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Big Time Patch Week

December 20th, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 3 Comments · Firaxis, Patches, PCGamer, Stardock

Last week saw the unveiling of two huge patches for two huge turn based strategy games – in fact the two most disappointing games of the year in the eye of departing Fidgit blogger Tom Chick.

I won’t go as far as Tom does regarding Civilization 5. It had a lot of AI problems, and wasn’t the instant love affair that Civ 4 was for me. But I have put in a lot of time. The big patch was intended to address some AI, diplomacy and balance issues.

The diplomacy fixes are very welcome. It is now possible to make friends with the AI controlled nations and their reasoning is more transparent because they are always interrupting you with commentary, but it also reverts a little to the Civ 3 end game gang up according to some reports. I am usually kicking so much ass by the end of the game that it doesn’t matter if Napoleon, Caesar and Bismarck want to team up to take me down. Bring it.

The AI stuff is harder to measure in a couple of plays, especially the tactical AI. Computer opponents are certainly more cautious with their siege weapons, which is a big step forward. It uses aircraft and nuclear weapons. Battles in the field are still pretty one sided affairs, though it at least knows the importance of keeping its archers in the back and holding a decent line of battle. I need to push it a little further to see if the computer still has the problem of producing a trickle of units at the front and not backing them up. My blitzkriegs leave little time for reinforcement.

The computer still doesn’t do a great job with city states. If these minor powers weren’t so important to building a victory of any kind, then I could probably forgive it. But they are important, so some competition would be handy. This could be related to the computer running out of gold to maintain the relationships, and your rivals still can’t manage a proper economy as far as I can tell. It doesn’t build many late game wonders, either.

So Civ 5 is still wait and see. I do like the new New World scenario that comes with the Spanish and Inca on Steam.

Rob Zacny commented that the patch notes for Elemental 1.1 rival the size of Brad Wardell’s Elemental novel. And he’s not kidding. These are an epic read.

PCGamer asked me to play and write up my thoughts on 1.1 – I think a sign that a lot of people really want this game to get a second chance.

You can read my full thoughts over at PCG, but I think 1.1 is a big step forward. Still, the core problems from the core game are still there. The AI has some issues and the world itself is still pretty bland. There is progress, though, enough to make me curious about the expansion.


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Sarkus

    I still haven’t given either game a shot with these new patches as the Distant Worlds expansion is getting my attention, but I do look forward to checking them out at some point. Civ 5 will probably be me default Civ game for when I’m in the mood for a game – even in vanilla with its issues it does enough to make going back to Civ 4 hard, but Elemental may never get a permanent place on my hard drive.

  • Destrin

    I wish we would hear something out of Firaxis on when they are going to make playing multiplayer Civ V actually viable. At the moment there are so many bugs that it’s distracting to play and the lack of a save option other than autosave is annoying. Multiplayer is my default Civ mode so the lack of support has left me a little cold

  • Taylor

    Nice article on PC Gamer, Troy!

    After spending most of the weekend with it, Elemental plays a ton better post-patch. There are still some issues, it is true, but I think this is the approximate state the game should have been released in.

    As for the world being bland, this is just how Stardock makes worlds. They make an intricate back-story that is seldom if ever realized in the game itself. The GalCivs were the same. They let the factions in-game be totally determined by the math, which makes them feel soulless. I also don’t know how they fix that, as it seems endemic to the company.

    The AI seems to have a lot of variety. Sometimes the Empire (I’ve only played as Kingdom factions post-patch) will be reasonable, other times they will be asses. The Kingdom factions, while generally friendlier also can either tend toward generous or disdainful. Sometimes the AI builds garrisons in their cities, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes (usually) they are expand-o-holics, occasionally they are not. It does not appear that the AI are playing form some sort of script but are actually playing the game, albeit not not very well most of the time.

    Sadly, the game still seems to have some technical problems when it reaches the mid-game (couple of hundred turns in). I’ve had two what appear to be corrupt save game files that killed my progress. My other games developed graphical glitches at various times that caused me to have to shutdown and restart the game. This is the biggest disappointment, since I tend to restart the game a bit if my starting position is horrible (another thing the game does a fair bit is give you horrid horrid starting positions, as in one food square + a shard and nothing else for a 50 square radius). When I do find a decent starting position, I want to play that game to the end, which I have yet to be able to do because of corrupt save games. I am hoping my current run will be more successful, but I feel like I am sitting on a ticking time bomb.