What makes for better gameplay - traits or unique abilities?

Ita Bear

Dec 8, 2020
Hello folks,

This is something I've been pondering on for a while and is (hopefully!) a slightly more nuanced take on the age-old Civ IV vs V debate. The question is simple: do you prefer Civ IV's way of civilisation personalisation with traits or Civ V's unique abilities?

I think the main difference is as follows: Civ IV's traits are the game saying, "here are some tools to complete the job. Use them as you see fit." In comparison, Civ V's unique abilities are saying, "use this tool in this exact way, or put yourself at a disadvantage." The "tool" may even be totally useless depending on the game and map!

Let's quickly compare England between the two games. In Civ IV, England has three leaders to choose from with a range of traits, including financial, imperialistic, philosophical, protective and charismatic. As Churchill, I can secure my early cities with powerful archers and grow them very large with monuments. As Elizabeth, I can settle lucrative cities and grow many Great People, as well as boost science output by building quicker universities. As Victoria, I can REX to take the best land quickly to leverage my FIN trait. In Civ V, my naval units get +2 movement. That's a solid bonus, but in comparison it is very one-dimensional and restrictive. If I am not playing on a water-heavy map, I'd almost feel cheated as I may as well not have a bonus.

That said, some of Civ V's abilities are fun to use. It's fun to press-gang barbarians into your ranks as the Germans or run a thriving trade empire as Venice. Unique abilities can offer much more personalised Civilization experiences.

Curious to hear what folks have to say about this.

Kind regards,
Ita Bear


Rise Up! (Phoenix Style!)
Hall of Fame Staff
Mar 11, 2008
Venice is really lame though. Germans are fun. Spain is really fun but boom or bust.

Gameplay-wise it's all relative, but IV gameplay is just simply better. Overall, there's so much about V's unique abilities that can be flat irrelevant some games.


Jun 5, 2018
Northwest Zealand, Denmark
I perfer CIV IV as it is close to be an "open" game.

Open in a way, that allow a "petty cheater" like I to make my own small changes to the game/mod and open for really big changes made by skilled people/teams.

In the RI-mod, we have 6 leaders for each playable nation to choose from. Lot's of traits different for each leader (but both mod-able and change-able if the human player want to do that), lots of civics and a number of unique buildings, units and improvements for each nation. All of those are also mod-able as long as you don't try to be too smart.

Only thing CIV IV is missing is an updated game-engine, so the savefile can exceed that 4mb limit (plus/minus some few hundreds bytes) and doesn't have to end before time.

A game open and documented in a way, so skilled people/teams can produce own mods to the game.
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