I've Been Hexed by Civ


Of the things I saw at E3, Civilization V was one of the things I anticipated the most. I didn't know what to expect, but I have to admit I was a bit saddened when I discovered that there would be no hands-on opportunities. Upon reflection, it makes sense; you can't really get much out of a five minute hands-on with a game like Civ V.

Not only was the Civilization V presentation just a presentation, it took place in a small theater at 2K's booth and picture taking was disallowed. That having been said, I definitely liked what I saw.

The graphics in Civilization V are really detailed and well done; from the models and animations of the world leaders, to the units and cities to the map of the world itself, everything is lush and beautiful. There are actually different tile sets used for the different areas, so that trees and other things in the scenery look appropriate for the region of the world being depicted.

The advisers are back as fully rendered 3D models, and are now context sensitive, offering help with things based on what you're doing or, in some cases, what you haven't gotten around to within a reasonable amount of time. It seems an effort has been made to provide important information, but to do so in a manner that won't interrupt your gameplay or get in your face. Thankfully, the advisers don't seem to have that, shall we say, annoying quality that Microsoft Office's "Clippy" did. The world leaders are, likewise, highly-detailed 3D models, set in their own surroundings and actually speaking their appropriate languages, with subtitles for those who aren't fluent in every language since the dawn of civilization on Earth.

One notable change with the events system that follows this mantra of "inform without disturbing" is that the events now queue up along the right side of the screen. They will indicate that something worthy of note has occurred or is occurring, but will not move your map to the location and show you what's going on until you take the time to click on the event into which you wish to investigate.

While I, personally, really enjoyed playing Civilization Revolution on the PS3, I have talked with self-proclaimed Civ purists who hated even the idea of a Civ game on the console, claiming that Civ Rev made everything too easy or took too much control away from the player or over-simplified things or similar hogwash. Sorry, guys, but there were some genuinely good ideas that went into that game and - guess what - they're reflected in Civ 5 as well. If anything, Civ V actually takes it a step further, making some things even easier to do than they were in Revolution. Don't get too bent out of shape, though - where Civilization V allows simplified, quick control of things in a wide-sweeping manner, it also allows you to go back and tweak the details of small parts to get things exactly like you want them. One example of this is the City View, which quickly and easily displays your Population, Production and Production Queue as well as Specialist Buildings. You can select your usage by a general goal, such as technology or food production, and the city will be automatically adjusted to fit your overarching goal. Then, you can select individual areas in the city, and change just their production types and even lock them in, so that future high-level changes won't override the tweaking you've done.

There are several newly introduced game mechanics in Civilization V, as well as a couple of things that are changing. You may already have heard that the battle system is moving away from a grid-based system and is, instead, going with a hex-based system to allow for better defined terrain. In addition, units are being restricted to a single unit per hex, whereas in previous iterations, you could stack as many units as you like into a square. These two changes completely change the battle dynamics, making Civilization V a new game. This is likely to ruffle some feathers, but it may also bring some new fans in to try out the license. Civ V will be introducing "Social Policies," which are a variety of social stances that your government can take. These policies, in turn, give upgrades and modifiers to change the stats of your government. This is similar to the modifiers awarded based on your type of government in previous games, but with more granular adjustment capabilities to allow you to tailor your government such that you get the bonuses you want.

Also new in Civ V are City-States. These are single city-countries which won't grow during the game, but can be traded with and for whom you can undertake certain tasks. Performing their desired tasks (or favors) builds up a relationship between your country and the city-state, and when the U.N. gets created, your friends are likely to vote in your favor. This deepens and enriches the Diplomatic victory.

A somewhat similar concept which is new to Civ V is the introduction of a new option when taking over a country. This new option is to set up a "puppet" government. When this is done, you don't suffer the drop in morale typically associated with a country being taken over, but you don't control the state directly. Instead, the city is responsible for its own growth, while their money still flows into your coffers.

Civilization is slated to release in Fall of this year (2010), and will ship with editing software to facilitate user-created content to be made and shared online. I am anxious to get my hands on this one... come on, Fall 2010.

Civilization V
2K Games