A weekend with Civ 5

This weekend I spent a lot of time in front of the computer, playing Civilization V. As I mentioned in my previous post my first impression of the game was good, and that opinion still holds. I actually enjoy playing this game over any of the previous installments of the series.

The good stuff

So, what is it that makes this game so good? Well, first of all it still has that good old “just one more turn” feeling which every other Civilization game has. Still it manages to improve over its prequel mainly because it focuses less on micromanagement and more on the big picture, while still adding a lot more diversity. Take as an example the new culture system. In Civ 4, culture was basically just a number and an alternate way of conquering foreign cities. In Civ 5 it develops your civilization down different paths of social policies. This system allows for more customization of your civilization in a way that is very appealing to me. It’s not like in earlier Civ games where “Democracy is always the best choice”.

I also like how things like happiness is now global for your entire civilization. This just feels more logical, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time micromanaging every city individually. Same thing with culture and the tax system as a whole. I just hated having to alter my tax rates all the time.

Another thing that has improved in Civ 5 is the military system. The fact that you cannot stack military units leads to more interesting strategic decisions since the terrain has a greater impact. For example a narrow strip of land is now more of a natural choke point than it was before when you could just mass up an “army of death” and steamroll just about anything. In Civ 5 it takes too long to build a military unit to even get to the point where you can steamroll anything. Even with a technologically superior army, conquering a city is anything but trivial, especially if that city is located on a different island.

The bad stuff

Even though this game is an improvement over earlier games, there are some things I don’t like about it.

First of all, the performance is terrible. Even with a decently modern gaming rig the game just doesn’t run well after playing for a little while. It runs fine in the beginning but after a while the FPS drops to a level where it’s just not fun to play anymore. I found that running the game in DirectX 9 mode improved the performance to an acceptable level, however. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with nVidia’s DirectX 10/11 driver, but it shouldn’t be like this.

Gameplay wise, one thing that fails to deliver is the so-called “City-States”. The idea seemed promising at first but it just didn’t turn out the way I would have liked. The only strategic decision you have to make regarding the city-states is which to give your gold to and which to conquer. I would have liked them to be more integrated into the game so that you could for example establish trade routes with them and so on. Right now you only click a button every X turns, saying “Give X gold”, and that doesn’t improve the gameplay.

Conclusion

My initial judgement that Civ 5 is a better game than all earlier parts of the Civilization series is still valid. I like how micromanagement has been toned down in favor of more strategic choices. Even though many hardcore Civ fans might not agree with me, I just find this way of playing a Civ game to be much more entertaining, and that’s what a game is all about.

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