Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Brutally UnCivilized

The working relationship between a game designer and his publisher is never a simple one. So I would not know where exactly to place the blame, Sid Meyer or 2K GAMES. But in the end, it does not matter. Because it is simply sad to see a great gaming franchise came to this.

This Is Not A Civilization Game
A great number of major features of this beloved series have been simply removed. A fellow gamer called this Civilization V, "Civilization For Dummies" and he is absolutely right.
There is no trading maps or technologies. There is no claiming resources outside your borders by building a colony. There is no need for transport ships as, apparently, units are now all..amphibious (and they need 15-20 turns to cross an ocean!). There are no city-growth milestone requirements (granary, aqueduct, refrigeration). There is no culturally conquering an enemy city (detonating a "culture bomb" by consuming a Great Artist will only get you extra territory tiles but no cities). There are no spies nor health/pollution balance. And there are no armies (please read on).

Army Castration
Someone please tell me what was so wrong with armies that had to be yanked out? Napoleon almost conquered Europe with one army. Germany almost conquered the eastern hemisphere with three and the US still holds a two-and-a-half armies doctrine. How can a turn-based game be called Civilization unless one can emulate, well, a real civilization? Building an army, seasoning it on minor conflicts and then going for the enemy's capital was one of the most fun parts of any Civilization game. Why, Sid? Just tell me that.

You May Be bale to launch Into Space - Yet Cannot ...Climb Mountains?!
Movement should be hindered by rough terrain. Units that have 3 or 4 moves on the plains should not be expected to do more than 1 or 2 on a mountain, right? Well, no. Mountains seem to be those magical places no unit can climb or pass through (not even ...helicopters of jet fighters!). And I cannot see how this makes for more complicated strategic decisions than timing your movements, claiming the high ground and having a bonus for elevated artillery?

Unit Stampede
A major issue for me, this was what really ruined the game. For some unfathomable reason units cannot be stacked. A worker can coexist with a military unit but that's it. Artillery and shock-cavalry are very vulnerable to attacks and (with the new hexagon layout) one would need ...six defensive units to protect a single artillery battery.
As a result, units keep getting on each other's way (especially when ordered to move for distances that require more than a turn), they refuse to even pass through friendly units (!) and the "tactical" considerations that result from this are trivial. And whenever besieging an enemy city, one has to endlessly maneuver his units around it (while exposed to its bombardment) whereas wounded units are never easy to withdraw.
You cannot even garrison more than a single unit within a city. Not that it would make a difference, since the garrisoned unit is not automatically awaken to fight back when the city is under attack(!), the city is left to defend itself.

Can You Really Command Without A Central...Command?
The economy is nose-diving into the red and you want to reduce the percentage going into research for a while to avoid having units of yours deleted one by one? The fickle people of your civilization are unhappy and you want to placate them by increasing their entertainment allocation? You have discovered conscription and you want to upgrade all your musketeers into recruits? Well, tough luck! There is not central command screen to do so. Only advisers that you have to thank for annoying you.
You have very little control of your cities resource distribution and zero control of your national economy. And units have to be hunted down and upgraded one by one.
Speaking of the economy, when are we going to see a Civilization game where one can run and manage a national debt?

No Free Eye-Candy In This Universe. Not Even A Stale One.
The game does look new and polished and the units are well designed but not cutting edge and not without a steep hardware price. If you expect anything comparable to StarCraft II crispiness you will be disappointed - at my 1280x1024 resolution it is not easy to discern roads from railroads.
The system I am running my copy consists of a P7 920 on a MSI Eclipse with 3GB of RAM and an ASUS nVIDIA GTX-480. Even with a couple years old PC in a WinXP environment (I refuse to forgo my game collection for the latest Windows OS), apparently I cannot even try the highest DX9 settings (the game crashes at launch) but I managed to optimize them with a mix of high and medium. Even then, whenever I scroll to a different location of the map, I can see the image fleshing out, just like zooming in a Google-Earth map.
So one can only wonder: why should one need a Cray to run a Civilization game at full?

A Civilization Sold Like a Salami
In slices. Paper-thin DLC slices, that is. So far there have been over a dozen DLCs. All are sold separately and each one contains a small portion of what was supposed to be an essential part of the game. Were there any Civilization games in the past that did not include the Babylonians or the Persians? No. And when was the last time a Civilization game cost over $150 to be complete? Well, never.

The STEAM Of War
The game requires OnLine Activation (and perpetual reactivation every few days) and has to be tied to a STEAM account. Effectively this means that the game is a piece of rentware the buyer never really owns and yet it is sold at full price. I realize that to some people this may not be a serious issue so, in case you are wondering, I deducted a single star from my overall rating of the game because of its DRM scheme. To every other gamer however, you can now make an informed decision.

This was a major disappointment. I never though I'd say this but I while playing the latest Civilization game I caught myself wondering if they would ever make...Call To Power III.

New gamers, steer clear of this mess, this is not what a Civilization game plays like.
Seasoned gamers, we know better than to call this a Civilization game.

Sorry Sid, epic Fail..

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