Sid Meier’s Civilization V review

6 Oct 2010

Refined, improved, and now with giant death robots – the best just got better.

Price when reviewed: 
27(£27 inc VAT)
5

Be warned: Sid Meier’s Civilization V will steal your life. It’s the strategy equivalent of Football Manager. It’s digital Pringles, except the tube never empties. One more turn: Bayonland needs a gold mine. One more turn: the Pyramids are nearly finished in New Bayondon. One more turn: there’s a giant death robot in Bayon-on-Sea. A giant death robot!

In a game that dumps you in 4000 BC with a single settler and expects you to achieve outright victory by 2050, every turn counts, and every action taken must have the final outcome in mind. Will you build wonders of the world and aim for a cultural victory? Construct research facilities and take on the space race? Or begin with a barracks and end up, six millennia later, with your own private army of Terminators? It’s only midnight, one more turn!

The last method of victory remains diplomacy, where you ally with your rivals to win their votes in the United Nations – the avoid-all-wars route. Perhaps conscious of the fact that no one ever chose it in previous games, Civ V spices up its world map with city states whose votes you’ll need alongside those of more traditional countries.

City states don’t expand, and they won’t attack – at least at first – but they will make requests. Build Stockholm a road, find a source of gems for Budapest, or come to Oslo’s aid under attack, and you’ll be rewarded with its speciality, be it soldiers, cultural bonuses or food. Become an ally and you’ll get support during battles; attack too many city states and they’ll gang up against you like nerds with no more lunch money to give.

Sid Meier's Civilization 5

Whether you ignore them, befriend them or simply bulldoze them for their riches, the city states add colour and personality to the game that previous headline features didn’t manage. Gone is the iffy take on religion, as are the methods of government in favour of a new range of social policies. They’re earned through your culture rating, and give boosts to any area of development you wish to focus on. And, as with everything in Civ V, there’s always a progress bar visible to tell you precisely how many turns you have to wait. Prop matchsticks in eyes; one more turn…

The interface has been refined to the point of console-like efficiency and, before PC gamers complain, it works brilliantly. Everything you need during a turn is visible either on screen or in the quick-menus in the top corners, while further details can be accessed with single clicks. As usual the in-game Civopedia has more info than most full game guides, and is worth a read for historical education alone.

But the biggest change is the move to a hexagonal game board. Each spot now has six adjacent hexes, and no two military units can occupy the same hex. Civ V finally eradicates the intensely irritating “stack of death”, in which one massed army of tanks could move from square to square obliterating everything in its path. Instead, battle is now far more tactical, with a need to place your melee units in front of your ranged troops, which makes choosing your angle of approach far more terrain-sensitive. And battles now take several turns, with both sides taking damage.

By the end, your hardy little settler will have blossomed into sprawling cities filled with armies of stealth bombers and submarines, and you’ll launch a nuclear missile at France, just because you can. And because your brain isn’t quite functioning anymore. And because it’s light outside. One more turn?

Details

Price ex VAT £23
Price inc VAT £27
Overall rating 6
Software subcategory Game

Requirements

Processor requirement 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or equivalent

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes
Other operating system support N/A