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Civilization Revolution First Impressions

August 5th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 12 Comments · Firaxis

I’ve finally gotten a chance to play some Civ Revolution and I’m not sure what I think of it.

First, it’s clearly a Civ game. All the stuff you would expect is there – settlers, production, research, etc.

Second, there is a lot of stuff from Civ IV that makes an appearance – great people, unique units, and the like.

Third, this is a sequel to the first Civ game, the last in the series that Sid Meier had primary design control over, just as he has had with Civ Rev. And it’s not just that settlers cost population points. Diplomacy is reduced to near irrelevance, technology comes quickly, and unit and building types are few in number.

Most noticeably, however, this is a very streamlined game. Maps are relatively small, terrain and resources are almost an afterthought, roads make your units move at ridiculous speeds to your vulnerable borders…for a turn-based strategy game, it has a crazy amount of haste.

I’m not sure how I feel about armies. The game idea is that you throw together three similar units and create a super unit. Armies are necessary to win the game since they are a huge force multiplier, especially when you toss in the promotions like healing or city attack. But because they are so necessary, there isn’t a lot of decision making involved in whether or not turn three soldiers into an army. Once you can, you do.

There is, I suppose, a little bit of strategy in using armies for defense. An army counts as one unit, so if it loses a battle then that’s it. Three separate archers or riflemen will require three attacks. But considering how much more powerful an army is in general, I doubt that the two or three turn tradeoff really matters. Besides, no one attacks with only two units once the early game is done.

More impressions as I play more.


12 Comments so far ↓

  • Jason Lefkowitz

    Have you heard/seen anything about the DS version? The home console versions don’t interest me for some reason but I would love to have a portable Civ to carry around with me… hell, I’d even take Civ I…

    I used to think games like Civ wouldn’t carry over well to platforms like the DS, but the DS version of Age of Empires (which is excellent — right up there with Advance Wars) changed my mind.

  • Troy

    I haven’t tried the DS version yet, but I should pick it up sometime soon. I need a new travel distraction.

    The DS is actually a great little TBS platform. The stylus is great for precision control, you can draw lines and the double screen means that you have lots of different ways to display information.

  • Nicholas Tam

    Wasn’t there a similar army-stacking system (three-of-a-kind) in Civ 3? I think you needed a Great Leader or something of the sort to band it together, though.

    I’m also interested in the DS version: I hear the game is identical, so I’m mostly concerned about how the interface is implemented. I use the DS mostly for TBS anyway (Advance Wars, in particular), and a skirmish-length Civ game seems to be a better fit for a system that you play on the go.

    Is there a fair bit of flexibility in how you can move up the tech tree, or is that “streamlined” into something more linear?

  • Troy

    Yes, Civ 3 had armies but you needed a great general to stick them together. They helped a lot, but were entirely optional.

    The tech tree is your basic stuff (alphabet, printing press, university) and if you are the first to discover certain techs you get bonuses. But you advance through the “eras” by only discovering a few of the techs, so you might not even have iron working and you’ll find yourself in the medieval era.

    Techs also make possible the exploitation of local resources, but the research moves so quickly that I can’t imagine gearing my research plan just to take advantage of the marble or fish in my vicinity.

  • Krupo

    The “stacking of units into powerful killers” concept vaguely reminds me of my recent fun in Galactic Civilizations 2.

    The AI freaked me out with a high logistics ability and 9-ship fleets.

    But the combined fleets of tiny ships ended up getting wiped off the face of … er, space, by a single heavily armoued medium-sized capital ship with heavy armour which their puny guns couldn’t harm.

    Man, GC2 has totally stolen me away from Civ4 for the time being.

  • Justin Fletcher

    RE: Tech tree flexibility

    There are fewer techs than in Civ4, but there are still enough where there is ostensible flexibility. Unfortunately, you really have to pick all of the military techs as quickly as possible to stay competitive.

    CivRev is focused almost entirely on combat, especially if you’re playing solo. The AI is so aggressive that the mid- to endgame usually turns into World v You. And, as Troy says, diplomacy is useless, so you had better gear up your war machine early on.

    This focus combined with the single map size made each match start to feel the same, which killed my fervor for the game after about two weeks. I have yet to play online, and the dearth of friends who seem to be playing the game lead me to believe that they have similar complaints.

    It’s a shame because a streamlined Civ would have been just the ticket for me. I love the PC games, but the scale tends to overwhelm me after a while. There are a lot of good ideas in the Civilization Revolution, so hopefully its implementation issues will be fixed in Alpha Centauri Revolution.

  • Dave

    Hmmm. I’ve had the game since it came out, and have played all the previous games before. I like a lot– a lot– of what CivRev does. Other stuff, not so much.

    Now, this isn’t because CivRev is *different* than the other games. I understand what Meier was going for, and I agree with it– a streamlined, console-only version intended primarily for multiplayer. I don’t get the griping that this isn’t somehow “Civ5”– of course it’s not. That’s like complaining a bicycle isn’t a motorcycle, even though they both have two wheels– different intentions, different audiences. That said, juding CivRev by its *own* standards, there are some iffy things here and there.

    “Diplomacy is reduced to irrelevance”– correct. This is fine against the A.I.– the A.I. *is* brutally, comically, sometimes suicidally antagonistic. The moment you show weakness, they will attack. The moment you show strength, they will attack. No treaties here! This upsets the leisurely “turtling” Civ players an awful lot (I consider myself in that crowd– I’m a builder, not a fighter ;-). But given the limitations of A.I. strategy in general, and the short time-frame of this game, the “killer A.I.” makes a lot of sense– it’s really the only way to challenge a human player. And it *is* challenging– at least on the Emperor and Deity levels, which I find to be pretty tough.

    Where diplomacy is broken, alas, is in MP– I’d prefer to have a bunch of shorthand selectable options (treaties, suggest attacking other players, permission to move through borders) that can be quickly chosen. Instead, MP on the Xbox 360 requires you to do private chat to communicate these options, which can be clumsy. Worst of all, in an MP game with short-turns, diplomatic options take *forever* to load, not just bogging down the game, but wasting invaluable time in your turn.
    “terrain and resources are almost an afterthought”– actually, I’d argue the exact opposite. Given the small map (at most you’ll build 4-5 of your own cities) and high speed, correct city placement is *critical* in this game. In the short- to mid-game, the resources that you can exploit best in the early game (stuff like wheat, dye, and oak) pay great dividends. Placing cities at “choke points” help keep enemy settlers from plopping cities in bad spots near you. Building cities on hills give them useful defensive/offensive bonuses– just as building *next* to hills gives enemy units great benefits in attacking you.
    “for a turn-based strategy game, it has a crazy amount of haste.” In multiplayer, unfortunately yes. The trouble with the MP design is that the early game only requires short turns– 30 seconds a pop is plenty of time. But as the game gets larger in the later years, you need 60 seconds, or more, to manage everything you need to do in a turn (especially given that all the eye-candy slows things down, not to mention the dreaded “Crap, why does the other player want to talk to me now, I’m not trading my tech!).
    Anyway, the key difference between CivRev and the other Civ games is that CivRev actually *isn’t* much of a sandbox game– there are a lot of puzzle options in there in the early game. Making a bad choice early on, losing a key battle, losing a settler or a city– the smallest thing can ruin the endgame for your civilization. That’s annoying, I guess, but with the short games you don’t spend a long time figuring out that you have no chance of winning (although this *is* frustrating in MP– only a couple of times in MP have I been so competitive at the end that I felt like staying in the game. Since the object is definitely to “win”, once you get the game to a certain point you quickly realize whether you have a chance or not).
    There’s still variety, of course– each civ lends itself (natch, *requires*) different strategies to win. And there are many ways of winning– in order, IMHO the tech victory (i.e. space ship) is probably the toughest, then conquest, then cultural, and then economic. But what I find impressive is that once you start hitting the 19th and 20th Centuries, you can tell you’re in a cuthroat competition for victory, and there *will* be a winner (I have yet to play a game, SP or MP, that didn’t have a clearcut winner by 2100, the endpoint of the game).
    Now, do I want a sandbox Civ game? Yes, I do– and Civ4 is that game. CivRev is a console game, using the same concepts, but executing them in a way that makes it a very different game than what came before. I don’t like how they did everything– in fact, I’d go so far as suggesting that I think the game *isn’t* that great at what it does, and could be a lot better. But there’s no room to complain that CivRev isn’t what it sets out to be.

  • Dave

    Oops, sorry, I cut and pasted my post and lost the paragraph returns. Don’t shoot me!

  • Troy

    “But there’s no room to complain that CivRev isn’t what it sets out to be.”

    Exactly. This is a tight design that has a clear goal and it meets that goal. It is a faster, leaner Civ game but not a sandbox or open strategic environment like Civ 4. It’s sort of telling that I’ve played Supreme Commander matches on my 360 that lasted longer than my CivRev matches.

    I get your point about terrain, and I may agree with you once I get more games under my belt. At this point, the resources are like the bonus tiles in traditional Civ – nice to have, but you don’t necessarily plan around them like you do resources in the last two Civs. Which is a defensible design decision.

    I haven’t played MP yet. Maybe next week.

  • Dave

    Yeah, resources aren’t as important as they were before, but the bonuses help when you have so few cities. What’s more important is getting the right variety of tiles down– when you only have on average four cities you build on your own, you have to figure out what you wish to emphasize– you’re probably compelled to have your capital be a “balanced” city with strong production, food and trade, but the following cities really must be specialized in order for you to succeed. Alas, specialization is tough when you have to deal with opposition– like all Civ games, CivRev forces you to weigh whether it’s worth more for you to finish that market/barracks/temple first *or* switch to building units. With the A.I. so aggressive, you have to build units, you have no choice, so even with the options so limited, you’re juggling quite a bit.

    Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way (trust me, I’m not an expert at this game by ANY stretch– just been playing pretty regularly since release):

    1. Knocking off Barbarians quickly is crucial. The money you get from doing so (or the caravans that you get that can bring you money) get you quickly to the magic number of 100 coins– you get a free settler at that point. In fact, I rarely play a game any longer where I build any settlers before the free settler– I pretty much always wait until I can select a Republic for government to get the “one food” settler. Doing it any other way makes things tough to win.

    Also, remember that veteran units (or elite units with their bonuses) pass on those bonuses to armies. So if you use one warrior to strike out at barbarian camps and that warrior becomes a veteran, using that warrior in an army will make that army better from the start.

    2. If you can do an early rush to take an enemy palace, do it. If you can’t do it, don’t. Meaning, if you are playing a civ with military advantages in the early game (Aztecs, Germans, Mongols, Zulu), your best bet for victory is to take out at least one enemy capital. Actually, it’s *at most*– doing a massive campaign early on is tough, as getting tech is so quick and easy– that warrior army is going to be obsolete real quick without tech to balance it out.

    The good news with this strategy is that you not only take out a nearby opponent, you gain their best city. The bad news is, if you don’t do this quickly, you won’t be able to do it for a while. Archer armies are very strong defenders in the game, and cities and palaces get defensive bonuses. This makes mathematics a must-have for the early/mid game, as catapult armies are really the only effective offensive units you have (cannons/artillery ditto later on).

    3. Use your great people well. Save that great builder for a major, game-lasting wonder. I tend to gravitate towards the cultural/economic wonders because they match my turtling strategy, but more importantly, they last far longer than most other wonders. In the early game, it’s better to use humanitarians to boost population growth and scientists to increase science– in the later game, once you have more cities, I find it better to add 1 pop to every city, or use the scientists to insta-research. The great explorers should never be used to get the dinky cash bonus– by doubling your gold, they pay off in a couple of turns.

    4. The artifacts can be useful, although with caveats. The School of Confucious gives you great people, always a boon. The Ark of the Covenant instantly gives you temples, or upgrades you existing temples to cathedrals– it’s best found after you’ve got a few cities under your belt (the worst is finding it quickly when you only have on city, and all you get is one frickin’ temple for it). Atlantis gives you three techs, very useful, but be aware– it’s always in the open ocean (makes navigation helpful, and gives a bit of a leg up if you play the Spanish), and it’ll give you the three *easiest* techs you have remaining (so it could only save you as few as three turns).

    5. The endgame. You have to have a strategy in mind for how you want to win. By this time, unlike the early game, each individual turn becomes less important tactically– you have more margin for error. Trouble is, you have to still always balance what you’re doing with what you want to achieve. Pursuing an economic victory? Don’t bleed off lots of cash and remember to build economic improvements. Pursuing a tech victory? Don’t waste time building lots of temples and markets.

    Alas, you have to balance, and some things in CivRev are far more important than others. Again, the archer army/catapult army tandem is critical in the early game, either for defense or offense. If you’re not pursuing a cultural victory, walls are vital in order to protect your cities from flipping to superior cultures. If you’re pursuing tech or economic victories, remember that the A.I. loves to blockade sea zones. If pursuing a domination victory, be ruthless in taking down palaces– you need three to win, but the rest of the enemy’s civilization can survive (i.e. you don’t need to take every city).

    If you plan on surviving past 2000, you need to build the Manhattan Project, period. The nuke isn’t very helpful to you– you only get one, so it’s really only useful to take out that last enemy palace, or prevent an enemy from winning a tech victory. But you MUST deny your A.I. opponents that nuke, for they will use it on you, on your best city, at the worst time. And you can’t afford to lose cities in the endgame.

    Anyway. . . sorry for the rambling “strategy guide” posting, but as discussed, it’s important to understand CivRev as a game with the best moves vs. a sandbox, try a hundred different strategies and see what works best kind of game. Each victory requires a certain kind of strategy, and each civ is really unique in their strengths and weaknesses (i.e. some civs do tech great but are impossibly hard to win at domination; vice versa civs that can make lots of money but can’t ever get ahead in culture).

    Have fun!

  • jason

    FYI Jason, the DS version is identical in almost every way to the 360 version. It uses the same game core, so it has the same gameplay, text, AI, everything. The only difference are the graphics (obviously), but also minor features like the trophy room. Oh, and there’s no civilopedia (no space on the cart!).

  • ascagnel

    First time poster on here, found it via Rock Paper Shotgun.

    CivRev is a fun game, at least for the DS version. My only dismay is that in making the game simpler they made it somewhat more complex. My typical early game is dominated by exploration, and then a little later in city improvement and connection once a second city is built. CivRev DS takes away the Auto-* options, so all exploration, improvement, and road building must occur manually.

    Also, by pouring money into tech and booming through the early game you can typically do pretty well with the bonuses provided when researching something first. When you zoom ahead into the later stages, a few tanks will take the fight out of the larger, weaker armies of the AI civs. The nuke bonus from researching the Manhattan Project first will make the AI civs fear you. This probably won’t work in online play against skilled players.

    Finally, I liked the inclusion of the friendly villiage “mini-missions.” Instead of an insta-bonus, you get a small bonus, with the promise of a larger bonus if you want to wade into barbarian relations.

    CivRev DS is nice for my ~1 hour bus commutes, and is far better than lugging my MacBook with me and having Civ 4 (the only Intel Mac-compatible Civ) suck the battery dry because of its eye candy. It just seems too easy to “game” the game when dealing with the AI.