic, and this was only changed when Civilization V started increasing the science cost for all future technologies - and that resulted in the optimum strategy being only ever building three cities. Civilization IV had the perfect solution here; maintenance costs. Establishing new cities cut into your gold production, a lot, and because gold and science were coupled, expanding too fast could leave you poor, backwards, and an easy target for any aggressive neighbours.

You can see that the Civilization games are quite complex, and that many of these mechanics are interconnected; the way you choose to counter REX'ing can have - and has, as far as V goes - a direct impact on the scale and the feeling of the game.

One unit per tile has that even moreso, but Sulla can explain that far better than I can. So finally, I would ask you to read this article: http://www.sullla.com/Civ5/whatwentwrong.html (and, while you're at it: http://www.sullla.com/Civ5/bnwreview.html ).

In the end, it is perfectly fine that you prefer Civilization V and / or VI. You enjoy them, and why should I force what I like upon someone who doesn't like what I like? It's nice that you enjoy these games. That does not take away from the point that the Civilization games, the fundamental core of what they are, changed with V, VI, and Beyond Earth. Shafer - V's developer - all but admitted that, seeking to recreate Panzer Generals - a tactical wargame - in a suit of Civilization - an empire-builder game. You may like that development. That is good for you, truly. This post is not meant to be an attack, or a sneer, or a rant about how the things that I enjoy are obviously superior to the things that you enjoy. Because they aren't.
wow, ztrapon..well done...pretty much my sentiments on V exactly

Anyway, Islander, I'm not going to get into a version v. version thing myself. I'll just give a simple piece of advice regarding Civ IV. Spend time on these forums and learn how to play the game. Play BTS and use the BAT mod, or BUG/BULL. I think you will find that the main reason that so many folks love this game is that it has a tremendous amount of depth when it comes to the actual strategic and tactical aspects of the game - compared to others. And it looks good..it will never get old in that regard.

(I'd say I"m not among the camp that thinks V's religion is all that much better than IV's. Different, ofc, but religion can be quite useful in IV and much more a factor in diplomacy.)
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I liked V and I like VI, but IV will always be the best to me for many reason. Its the last one that didn't feel like a game and felt like I was ruling an empire. It also has been the one with the most diversity in how games play out, the map had such a huge impact on how you could develope and expand. V and VI are good, don't get me wrong, but they very much feel like a game, VI especially has the basic strategy to it where every game plays out the same unless you force it not to, which feels lame.
Thanks for the comments everyone.

@needmyspeed - i didn't take your post as an attack / sneer / rant, there are umpteen better, more dedicated players than me out there, i enjoy the game, but i'm not a dedicated student of it. I was interested in ghe insighrs f all the other civvers out there as to why IV is rated so highly, so I was really interested to read your post. I love this forum because you can learn so much about the game, and the people on here are really knowledgable.
4 is a more flexible game, basically. 5 is dominated by 3-4 city tall empires and 6 is dominated by archer rush + campus ICS.. You can win other ways but these things are too dominant due to the systems involved.

A lot of the things in 5 and 6 are rather one note. For example, culture spread in 4 not only allows you to get more land, but it also allows you a tactical advantage (and even take people's cities) so you may pursue it regardless of your victory type. 6's take on the religion is probably the most notable of these being the most horrid.

Diplomacy in 4 is more deeper; 5 and 6 just don't have as many options to really do things and war is generally default.

4 also doesn't have ridiculously out of whack civilizations made just to sell DLCs. There is imbalance yes, but the gulf between good civs and bad civs in 6 are pretty ridiculous.

Now I actually do like 1 UPT and do go to them for that, but overall 4 is the best.
5 is also a giant piece of crap in terms of load times and turn times. It has horrid performance. I guess if you have an ssd it's significantly better, but I have craploads of ram and a very capable cpu and it drags.
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