I will copy-paste a lot from another topic by Sulla with some good points. 1. Useless messages. Germany denounces you! Babylon likes you! Russia feels thretened by you! City State X likes Player Y. And miriad other chaff messages that you could not turn off. 2. Diplomatic AI. The long decline of Diplomatic AI started with SMAC. In CivV diplomacy could be easily ignored even on highest difficulties without significant harm to the player. All you have to do is to make some trade deal so caravans will make you some money but otherwise entire aspect of diplomacy could be ignored. AI stupidity in dealing with the player only added to the injury. The most humilating part is that SMAC had awesome Diplo AI that acted like a "real" person. 3. Barbarian camp spawning Barbarian units can spawn regardless of line of sight. It is maddening to move next to a barbarian camp, and have a new full-strength barb magically appear out of thin air on a tile where you had full visibility. Immersion-breaking? There's a reason why barbs could only spawn in fogged tiles in past Civ games... 4. Cities Even the weakest settlement right after building could beat entire armies of units. While with CivIV one of the main complains were doomstacks, CivV turned sieges and capturing cities into even more horrible and tedious routine. Not to say AI could lose whole army even if it has 10 times more troops than you. 5. Godawful UI. CivIV - you could issue build order by ctrl+several clicks...from main map. CivV - to even enter the queue menu, you have to enter city screen, select queque and then click select what you want to build. Even in SMAC it took two clicks to set a proper queue. CivV failed to even recreate that. Not to say that to see how much turns left for workers to finish their tasks you have to hover our mouse for 5 seconds. 6. Awful Diplomacy UI. You have to click between three different screens to see all of the information, and there are further scroll bars on each individual screen - you can only see information on three AI leaders at a time. With more than 50% of screen space not even being utilized, this is atrociously bad design. 7. Meaningless Diplo screen transitions. Occasionally AI leaders will pop up in diplomacy simply to insult your civilization in some way. To complement you, to say something else that shifts you to diplomatic screen just to look at one like of text that carries no practical information. 8. Global Happiness In every Civilization game, there is some kind of mechanic put in place to limit the expansion of empires. In the first three Civilization games, this mechanic was corruption, whereby every city would lose out on some production and commerce the further away they were located from the capital. The level of corruption ranged from nonexistent (in the original Civilization there was no corruption with Democracy for government, which was simultaneously overpowered and hilarious as a concept) to modest (the final patched version of Civ3) to catastrophic (in the original release version of Civ3). The whole point of corruption was that more cities would cease to be useful beyond a certain point, because they would be hopelessly corrupt. The whole concept never worked though; even if those extra cities were hopelessly "1/1" (one shield and one commerce), you were still better off founding them, and settler units were always cheap in Civ1/2/3. In the first two Civ games, the AI was feeble at expansion and it was easy to win even on the highest difficulty simply by out-expanding the AI civs. The Civ3 AI was programmed to be rapidly expansionistic, and therefore the Civ3 early game was always a mad rat race to see who could grab the most territory. Although that could be a lot of fun, the game mechanics meant that more cities was always better, without fail. Civ4 shook up the formula by eliminating corruption and replacing it with maintenance costs. Instead of cities being free and all of their infrastructure costing money, Civ4 reversed things and made cities expensive while their buildings would be free. When cities were initially founded in Civ4, they were too weak to pay their own support costs and had to be supported by the rest of your empire. In other words, every new city was essentially an investment - you would take an initial loss, and then as the city grew over time and built its own infrastructure, it would start to turn a profit and could support other cities in turn. Thus in Civ4 more cities were still generally better for your empire, but one couldn't build them too fast or in too marginal locations, which would result in economic stagnation. The Inca team in our Pitboss #2 game was a prime example of a civ that suffered from over-expansion, building too many cities too fast without adequate defenders and suffering for it economically and militarily. Infinite City Sprawl (ICS) was effectively solved in Civ4. Civ5 replaced city maintenance with global happiness as the empire limiting factor. Instead of each city having its own happiness meter, the empire as a whole shares one global rating. If that rating drops too low, then cities stop growing and eventually no more settlers can be produced. The idea was that players would have to balance vertical growth of a few highly developed cities against horizontal growth of many small cities. The developers clearly intended players to build a small handful of cities (roughly five to ten on a standard-sized map) and based the happiness mechanic around that assumption. There's just one problem: global happiness is a complete failure at stopping expansion in Civ5. It simply does not work. Civ5 reverts back to the old system of empire management, in which more cities are always better for your empire. Remember, there are no sliders for science/gold/culture in Civ5. Science is based mostly on population, with the basic formula of 1 population point = 1 beaker/turn. Gold is also largely based on population; much of your income comes from internal trade routes between cities, which are entirely based on population (trade route formula is gold/turn = 1.25 times city population). Most of the rest of the income comes from working trade post tiles, and more population means more citizens working those trade posts. In other words, unlike Civ4 where planting additional cities will increase your costs and slow down science (at least initially), in Civ5 the exact opposite takes place. Your gold and research will go up from having more cities, regardless of the quality of the terrain involved. There is no tradeoff between expansion, warfare, and research. Expanding and warring will INCREASE your beaker count. An extra city will always be a net positive in terms of gold and research. Global happiness was supposed to encourage small empires of large, vertical cities. Instead it does exactly the opposite, pushing players into mass spamming of tundra iceball cities. Why not? Once that spot has a colosseum, it's pure profit for your empire. The developers themselves have realized how badly they screwed the pooch on this one, backpedaling in the patch and changing the rules so that a city can't produce more happiness than its own population. If you have colosseum in a size 2 city, now it only produces +2 happiness instead of +4. This changes very little (since it's easy to grow your cities to size 4, and now you can simply cap them there to get the full benefit) while making the mechanic itself much more confusing. Unhappiness is now global, since your population always contributes to unhappiness, but the buildings that fight unhappiness work locally. Also, while a colosseum is limited in how much happiness it can provide by the local city, wonders are unaffected by this rule, as are luxury resources. Uh huh. When you need to start bending the rules like that to cover up mistakes, I'd say it's a sign of shoddy design work. Global happiness is a failed game mechanic. 9. Penalties This is a bit of a broad statement, so let me explain what I mean. The most important thing to keep in mind when designing a game is that it should be fun and engaging for the player. Sure, you can go ahead and make that indie game with the deep existentialist plot that investigates man's place in the universe... but if it's not fun to play, no one is going to care about it. In general, it's not a good idea to penalize players too much. When players are confronted by decisions, it's better to let them pick between different good options, rather than forcing them to choose the lesser of two evils. You could have the player pick between a sword (more damage) or a shield (more protection) but not let them have both. The key thing is to have meaningful, balanced decisions where the player chooses between several different "good" alternatives. Getting back to Civilization terms, you can have Montezuma and an army of bloodthirsty Aztec warriors, or you can have Gandhi and the path to spiritual enlightenment. Both are good options, and if a game is sufficiently entertaining, players will want to return to it again and again to experience different, alternative paths to victory. (This is pretty much the hallmark of the Civilization series.) Penalties in an empire building game are generally something to be avoided. You want to reward players for doing well, not punish them for failing. There's a reason why the Civilization games have Golden Ages and not "Dark Ages" in them - the latter would not be fun for most players. (The Civ3 design team actually implemented a whole "Dark Ages" concept in the testing stages, and took it out of the game because it simply wasn't fun.) Worst of all are penalties that accrue to players randomly, for things that they had no control over. I'm looking at you, floodplains disease and plague from Civ3! There will be some players who enjoy that sort of thing, but most people won't find it to be very amusing. These sort of things should be avoided when designing a game. (Note that penalties are different from challenges; there's nothing wrong with having a challenging game design. The Ninja Gaiden games are extremely challenging, but they are generally not punitive in their design. You just have to be really, really good to win.) Civ5's design suffers from way too many of these penalties, in which the player is actually hurt for doing something good. The classic example of this is road maintenance, something new to Civ5 with no previous precedent in the series. In past games, there was never a cost associated with building roads. It was understood that the "cost" of building a road with a settler/worker unit was an opportunity cost, because the unit in question couldn't be building a farm or mine or whatever while it was building a road. In Civ4, for example, building lots of roads early on with workers is a very weak play, because roads only increase unit movement and do not boost tile yields. Civ5's decision to penalize players for building roads is simply baffling, especially since roads are still mandatory to connect cities for trade routes. The game might as well be laughing at you: "Haha, you need this road to connect your cities, but it's gonna cost you!" This design decision alone essentially cripples any chance of Civ5 Multiplayer succeeding, because any competent online player knows that you can never have only one road link to each city. But building the necessary road network you need to be safe carries a crippling economic burden in Civ5 - the player is literally getting slammed for good play! Furthermore, Civ5's One Unit Per Tile design cries out for extensive road networks to make moving units around and positioning them easier. Instead, the design forces exactly the opposite outcome. I can't tell you how many times my units have been out of position just because I have only one road to move them along. It's incredibly frustrating! Worst of all, the designers apparently made this decision for aesthetic reasons, because they didn't like how "road spam" looked in the previous games. That's possibly the worst reasoning I've ever heard for a design decision. It's not just the roads that are at issue, however. There are penalties all throughout Civ5's design which help make the game not very fun to play. Upkeep costs for buildings are another giant problem, one which shouldn't be in the game. Civ4 had the right idea in making cities cost money but the buildings inside them be free. Maybe it would be a waste to construct a barracks in a city that never trained any units, however at least you'd only lose out on opportunity cost (you could have spent that time on the barracks building something else). Those barracks wouldn't *HURT* you just because you weren't using them. Many of the buildings in Civ5 are actually worse than useless, doing virtually nothing while adding to the player's expenses. It's actually possible to cripple your empire with too much infrastructure in Civ5 if you load up on too many pointless buildings like gardens, stables, and so on. While this may be realistic in some senses, it's not at all fun and represents somewhat of a trap for newcomers. One of the secrets of high-level play in Civ5 is that you do better by *NOT* constructing most of the buildings in the game, which is surely a failure of design. Expansion is also rife with further penalties. You want to expand your empire rapidly, because it's the only way to compete with the AI on the higher difficulties and maximize your gold, science, and production. Yet the game simultaneously penalizes you for doing so, by increasing the cost of social policies and making it all but impossible to get additional golden ages. It also makes it impossible to build the various national wonders in the game, with the ridiculous "must have a monument in EVERY city" requirements. This is simply the wrong way to go about Civ5's design, creating all of these penalties for expansion (which are really silly to begin with - why are you penalizing players for expanding in an empire building game?) The correct way to implement these ideas is something along the Civ4 model: the national wonders in Civ4 (Oxford University, Heroic Epic, etc.) allow a small empire to be competitive with larger ones, but the larger empires are not prevented from building the same things entirely. It's simply impossible for a large empire to win by culture in Civ5; in Civ4, the large empire simply has few advantages over a small empire in winning by culture. Big, big difference. The right way to do this sort of design is to create subsystems in which small and large empires compete on even terms (Civ4 cultural victory). The wrong way to do this sort of design is to penalize/exclude large empires. See the difference? Anyway, you get the point. There are tons of things throughout Civ5's design that actively penalize the player for doing something good. Want to connect cities? Pay for it. Want city infrastructure? Pay for it. You want to expand your empire? Tough luck getting more Golden Ages, bub. While it's true that every game needs to have tradeoffs, these aren't ones that are fun or meaningful. They're just a pain in the ass. 10. Inscrutable and Meaningless Diplomacy The diplomatic side of the game was completely overhauled for Civ5, and not in a good way. In the first three Civilization games, the AI would declare war on the player randomly due to periodic dice rolls. The AI was specifically programmed to gang up on the human player in Civ1/2, which was sort of a necessary cheat to make up for the weak AI in those games. Civ3's AI did not target the player in particular, instead warring rabidly with all parties over and over again. You could generally avoid conflict by giving in to AI demands, but sometimes they were simply coming for you regardless. It was never really possible to form a true friendship with any of the competing AI civs. They were always apt to stab you in the back at any point in time, no matter what your prior history had been. Reworking diplomacy to be more logical was therefore one of the major design goals for Civ4, ideally making it possible to form alliances during the game with other civs who shared common interests. Although Civ4's diplomacy had plenty of its own pitfalls and goofiness, it was actually possible to form lasting friendships with the AI through shared religion, civics, open borders, and the like. If anything, the game probably made it too easy to make friends, allowing the player to run a skeleton army and tech in peace much too often. Nevertheless, the system as a whole was a major improvement, highlighted by the inclusion of diplomatic pluses (+) and minuses (-) which revealed how and why the AIs felt the way that they did. Perhaps the system was a bit too manipulative, but at least players weren't stuck in the dark, and had the information to make intelligent decisions. Civ5 had an entirely different design goal when it came to diplomacy. The developers specifically stated that they did not want to make diplomatic information available to the players, instead wanting the system to be full of surprise and mystery. Here's what Jon Shafer said in an E3 interview: "Our goal was to make diplomacy feel more like interacting with other players or world leaders, rather than a system to be min-maxed. No longer are diplomatic modifiers shown since this used to give away pretty much everything your computer-controlled rival nations were thinking. That's one way of doing diplomacy in a strategy game, but we wanted there to be more mystery in the interaction. Some leaders will work behind your back, and showing the numbers would either give everything away or provide a misleading sense of security." And in another interview: "One of our early goals was to improve the diplomatic experience in the game. In particular, we want there to be a sense of mystery to it, where the player doesn't know exactly what to expect from the other players." If that was the goal, then mission achieved! The other AI leaders certainly do act in "mysterious" fashion, although in a strategy game I wouldn't exactly call that a compliment. The occasion sneak attack is a good thing, so long as it's relatively rare. When every AI leader is sneak attacking in every game - as is the case in Civ5 - then you have a genuine problem on your hands. The release version of Civ5 had absolutely no feedback whatsoever on why the AI acted the way that it did. I remember quite a few threads on the forums where people were replaying games over and over again, trying to figure out why the AI was taking the actions that it did. Not a good sign! In my own experiences, the AI appeared to war continuously without fail in game after game. Our Deity succession game saw six different AIs declare war on us before the 0 AD calendar mark. I lost my Immortal Egypt game to an AI dogpile of war declarations, none of which provided me with any feedback whatsoever. After 150 turns of peace, suddenly all my allies hated me. I think they got mad because I razed some Arab cities, but who really knows? The game sure wasn't about to tell me. It felt like a relationship with an overbearing girlfriend: "Well, if you don't know what you did wrong, I'm certainly not telling you!" The latest patch has added a little bit of transparency to the process, while keeping the same underlying system in place. (Note that this is essentially an abandonment of the original design goal of "surprising" the player.) As I said above, the problem is that this transparency reveals the AIs to be totally nuts. They get mad at you for expanding. They get mad at you for settling near them (or not - sometimes they say this when you aren't even remotely close!) They get mad at you when THEY settle next to YOU. They get mad at you for building wonders. They get mad at you for having a large army. They get mad at you for having a small army. They get mad at you for going to war. They get mad at you for not going to war to support them, and then they get mad at you again when you do join them in their conflicts. They get mad at you for trying to win the game, and in fact the AI is specifically programmed to dogpile the human player when he/she gets close to victory, in the old Civ1/2 ☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺ manner. Wow. With friends like that, who needs enemies? It's essentially impossible to form lasting friendships with the AI civs in Civ5. Maybe you'll pull it off sometimes, but it certainly isn't the norm, and probably had more to do with pure luck than anything else. Even more problematic than the inscrutable diplomacy is the lack of any shared interest with the AI civs. Assuming you could make friends with these AI leaders, would you even want to do so? Past Civilization games offered many incentives to buddy up with other empires. Tech trading was always the paramount reason, but there were other factors like map trading, resource exchanges, open borders trade income, and so on. In Civ3/Civ4 there was always the United Nations and diplomatic victory lurking at the end of the game too. Of course the UN was mostly a big joke in Civ3; still, you did have to pay at least some attention to what was going on, because the AIs would vote for the other guy if you were at war with them. Obviously the UN was a much bigger deal in Civ4, and it was very possible to lose via diplomacy if you had irritated too many other civs. Compare the same diplomatic situation to Civ5. What can you really do diplomatically with the other AI civilizations? Tech trading was axed entirely from Civ5, removing the single biggest incentive to work together from past games. Map trading is also gone. You can still trade for Open Borders, but they no longer have any effect on trade routes, and thus have only a minor importance now in the gameplay. The only exchange of any consequence that remains takes the form of resource trading, and indeed selling resources to the AIs for gold has become a staple of high-level Civ5 play. This has created a further problem, however, as Civ5 foolishly returns to the Civ3 model of "anything purchasable with gold per turn income", allowing players to trade 30 turns of a luxury resource for a lump sum payment and then immediately declare war to break the deal. Or you can trade 50 gold/turn for 1000 lump sum gold, and declare war to avoid paying anything. You can even sell cities to the AI for thousands of gold, then use the gold to cash-rush an instant army and retake the same cities back once more. Exploitative, much? And tell me this: why shouldn't the player act this way? There is no incentive to work with these AIs whatsoever. They will never vote for you in the United Nations (aside from that silly "liberation" feature, after they're already dead). They are always ready to backstab you. They've been specifically programmed to attack when you are getting close to victory. You might as well treat them like dirt and exploit the hell out of the broken trading mechanics, since the AI is clearly out to get you. The whole thing is a colossal step backwards, reverting back to Civ3 or even Civ2 days. I guess that the city states are supposed to make up for this, but they are not a satisfactory substitute to me, and the whole "buy your way to magical maritime food + UN victory" gameplay is extremely shallow and simplistic. It's been said that the AI "plays to win" in this game. Well, I don't actually think that's actually true. I think the AI is simply very poorly programmed, and acts in haphazard or random fashion. There's no functional difference between an AI who acts for reasons that can't be understood and an AI who acts due to random dice rolls. And if there's no incentive to work together with the AI, no possibility of common ground, then there's no real diplomacy at all.