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Civilization 5, AI and Scoring Games

September 22nd, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 50 Comments · Firaxis, Gameshark, Review

In case you missed it, my Civ 5 review is now up at Gameshark.

Some very intelligent readers and friends are taking the “not an A” score as an indictment of the game. Considering that all of the early reviews were total and complete raves (early rave reviews for a major franchise! shocking!), this is understandable. Readers and colleagues I trust really, really love Civilization 5.

And you know what? So do I. I really love the design. I really love the look. I really, really, really, really love the UI. But none of these can overcome the fact that the AI cannot be courted as an ally, and that’s a step back to Civ 1 idiocy I can’t handle. Or that the AI cannot manage a budget. Or build an army worth a damn. Or use the game’s clever naval adjustment to be a threat. (Remember when Mansa Musa would cross the ocean with galleons of rifles and cannons and force you to build a navy? Unnecessary here. Sweep the seas of invaders with a single frigate.)

But Civilization 5 is a triumph in some very important ways. First, the things I did not expect to like all that much prove to be genius. Science and gold are not entirely decoupled – if you run a deficit, your research will eventually suffer – but buildings have specific purposes. I did not mention in the review that some buildings can only exist in certain locations. Monasteries need incense or wine in the area. Observatories need mountains. Mints need precious metals. These not only lead to city specialization, they make it easy to integrate terrain and geography into your city planning more than just looking for a hilltop. Libraries don’t give culture, just science, so you can’t use them to push your borders out quickly. That’s what temples are for, and they don’t add happiness.

And, surprisingly, I do not miss religion. I thought I would. And the new social policy system is growing on me. The question of when to open another tree instead of taking another immediately available perk is a big one in every game. I think that if you want a culture victory, you need to decide on that very early. There are fewer super culture buildings like in Civ 4 (no cathedrals or Rock/Broadway/Hollywood wonders) so you need to farm the culture city states to make it work. I am always just a few policies short of a Utopia Project win when the clock runs out.

The military system works really well. An early mod removes the single unit per hex limit, which strikes me as madness since you can’t build huge armies anyway without going broke. You might as well cut maintenance costs or reduce their hammer cost. I can see Civ as a wargame; as a diplomatic game it fails utterly but as a world conquest game it is excellent so long as you know that victory is probably inevitable – and some people like that.

I say many of these things in my review and I end on a very positive note. But because the expectations for Civ are always sky high, anything less than an editor’s choice seems like an insult when it is not meant as such. Now, if this was back at Crispy Gamer, Civ would get a Buy It from me. This is a game you need to own; I think Civilization 4 was more complete on release but I am not going back.

Next week’s podcast will be entirely about Civilization. My colleagues have had very stark and strong reactions to many of the systems in the game. We could have done it this week, but our special guest is just getting to it now and I want his opinions there.


50 Comments so far ↓

  • Thomas Kiley

    I have only played the demo (UK based :/) but my impressions were mixed. I admittedly was playing on a too-low difficulty (I wanted to explore the game, not fight it) but the AI was worryingly willing to surrender the second I made an aggressive move.

    Also, despite everyone saying the UI is some huge triumph, I don’t think the icons are as clear as they are in Civ 4. It also isn’t as clear how some of the systems work (unit maintenance, unhappiness generated from cities).

    None the less, there was a lot I loved. I love the new combat system, the change of pace I am not sure yet but I think it could work. Resources are more interesting, global happiness is definitely better and, of course, as everyone said, the core of Civ is still there, it is still unbelievably addictive.

  • Jorune

    The line that got me, is where you say you are not going back. Why not? What DOES Civ 5 have that you feel it trumps Civ 4, even when you say Civ 4 was more ‘complete’? I honestly do not need another Civ for the sake of it, but would be interested in a ‘better’ Civ. But looking around, I see mixed opinions on the game.

    Rock, Paper, Shotgun felt it was a solid title, but ended with; “Yeah, this’ll ultimately be remembered as one of the filler tracks on Civ’s best-of LP, one of the ones you never quite felt had real heart, real soul – but it’s a tune I’m more than happy to hum.”

    PC Gamer said it was as good, but not better than Civ 4 (don’t have the mag with me to quote).

    Civ 3 was filler for me and turned me off the franchise for awhile. I didn’t get Civ 4 until late in the game.


  • Troy

    I am not going back because progress, etc. The interface is much better, I like the military game more, there isn’t the rush to rifles you get in Civ 4 because the game treats earlier periods with respect, etc. All of these are big pluses for me.

    What I miss? Mods (soon to come in a flood, I assume), transparency of the diplomatic system, multiple leaders per Civ with clear personalities and a smart military opponent.

    In general Civ 5 is doing it for me. If it doesn’t get patched up in two months or so, we’ll see. But for now, Civ 4 is the past – for all of its genius and standing still as the best designed strategy game in history.

  • frags

    I really like the combat system. The added tactical variety to combat is great. I’m only playing the demo but the little problems I found:

    1) No way to figure out leader disposition towards player. It doesn’t tell you exactly what he thinks of you or anyone else.

    2) Minor but fortify hidden in unit UI.

    3) City states were annoying with their constant whining.

    4) I worry that the one unit no stacking rule will add more micro management to late game. I can get used to that, but I miss the fact I cant group armies up and say march to one location.

    5) Pathfinding. Units when given waypoints that take more than one turn to get too, often go through enemy/other faction territory even without open borders.(happens with city states a lot and since there are many of them, happens too often).

    6) The hex movement feels a bit weird coming from civ 4. Taking a while to get used to it.

    I’m addicted to it.

  • Jorune

    On another note, I just noticed that Julian is one of those Colleagues and Friends you mentioned down on your score. Noting the trend among reviewers that seem to ALL agree that the Diplomacy system is too bare bones and the AI has big issues with the combat system, I’m puzzled why Julian would question your score. It seems spot on. At this point, anyone giving it a higher review, in my mind, is now grading it based on expectations that these things will be remedied down the line in a patch/expansion.

    And if that’s the case, we should all be giving Elemental an A+. Diplomacy is a huge aspect of the Civ series, it should have been fleshed out further, not dampened. Than they add a unique-for-the-series combat system that the AI reportedly can’t handle. These two issues alone lead me to believe they designed the game knowing the AI would be lackluster.

    I also so no reason why you shouldn’t score it based on ‘expectations’ when coming off of Civ 4. Should it be reviewed against it’s predecessor? Yes. A BIG YES. If I’m being asked to trade up, I want to know it will replace what I have.


  • Thomas Kiley

    Re: point 2 – there is the “Alert” button which serves the same purpose except the unit wakes up when a enemy unit is near (though I am with you, would have preferred standard fortify exposed and that one hidden)

    Re: point 4 – I don’t think so as the unit maintenance cost looks pretty imposing (particularly if late game units are more) which will keep your armies small. Plus, with limited use resources, you are never going to have enough oil to field a big army.

  • Jimmy Brown

    Respectable Ancient and Medieval periods sound very appealing, but I’m not sure I could enjoy the game very much in the long run with bad diplomacy and poor strategic AI. I suppose I can pick this up down the road a bit when more of the problems have been sorted out.

  • Jimmy Brown

    I didn’t realize this site used Gravatars. That was a surprise.

  • Josemas

    I thought your review was great, and these clarifications are helpful. I am about 3 hours into my first Civ 5 game, and so far I agree with the positive points, but if the AI and diplomacy issues remain as you described, (and don’t get fixed) I do actually feel inclined to go back to Civ 4, as those issues are so important to me. But maybe I am just too old. (Also, my computer is old, basically at the min specs for this game, and I am fearful that the turns will take too long as I get deeper into the game or on bigger maps..but so far this has not been a problem.

  • MikeO

    It’s such a different game from Civ4. I have played six hours, and haven’t really read the manual enough, but the changes are such that I don’t really know what I’m doing yet. I am glad Religion is out, a little sad that Great People seem gutted, and I’m unsure about Diplomacy.

    One trivial aesthetics note: I really love the art they used when a Wonder is completed. If they weren’t going with the video clips, this was a nice change of direction.

  • Ginger Yellow

    Surely nobody actually clicks on Fortify in the UI. Just press ‘f’. I’m not even much of a hotkey person in RTSes (to my detriment), but the thought of using the mouse for that sort of thing in a Civ game strikes me as really weird.

  • Jorune

    Well Troy, you’re off the hook. Tom just gave it a C over at 1UP. :-)


  • Troy

    I agree with most of Tom’s comments (not all of them, for sure) but I think the real disagreement between us is how we weight them. I give more credit for the core design ideas which are solid and he gives more demerits for the weak AI.

    And the Chick Parabola is now a thing, I guess. BORN HERE.

  • Otagan

    Every time the Chick Parabola is mentioned in a review or blog, its presence online grows exponentially. I searched it once after listening to that episode of TMA and got about four results, some of which were from the Total War boards in reference to Empire. Rob mentioned it on his blog at one point, which added more, and it continued to spread on Creative Assembly’s forums. Now this Civ V review has been quoted far and wide even over the last few hours and there are over a hundred results at present.

  • Andrew Doull

    Troy: I’d be interested in hearing more about whether the differences between Civ IV and Civ V have made you re-evaluate the older game? I’m guessing not based on your ‘Civ IV is the best strategy game ever’ comment, but your blithe ‘won’t be playing the old one anymore’ sounds like there’s more grist for the mill there.

    Also, I’d like to stand up and applaud Firaxis’ bravery in willing to risk poor reviews by recasting the Civilization series in such a different way. I guess this proves the decision to experiment with the franchise with Civ Revolution was the right one. It is a shame I won’t be playing the new release for some time because of ridiculous Australian pricing (USD $76 equivalent on Steam), and the fact there isn’t an iPhone version (seriously).

  • Andrew Doull

    Also: Poor diplomacy and AI are both areas easily addressed by going multiplayer. Does this mean there’ll be more of a competitive multiplayer focus in the Civ V community than Civ IV?

  • Jorune

    @ andrew doull

    Always miffed when I here the ‘MP easily address’ poor AI’ spiel, but I know you don’t mean that as an excuse for crap AI.

    But more of a competitive MP crowd? Nay is my vote. Stardock was shocked to discover that a MAJORITY of people playing Demigod were playing it in single player mode, even though the game was built from the ground up as a Multiplayer game. The AI is horrible.

    On the PC, most people still games in single-player mode. There are just too many a–holes in the MP crowd.


  • Jorune

    PS. Excuse me Andrew, but it now occurs to me you may have been seeking Troy’s opinion in the matter, I must learn not to be so vocal/opinionated on someone else’s blog. I don’t even know what blog etiquette is nowadays.


  • Krupo

    I remember playing SMAC in PBEM… 7 players, 300 turns or whatever? Yeah, it took a couple of years but we finished a few games. Good times.

    Unless a generous anyone gifts me Civ 5 – that’s how I got Civ 4 oddly enough – I’m going to try and hold out as long as I can for the inevitable “Complete” pack at a discount. Or unless this multiplayer thing becomes… a thing.

  • Ginger Yellow

    “Every time the Chick Parabola is mentioned in a review or blog, its presence online grows exponentially”

    So what you’re saying is that if you were to graph its online presence, it would form a parabola?

  • Mind Elemental

    Wow, I think I’m very happy to hold off Civ 5 for a while after reading Tom’s review. This is the bright side of the outrageous Australian prices: they force me to look before I leap.

    Also, does anyone have a citation to the precise episode number in which the Chick Parabola first appears? It IS a great concept – I just used it myself when thinking about why I’ve shelved Company of Heroes SP.

  • Sören Höglund

    I think The Chick Parabola first made an appearance in the Empire: Total War podcast, which was all the way back in episode 3. Either that or episode 2.

  • Tony M

    @Andrew Doull: Just mail order Civ from the UK. You can get Civ 5 for about $38 AUD from multiple sites (including postage). I haven’t bought a game in Australian retail for over a year. I’d prefer to support local, but how can I when local retail is double the price or more!

    And Steam charging $80 USD for Civ 5 in Australia is a joke.

  • karry

    “But for now, Civ 4 is the past – for all of its genius and standing still as the best designed strategy game in history.”

    1. Best designed strategy game in history is still SMAC.
    2. Firaxis went blind or something, with every subsequent game they take another step down from the high standards they, themselves, set up. Whats up with that ?
    3. Civ3 was not as good as SMAC, Civ4 was not as good as Civ3, and Civ5 is certainly not as good as Civ4, so why would i care about progress, UI or any other filler element you wish to name ?

    “Wow, I think I’m very happy to hold off Civ 5 for a while after reading Tom’s review.”

    Just remember that Tom is a reviewer with one of the worst tastes in games. Go and read his review on Deus Ex.

  • Oak


    I disagree with every other word out of Tom Chick’s mouth but his case against Civ 5 was lucid and well-argued. There are areas of this game that will need a serious overhaul before it can ever be called great.

  • Jorune

    >>I agree with most of Tom’s comments (not all of them, for sure) but I think the real disagreement between us is how we weight them. I give more credit for the core design ideas which are solid and he gives more demerits for the weak AI.<<<

    This is exactly why we need to get rid of review scores, because reviewers weigh things differently. I'm actually in Tom's camp when it comes to the AI being very important in a game. But either way, both reviews are needed simply because you guys/gals are hamstrung by word count. So while Troy spun a positive light on the game, I appreciate Tom's negative outlook.

    I too will wait to see how things go before making a purchase. Elemental already burned me in August, and I think at this point I would rather get R.U.S.E.


  • Skyrider68

    Karry, you may not care for TC’s “taste” in games, and each is entitled to his or her own opinion…..but, the major criticisms being leveled in his review did not seem to be matters of taste to me. An A.I. that can’t mount a decent fight in a game being touted for its improved combat element should be reviewed for what it is. That is not a matter of “taste”; that is calling a spade a spade….at least in my opinion.

  • Skyrider68

    Troy, although you may want to save the rest of your thoughts for the podcast on Civ5, there is one question you can answer for me that will help put your Civ 5 review in perspective for me: I don’t know if you wrote a formal review for Civ 4 at the time of its release, but in 2005, was that an “A” game for you? If not, what grade did (or would) you give that game?

  • Stormwaltz

    “Special guest?” It would be fascinating if that were Soren Johnson.

  • Troy

    I don’t remember reviewing Civ 4 at the time. But it would have been an A on the Gameshark scale. When it came out, it was to TBS was Rise of Nations was to RTS – I could not understand how anyone would top it.

    But as many risks as Firaxis took with that game, Civ 5 is an even more risky design. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  • JonathanStrange

    I thought your review was fair. Without a good, sturdy AI, I can’t see why Civ V would deserve much more – and I’m a big Civ V fan so far. The idea that multiplayer is virtually the panacea for a weak AI? That’s apparently going to be the default answer from now on. However, I’ve played Civ online: the game’s take too long (months!), they’re rarely finished, and they’re rarely convenient. I won’t go back to that even if I could get the band back together. Frankly, if someone made a challenging and interesting AI for the first Civ game, I’d play that and give up all the cool gimmickry of the latest game. Ah well, at least Civ V looks good.

  • Quentin

    I was upset at Tom’s review. I am not a raging fanboy, but a fanboy none the less. I felt Troy’s review was fair, and the grades don’t mean anything anyways. It was the viciousness of Tom’s review that turned me off. I was completely perplexed that he didn’t like it. The AI is bad, yes, but even Troy didn’t sound angry in his review. That is when I remembered Sister Miriam. It all makes sense:

  • ekon

    Well-argued and nuanced. I do sense a pretty serious score-language disconnect, however.

    Still, that´s a minor thing when it comes down to the substance. What is really encouraging is that most of the problems (I.e. AI) are failures of engineering, not failures of fundamental design. I do want more feedback and predictability in Diplomacy, however. Overall, I love most of the system changes.

    No more meaningless sliders – I.e. any setting other than 100% equals suboptimization, no more micromanaging corporations in the already cluttered late game etc., no meaningless Espionage system. The military / hex change is a huge leap forward for both war- and peacemongers alike.

    Religion was, although fun and cute, very limiting when it came to Diplomacy, and I always found myself just adopting whatever religion dominated my neighbourhood in order to get into the good graces of the world. Investing in religion spread never seemed to be a good use of resources when considering alternative uses.

    Thus, I think your review can serve as a blueprint for the further development of Civ V into what might very well become the Perfect Strategy Game (TM). I hope that the designers take (some) of your criticisms to heart (except the stuff about social policies – I like them, and they are not just another techtree, as they force choice, unlike tech).

    In short – Get Schaeffer on the podcast and talk it over.

    One more disagreement – moving to numbers instead of Icons for resources is a victory for readability. Although symbols are very nice and boardgamey in the early game, in the late game they were fairly useless.

    Get Jon to implement some better little audiovisual reward when you build stuff. “You have built a library!” (Happysound)

  • ekon

    “1. Best designed strategy game in history is still SMAC.”

    That would be an interesting debate – I personally never fell completely for it (that didn´t stop me from putting untold hours into it however).

    Although the lore and diplomacy was wonderful, the overall design felt rather clunky, even for its time, with some systems feeling rather non-elegant. Interface and graphics were also somewhat lacking, imho.

  • ekon

    “3. Civ4 was not as good as Civ3,”

    Sir, pistols at dawn!

    Civ 3 in many was abysmal compared to even Civ 2 and many mechanics were just plain broken when it shipped (hello corruption!). I never really managed to get into it.

    Civ 4 was a return to form, even though the multiplayer problems were terrible at launch. One of the most frustrating technical experiences ever, with perhaps a 20% success rate in starting new multiplayer games.

  • ekon

    I should add that my comment about a “score-language disconnect” is referring to the famous Chick review, not the Troy one (where score and language is rather well-aligned, imho).

  • Ruskov

    The game is disappointment.The race for rifles is still here,i still feel rushed to the Renaissance era ,but this is just minor problem.
    The big problem for me is that the new “one unit per tile” do not work with new cultural system!I feel cornered and i do not have space for real tactic ,even if the AI were good and did make some anti cavalry units.
    If you play on larger map then tiny ,then the commerce civic is must and annexing and making puppet states worthless.The “embark” thing that make infantry units to move in water instead of transports…….really?!?!This is dumb at least,hugely unrealistic and making naval combat useless.
    The resources like cattle,sheep,bananas and so are useless too ,in Civ 4 you feel the difference when you have some of them ,now i have 2 wheat tiles and one sheep tile and my city can’t go past level 2 for 40 turns….the resource himself did not give anything,like in Civ 4 +1 health ,why to make road to them then?To sunk some gold,a?
    There is so many more design(not technical)problems with the game,its total mess,the game does not upgrade anything from past civs.There is only substitutes not changes,and they are designed and implemented badly.
    More then i play Civ V ,more i want to install IV again and i will.
    *sry for my bad english

  • Jason Dobry


    Excellent review and a fine discussion. I thought Tom’s review brought up many fair points but I was mystified by his relatively low score. Bad AI certainly merits one a drop of one letter grade, especially since I’m disgusted by the notion that multiplayer somehow inherently fixes AI problems. Like I have 12 hours to sit in front of my computer. And if I did, I wouldn’t anyway–how many players just drop out of MP games because they’re losing? How many are jacktards?

    I’m currently loving Civ V even if I have mixed feelings about it. It’s like heroin–when I’m not playing, I’m thinking about it. When I’m playing, I don’t answer the phone and don’t eat. I wear a diaper. Ok, maybe not that last one, but only because I want to be a good example for my potty-training two-year old daughter.

    The game shows promise and I’m already enjoying it more than Civ IV. I appear to be in the minority about Civ IV. I hated religion because it made diplomacy predictable. The interface was cluttered. The game was bloated with complications like the civics tree. If you can’t already tell, I’m a huge fan of the new UI–the complications are still there if and when I want them, but they’re not in my face all the time. And I love the fact I need to choose a social policy and stick with it; it gives me hard decisions that I don’t need to constantly reevaluate.

    Thank you for a fine review, Tony!

  • Zer0s

    @ Ruskov

    You don’t have to put roads to improved resources anymore. Check that the population is working the tile though, because not going past 2 pop with those resources around sounds strange.

    “The big problem for me is that the new “one unit per tile” do not work with new cultural system!I feel cornered and i do not have space for real tactic”

    Muh? I feel that the entire game is designed to work with the one unit rule, hence why I think the stacking mod is preposterous unless it plans to redesign the whole game.

    Why wouldn’t you have space for real tactics (by which I hope you do not mean the stacks of doom)? My gripe with the combat is that promotions seem a bit watered down compared to the interesting ones from Civ4.

  • Ruskov

    Zer0s ,

    yea no need for roads i get that next game after posting this,but still i didn’t like the lowering yields.Why they are lowered?Because to control growth,because the health is cut.Why? I do not know.Was this a problem in past game,why did they completely remove this?And why do i not need to build roads,this was something interesting for me and was necessary tо move units fast,but now with the doubled speed of the units is not so important,only to connect cites with capitol for TR.
    But this is maybe only me,i do not have a problem with that if everything else was ok.But its not.
    About the OUPT ,its very frustrating to move units around ,on small map is even worse.I didn’t bother whit SoD and some staking in Civ is must.The settlers and workers must stack each other ,tray to rush for roads in mountain pass,or move units…its impossible.To manoeuvre with army inside your territory with more than 3 units is frustrating too.In modern era is better,because you spread more and range between cities and borders are wider.And for what real tactic we talking….this is Civ 4 with no stacking only and some units has range(nothing new in Civ III naval and siege units can bonbard).Nothing else!!Is one unit an army or division,coz i can wipe out the AI with 9 longbowmans befor end of the turn,but if AI have them i can again win easy with some cavalry.I cant protect the range units effectively ,i liked to move some archers with spearmans,swordsmans with siege units,and cavalry.SoD was not a big deal at all in Civ games,he was the core of game and didn’t bother me and mostly of the players.If it was a big problem ,then why is in every game form 1 to 4??Because the one unit is one division and when you stack 10 units is an army,and all this in one tile.Now you must spread your divisions in to 10 tiles and this is not possible ,coz the culture is not spreading like before!If was like Civ 3 with armies of 3 units would it be better,but its not, is one unit per tile….not working for me.No support fire from range units…nothing new at all,same units(or even less) with same attribute-strength.

  • Zer0s

    “The settlers and workers must stack each other ”

    The question is why do they *must*? I would expect an answer that doesn’t depend on why the other civ games have traditionally allowed it. I don’t see why they must.

    “To manoeuvre with army inside your territory with more than 3 units is frustrating too”

    “Now you must spread your divisions in to 10 tiles and this is not possible ,coz the culture is not spreading like before!”

    Why do you need to maneouver your miliary inside your territory? As far as I get it, you pay for unit maintenance no matter where they are, inside or outside your cultural borders. So no need to stick them inside, if that was the reason. If not, why?

    Also, about roads, that’s precisely what the new design wants: it makes them valuable instead of letting us paint the landscape with them (which also economizes worker time). By the time of railroads they are terribly important too, with the 50% production bonus. That’s also complemented by not needing the roads everywhere to maneouver units due to 2 movement points.

    Finally, note that distance-based maintenance costs are gone (for cities) as far as I can tell. That’s another thing to take into account if I am right, for these discussed things.

  • Ruskov


    “The question is why do they *must*?”

    Why not?!What is the point workers and settlers to not stack?Is logistic hell and its not interesting and user friendly at all.This is for sure sloppy work from Firaxis.

    “Why do you need to maneouver your miliary inside your territory?”
    Again,why not?!! And if u move them outside your territory the AI feels threatened and come to u to whine.

    “Also, about roads, that’s precisely what the new design wants”
    What new design?There is cuts,cuts,cuts….simple,simple,simple.

    “Finally, note that distance-based maintenance costs are gone (for cities) as far as I can tell. That’s another thing to take into account if I am right, for these discussed things.”
    Yes,and now if u need money-build city.Great concept.

    Why they cut so many things that worked?Was the design so bad that needed to be changed?Changed….no its not changed its completely removed.The SP are just some bonuses from wonders and civics-nothing new here,just more cuts.
    If they wanted to make completely different game,ok-make it ,but call it Call to Power,or AC not Civ V. This game is MoO 3 for sure,and the people will start to see that nothing is working in this game.No patches or exp will save it.
    And i’m not talking about AI ,that is sooo bad in all aspects.

  • Brian

    Jorune: “At this point, anyone giving it a higher review, in my mind, is now grading it based on expectations that these things will be remedied down the line in a patch/expansion. ”

    Or perhaps they feel that those flaws (diplomacy and AI) aren’t as significant as Troy and Tom think they are. The Civ AI has *never* been good out of the box (no idea how mods may have affected this) and the higher difficulty levels have always involved crippling the player and giving the AI advantages. Civ became popular in spite of these flaws. Perhaps it is even worse this time around, but I’ve heard just as many stories of people reloading games after getting crushed in an invasion which they never saw coming as I have of terrible army management. Crushing a player in battle is usually a sign that the AI is doing something right.

    As for Diplomacy, I always saw the AI as a resource to farm through Diplomacy in previous Civs. Early wars with nearby Civs turn them into your vassal and then you allow them to live in diminished state for the rest of the game providing you with free tech and gold. That’s not much of a legacy to live up to either.

    Troy and Tom are certainly justified in demanding more of the Civ franchise but lets not fool ourselves into thinking that these flaws are unique to the latest iteration.

  • Jason Dobry


    I must respectfully disagree with you. MOO3 was an unparalleled disaster, a feature-bloated hogbeast with a miserable interface and needless complications. Civ V is slick, easy to use, and streamlines the annoying bits of micromanagement.

    Why, exactly, is it a “great concept” (sarcasm) to require money to build a city? You need cash to expand. Simple. Makes sense to me.

    I haven’t experienced frustration or trouble moving my non-stackable units through my territory, but I don’t play on small maps. I suppose it could theoretically be a problem with small empires or bottlenecks, but I have yet to see it.

    It just sounds like Civ V doesn’t suit your preferred style of play–and that’s fine, but calling it “MOO 3” and “sloppy work” just because you don’t care for some of its design choices is a little ridiculous.

    That said, everyone agrees the AI sucks. They’ll fix it eventually, though it will take an expansion or two and a few patches.

  • Thomas Kiley

    @Jason Dobry
    While I agree with your sentiments and personally have had no problems with maneuvering etc. I am not so sure about AI patching. Sure, the more “bug” flaws like its inability to asses which unit to strike with its city will be fixed, the more fundamental problems like it being unable to use the diplomacy properly for anything other than declaring war would require the kind of work that I don’t think they will ever be able to justify without charing for.

    I am sure it will get better, but I don’t think the fundamental flaws will ever get truly resolved.

  • edosan

    @Andrew Doull: I don’t like the “don’t like the AI? Just play multi!” argument. There are a lot of people that just don’t want to play multi, either because they can’t fit it in their schedule or don’t want to play with random Internet people. I really wish a decent AI wasn’t such an afterthought nowadays.

    @karry: Civ 3 better than Civ 4? Really? I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of allies on that one.

    Anyway, Troy, I liked your review even though it wasn’t as glowing as it was “supposed” to be. Likewise with Tom’s. I get suspicious of Editor’s Choice labels being thrown arbitrarily — I’m sure everyone can remember Black and White and the hasty reviews that had.

    As far as Civ V, my main thing is that it’s got me re-addicted to Civ IV. I haven’t played in a while so I’m re-learning. I’ll probably keep playing IV until the inevitable Civ V Complete comes out with all the fixes (after all, what Civ expansion hasn’t has the phrase “improved diplomacy” written on the box?).

  • meanie

    – decent review and comments.

    – after playing one game .. it hasn’t gripped me like Civ IV or Civ I did.

    – the game is pretty (except for the mini map .. looks like something from a online flash game)

    – the diplomacy moments look great, but they seem rather pointless. as someone mentioned, its like the diplomacy from Civs I.

    – the mini foreign Cities didn’t make much sense, i’m the greater power, shouldn’t they be (also) trying to please me rather than me constantly pandering to their desires, only to have that diplomacy wittle away.

    – cities seemed undefined in their limits, as far as resources. unlike previous Civs, where you would mesh your cities based on initial plotting. (not sure how big a city can get and how much land it can have access to)

    – combat seemed a step backwards. it doesn’t bother me, they style. but it was all too easy to eliminate cities and enemy units with ranged attacks.

    – the great people your civilization produces have been toned down. (military generals i wasn’t too sure what to do with them; build a fort or start a golden age; that degrades each time .. or take them then into battle and have them stand next to your units while they fight for a minor bonus)

    – my comment on the game is on the things i didn’t like and making it obsolete considering i have only really played once. but as i said initially, it hasn’t grabbed me by the balls like Civ IV or Civ I did and make me an instant addict .. which was the expectation.

  • Artyom

    I read that Civilization 4 was bugged out and was not good upon release. I honestly don’t know from personal experience because Civ III was my last Civ game. Compare to other developer’s games like Empire:Total War. It too was horrible upon release. Bugs made the game at launch absolutely unplayable. Then their campaign AI was bland and didn’t invade or do anything of a challenge. They slowly patched it up. I have NO doubt that Civilization V will be patched and tuned. They’ll make diplomacy better and hopefully make those who enjoy taking peaceful routes, have better gaming experiences. I don’t know if they can fix the difficulty settings by giving AI production bonuses… I think that is coded deeply into the single player game. Give the game a year, I am sure it will be the next beloved Civilization game as community feedback and patches continue.

  • Genhgis

    I’ve been playing for a few weeks. I played IV alot. I hate the crashes. Yes, the AI seems pretty sappy.

    I play best as a mongol warmonger, and I have to say that despite the fact V is clearly a step backwards in completness and robustness, that I am having a blast with a number of hugely important, but simple (it would seem) changes to the game… some of them I modded IV myself to create! The first important change is the distance horses in general can travel. Out-of-the-box in IV they moved 2 spaces while a foot soldier moved one. I found this made early warfare skewed to favor footmen, when in reality horsemen can cross great distances many times faster than a foot army, not just 2x. Now all horses move 4, and all Mongol horses get +1 movement, for a total of 5. Now, finally, I don’t have to mod the game to play some serious early game horse warfare on huge maps where walking to each other is impractical. Additionally, the new ranged fire Keshiks are exacly what I was missing even in my modded IV. In IV, Keshiks where merely regular horseman with +1 movement. Finally, throw in the Mongol unique great general, the Khan.

    Now, in the late medieval I can play like the Mongols of the history books. With only a few foot units back at home to guard my culturally underdeveloped cities, I have 2 main armies consisting entirely of Keshiks and Horseman and a few great generals with each army. When invading, I do exacly like the real mongols did; I use my movement advantage to basically surround your entire civilization, scouting the location of every military unit, every strategtic resource and every farm, while the “main” army assembles just out of sight. The attack begins by first entering through the back door, with individual horseman entering a city radius, pillaging a resource, scouting while in there, and leaving all in the same turn (5 movement: 2 in, sack, 2 out). They usually end thier turns out of the radius of the cities attack zone. They always travel in groups, with a medic and usually a great general too for super-fast healing of wounded units that take city fire. All of this destruction, by neccesity, draws the enmies army toward the cities where the all the ransacking is occuring. Of course, as soon as this happens, the main army walks in from the other direction.

    4 Keshiks and a single horseman backed by a great general can pretty much take out any medieval city in 1 turn, without taking any injury at all, save the horseman’s final charge on the almost dead city defense to capture it. If defensive untis are deployed in the city radius, the entire main army will end its turn about 5 squares from the city, out of range of everything. Upon each turn, each Keshik in turn will take 2 steps forward, fire, and retreat. They often move in a tight circle, all of them firing from a single hex/tile and then retreat so that the next guy can can step into the same tile, etc. Repeat until there are no defenders outside of the city, then proceed to take it in a single turn. If the defenders come out to try and attack, they can’t get there in 1 turn. On my next turn, I’ll fire, and then reteat another few tiles if forward defenders remain at the end of the turn. I rarely get hurt and I must kill 10 or more units for every one of mine that go down. When one of my units die, it was usually a preventable mistake where I wasn’t thinking enough and didn’t allow a horseman enough moves to get out of harm’s way before the end of turn. I play on Epic game speed, so patience is a virtue (prince level so far, gonna turn it up again next game). I am getting better and will choose to take 1 or 2 turns longer to capture a city instead of risking a possible loss. When the war is so far from home, it takes a really long time to replace lost units. Plus, the longer each guy lives, he gets more and more upgrades make each of them all the more valuable.

    I raze all, except Capitals which it forces me to keep, else I’d raze them too. Before or after razing, every single upgrade is pillaged. Gold piles up rapidly even with a neglected domestic ecomony, and I can quickly buy more Horseman/Keshiks to join the gang.

    All in all, this is the closest I’ve seen in a game to being able to reflect mongolian battle tatics.

    Now, with this new mongolian machine, none of the AIs seem to be able to do a thing about it. Thier best move is to realize I will flood the map with horseman from 2000 BC onward can take thier cities at will once my Keshiks appear circa 1000AD. They should come straight after my homeland and take out my horse farms, of which I will have many as I build cities near every horse I find near me. Otherise, the AIs should note that I am mongol, and supect this strategy from the onset and streamline everything they do towards fortifications and lots and lots and lots of pikeman before building libraries, as dead civilians can’t read anyway. It is also comical to note the the AI player “Ghengis Khan” has no idea how to do what I do with the mongol machine. I tried playing against him, and sent a bunch of pikes to mongolia, causing him to quickly submit and beg for peace, lol. By 500BC, he still had not attacked me with a horse.

    All that seems missing from playing the “mongol terror” would be to raze a city, and cruelly slaughter most of the inhabitants, send the survivors fleeing to tell the horrific tales (with some horrible relations cost with all other leaders). Perhaps then cities and entire AI civilizations would submit, without a fight, out of fear. I should also get some kind of horse archer in the BC era, and the later Keshik should be able to both range and melee (like a real Keshik could). Finally, I should be able to have settlers make camps instead of cities, like the Civ4 mod, where the camps can up and move, essentially making mobile cities. You should be able to then harvest a resource by stationing a worker there, as opposed to building an upgrade. Then, the whole camp and all the workers could move across the map, like a horde, to a new location. If they do this, they will have nailed the medieval experience of asia to a tee.

  • biotribe

    The game has some annoying bugs that really hurt it. Its painfull because there are so many great things about the game. It always kills me when little annoying things get in the way of that. Especially when many of them are every turn. I never understood how games get released with these issue present. Do the developers not play the games before they release them?
    1. Sometimes after clicking on a unit then a spot to move it to it will revert back to selecting the previous unit and move that one instead. Like some kind of lag spike, odd thing is it happens in sigle player also. Maybe I am just used to RTS games and this game was built for people with slower input.
    2. Overall the UI is Slooooow. I have a fast process and the latest graphics card, the game is loaded on a solid state drive. I have played it on 3 different computers. Animations, and notifications cause a delay where you have to stop your input or it wont register it. Its just really not as clean as it should be in my opinion. I realize this isn’t a RTS or MMORPG where UI has to be quick and responsive, but I mean this is the 5th installment and I am so used to immediate pop/flash feedback with other games and a very quick input/feedback response from the game is really kind of expected now days. Sitting and waiting fore each half second or more delay between actions is just not acceptable in these games anymore.
    3. The line of sight is buggy. Sometimes you can be standing right next to something and its not visible.
    4. Some tiles are bugged where you should be able to move around or develop them but you cant. I realize these are random drawn maps but its really annoying if you happen to start the game next to one of these anomolous features.
    5. Unit upgrading is tedious and pointless. Rarely is there an opportunity with the moves available to actually make sure your unit is in the proper terain. Its always bee line it to the conflict and fight in whatever terrain you can or you will get wasted bad. Many times it takes 2-3 clicks to navigate a unit upgrade as well. It should be 1 click on the upgrade done!
    6. In multiplayer games there is no clear notification when someone drops and an AI takes over. Especially when you are half way through a long game and your focus is on the game. Ive had games where everyone but one dropped and I was unsure who was AI and who were the palyers. Then I had to ask in Chat and no response. Finally the last person responded and we were fighting 5 AI players and it was dumb so he abandoned and there was no notification. The only indication I had was the turns were processing much faster.
    7. The diplomacy in Multiplayer should be more like a single player with all the options available and the ability to work together to defeat a better positioned and/or more skilled player. Thats makes for a more interesting challenge for them and more fun for those that are behind. There is just not as much options for diplomacy and the teaming up then backstabbing that you might get even in single player campaigns.
    8. I have so many more things that I could comment on but I find myself exhausted and frustrated just thinking about them so I will leave it at theat for now.