All hail the Invader, Warrior King, Conqueror of Men and Nations; me. That’s just one option Civilization Revolution gives you, but would you prefer World Banker? World’s Greatest Technological Innovator? Cultural Paragon? Any one of these grand titles could be yours, if you have the strategic ability to achieve victory.
Sid Meier’s Civilization series is a classic, fulfilling many gamers’ turn-based strategy needs, and this latest version is no different, and is one of a recent spate of RTS’s that have been re-introducing the genre to the console.
As one of 16 real-world civilizations, each with different attributes, the goal is simple; dominate the world. How you do it is up to you, as victory can be achieved by attaining a Domination (i.e. military control of the world), Economic (by saving up enough money and building the World Bank wonder), Cultural (by attaining a given number of Great People, Wonders, and Converted Cities), or Technological victory (building a giant spaceship and launching it to a distant galaxy).
The challenge of achieving those victories with each or even some of the civilizations is addictive and a lot of fun to play. Each iteration of Civilization has had that compulsive “one…more…turn!” feeling, and Civ Rev certainly keeps you in your seat.
Console RTS’s have earned a bad reputation over the years for poor controls, but Civ Rev has certainly solved that problem. It’s easy to move around the map, identifying and selecting units is a breeze, and waging war is as simple as dragging your left stick and selecting. Controlling each city’s production goals and status is as simple as hitting the right bumper, which brings up important statistics about production, population, and defense. As your strategy moves along, it can be a little time consuming to cycle through all your cities to get to the one you’re looking for, but you can select your city just as easily but selecting it with the right analog stick.
Technology is learned one at a time, and is affected by the location of your cities (more water equals more science) and their population. The technological progressions are balanced, and make sense; if a player doesn’t develop literacy, their culture will suffer, which causes their population to shrink, which makes it harder to crank out those all-important catapult units.
The worlds are well-rendered, though this isn’t the type of game you’d call a “graphical masterpiece.” There are mountains, rivers, oceans, and they look good and are very brightly colored. The units are somewhat cartoonish, and make fun little noises for movements and combat, and all this amounts to a light-hearted feel for a strategy game. When the other world leaders appear, they are well animated, and genuinely fun to watch; I’m still a little disturbed every time I’m threatened with a cane by Gandhi. The music also provides a grand score, anthemic even, and definitely sets a world-spanning tone. All that said, the graphics are good but fairly simple, though the buildings are colorfully detailed, but is that really what you come to an RTS like this for in the first place?
Helpful suggestions are provided by your advisers, who deliver their information in easy-to-navigate screens while chattering away in their unique gibberish. In later difficulty levels, though, the player is largely on their own, but one should definitely take their time progressing though the levels if they are not RTS regulars, like myself.
Civ Rev is the first real RTS I’ve played at length, and yes, that does include StarCraft. That being said, it was really easy to pick up and play, the controls were intuitive, and battle management was easy to coordinate. Ultimately, the ability to balance the needs of your citizens, making sure they have the culture they need, and the military might you need to crush your enemies is the key to victory.
But for all the options you have to attain global control, one of the game’s few failings is that it’s frequently just easier to go ahead and get a domination victory. At the harder difficulties it’s practically all you can do, as you’re constantly hounded by your neighbors while trying to meet your peaceful goals. At that point building up your defenses becomes so expensive that it almost rules out an economic victory, and both technology and cultural victories take a long time, and once your tech has advanced far enough, the temptation to start cranking out tanks and pitting them against your neighbors’ archers is, to say the least, rather hard to resist.
Civ Rev has hours of replayability; each of the 16 civilizations has it’s own achievement to earn by winning with them, each map is randomly generated, and the scenario option presents 9 different challenges, mostly domination-oriented, that offer a little bit of variety. Want to re-enact the Age of Imperialism? Here you go. World War II, or III for that matter? Invade your heart out. The Game of the Week option assigns you a random civilization, on a random map, and lets you have at it with your neighbors.
Multiplayer is online-only, with up to 4 players, and abandons the series’ turn-based format in order to speed the combat along. They can also be handicapped, so you don’t have too worry too much about being trampled by a more experienced competitor.
Many hardcore RTS fans worry that the cartoonish animations and console controls will have delineated the typically dense genre’s gameplay, and turned Civ Rev into an “RTS-lite.” Frankly, that may be the case; Sins of a Solar Empire this certainly isn’t. Even so, does a game have to be dense and difficult to be enjoyable? If you believe so as an RTS fan, and if all the frequent “PC is dead” talk is true, you may have some tough decisions to make as a gamer and a fan.
In comparison to the amount of fun you have, those are middling problems at worst. Civilization Revolution is easy to learn, hard to put down, and a blast to play.