Civilisation V: Back to the hexes!

Civilisation V has been out for almost 1 year now, and I finally decided to give it a go on my Mac. I have to say that although I’ve been a faithful supporter of the first 3 opus of the series, I lost interest in version 4 and all its expansion packs due to the change in game scale and the overall game dynamics, which I found slow and boring.

What brought me back to this Opus are 2 drivers:

  • First the critics: Civilization V was met positively by critics, achieving a Metacritic score of 90/100 after 61 reviews (Opus IV was even ranked 96/100). Gametrailers.com gave it 9.4 out of 10. G4TV gave it 5 out of 5, describing it as a “fantastic turn-based strategy game… In many ways… the best representation of the series and certainly the most accessible for new and old players alike”, adding that the “diplomatic model is anemic” and describing the AI as “fairly average.” IGN gave the game an “Outstanding 9.0”, saying “This is the first Civilization for PC that is worth just about every person’s time”, but also criticizing the AI for being too aggressive and noting that players who played Civilization IV may miss the civics and religion features. Gamespot praised the game’s addictiveness, claiming it to be “yet another glistening example of turn-based bliss that will keep you up long past your bedtime”.
  • Second the gameplay: The traditional isometric 3D view has been supplemented by a 2D strategic view with a fair icons system, plus the square terrain grid has been replaced by … traditional wargaming hexes! You don’t need much more to wake up the Grognard in you.

 
3D view vs Strategic Hex view

So I gave it a go and spent 1 hour playing George Washington’s USA on a random map. I eventually discovered I was surrounded by Finnish, Hungarians, Indians and Chinese. Restless barbarians are still around and haunted ruins or isolated villages are still holding ancient secrets or useful artefacts. Beautiful 2D and 3D graphics, decent audio and animations, and the traditional advisors to help you deal with your daily economic, diplomatic or military routines. The technology tree seems rather unchanged and only policies seem to have been a bit refreshed.

Having said that … after 1 hour of play, I had barely scouted my continent, built a couple of military units, achieved 5 or 6 technological discoveries and launched in the wilderness my first settler to civilise some northern shores. Slow, slow … so slow … As for my first contacts with the AI, there’s not much to report: Damn’ pacifists, not much to offer or exchange … a gutless bunch of dummies. And it seems that’s one of the weak points of Civ V.

At first glance, apart for an updated skin, the game has nothing very new to offer and lacks the thrill of competitive challenge to conquer and rule the World. Bringing your people to the space age might well turn out being a long and colourless waste of time. Is it really worth 50 bucks or so? Not sure. But I promise, for the money, I’ll give it another try soon 🙂

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