Civilization V Review (PC)

It's hard to say no to someone when they're holding a massive sword, and behind them is a scene of burning destruction and desolation like something out of The Scorpion King or Troy. When you're taking your first tentative steps out into the wider world and this is what you come across, it's amazing how something as simple as perception can affect how you deal with other civilisations. Naturally, I didn't want to piss this guy off, regardless of the fact that the scene before me probably had no affect on how the AI actually played what so ever, but that's Civilization for you.

In many ways, the latest in Firaxis' leading franchise is a very different game to its immediate predecessor, Civilization IV. As you will no doubt have read by now, a lot of the micro-managing elements introduced either in Civ IV or its expansions have simply been stripped out or folded into something else. Some examples: Religion now forms part of the re-worked culture element of the game, as have Civics. Corporations are gone completely, as well as espionage, random events, and things like technology trading, which has been replaced by 'Research Pacts'. Even things like 'Happiness' are now empire wide instead of with each individual city, and so on... It may still be Civilization at its heart, but the fifth iteration is a very different breed altogether. We're actually reminded slightly of the console outing, Civilization: Revolution, but only in the sense that everything seems more straight forward, more on the surface.

The new combat model really helps wars feel more authentic

Of course this has sparked major debate amongst the fan base - is it dumbing down? Is it innovation? We'd argue a bit of both. Jon Shafer himself said to us that they wanted to make it more appealing to a wider audience, as everyone knows the franchise has a reputation for being a bit hardcore. There's no denying then that yes, things have been simplified, a lot of 'depth' is now missing, but you can still micro-manage your cities to some degree, and the scope of the game is still intact as well. During our playthroughs, we found it difficult enough to keep all of our income and happiness in the green - imagine the added strain of having to worrying about religion and other elements. Admittedly, that could have just added to the challenge, but trust us, there's still plenty of that to go around.

One of the bigger changes that we talked about at the preview stage is of course combat, and it cannot be understated how much better things are now. Long-term Civ fans probably learned to tolerate the previous stack-tastic style (hell, maybe even liked it), but as a more recent fan myself, and someone who is a wargamer through and through, this new mechanic really helps make the war part of the game more enjoyable. As you know by now, the new combat model was inspired by Panzer General, and the no-stacking rule really helps spread out the action and simulate a proper war. Combat units are also more expensive in this game, preventing one from fielding large armies, and overall there's just a greater degree of strategy and planning involved. Another phrase you'll no doubt have heard associated with Civ IV combat is "Archers beating Tanks" or something equally as strange - that's been fixed too.

The modern era is still interesting, if you can get that far

Things change, and yet things stay the same. There are still the multiple victory conditions - Domination is where you need to conquer all the other civilisation's capitals (simplified from the total annihilation from the previous game). A Cultural victory, as mentioned above, requires you to complete 6 out of 10 Policy 'Trees', and then construct the Utopia Project. The Diplomatic option still requires you to become leader of the U.N., and the scientific victory requires you to actually build the space-ship parts, not merely research them.

What else is new? Well you've probably heard a lot about the City-States by now, and as we mentioned in our preview they really do make a difference in the game. There's compelling reasons to stay friends with them and not simply take them over, from the bonuses that owning them wouldn't grant you, to liberation which guarantees you an extra U.N. Vote (which applies to all civilisations, actually). It's amazing how much of a tangible affect they can have on any given playthrough. Hexes, which you already know about, are less noticeable than you'd think - they just are. Social policy is now connected to culture, and they determine what 'form' your empire will take. These are cumulative bonuses, which help you improve your empire over time, although you really have to watch how quickly you expand as the more cities you have, the more culture you need to enact a new policy. We could trot of a list of changes with a brief analysis, but we'd be here a while and to be honest that's a boring way to conduct a review.

Now, you're probably wondering if there's anything truly bad in this. In all honesty... not really. There are things we can comment on: The game seems kind of pre-disposed AGAINST large empires, which we think is an odd way to go about things. We've never really been comfortable with the idea that we 'have' to evolve technologically forward, although the pacing seems better as we don't feel as rushed as we did with Civ IV. If we're being really picky, the lack of extra content outside of the pre-order bonuses is a bit lazy - Civ IV had a host of extra, more focused scenarios to play though if you wanted something different, and whilst the main game does carry things well on its own, it wouldn't have killed Firaxis to keep up that tradition (especially since there's no release window on the Mod Tools at the moment). There's nothing really game breaking or especially 'WTF' here though, and we've played through several games now. You'll no doubt have your own bugbears, but we can't help you with those.

Did you know that Sid Meier didn't use Hexes originally because he wanted to be different from everyone else?

So, after all that, I suppose some sort of verdict is needed now. On a personal level, whilst I loved many of the changes brought into this game, especially combat, a small part of me missed some of the depth Civ IV allowed for - But I got over it. It's still addicting as hell, It's still fun to expand and develop your empire in any way you choose... this is a very enjoyable game, more so than Civ IV. Is it the best Civilization ever? Well that's not something I can answer. If you can't forgive what's missing, if you only play Civ for that insane amount of depth, then nothing I or Firaxis say will change your mind. I can only hope that you decided to give it a go and not dismiss it out of hand, as that really would be the biggest crime of them all.

Keeping a franchise alive and kicking, not to mention fresh, after twenty years can't be easy. In many respects, these changes, this new 'direction' if you will actually isn't surprising. Would a "Civ IV plus whatever" game really have been just as good? We doubt it - Civ IV was Civ IV, and this is what it is, and it is glorious. With the likely hood of expansions, DLC and the mod tools on the horizon, we honestly can't wait to see what's in store for this game in the future. In the mean time, I think we'll just have one more turn...

Best Game Moment: Fighting and winning a truly large scale war is immensely satisfying, especially considering the increased planning an effort wars require.



By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 21, 2010
Life is good once again! I wonder how different it will feel, having played all from Civ series thus far. It sounds good and I'm glad to see its high score as I was waiting for a while for it. Now I need to wait 3 more days until it's released.
By Knave (SI Core) on Sep 21, 2010
I'm also digging this score, as I just ordered it the other day. Just waiting for it to arrive!

Is the release different in your neck of the woods Kres? I thought today was the official release date?
By lichlord (SI Core) on Sep 21, 2010
the EU release is the main global release thats the date you actually should watch to
By lichlord (SI Core) on Sep 21, 2010
if not go check the civ 5 site
By Azsinistar (SI Veteran Newbie) on Sep 21, 2010
My release day delivery from Amazon shipped yesterday overnight for today... I am so impatiently waiting for all my free time to completely disappear with this one.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 22, 2010
Ah, lucky you Azsinistar! Do let us know if it's as good as it seems!

@Knave: I was just looking at the Steam release date which seem to be 24th. As I'm all into digital downloads since quite some time.
By slaythat (SI Veteran Member) on Sep 22, 2010
I want it, although letting the price drop a bit like most pc games
By Azsinistar (SI Veteran Newbie) on Sep 22, 2010
Well Kres, it is a ton of fun. I would give it a must play as the war in the game is much better than ever before.

My only gripes are (and they were both covered in the review):
1) I still cant build the world spanning empire I want. Since Civ4 they seem to want to limit our city count. However City states does help alleviate this somewhat.
2) They have definately "dumbed downed" a lot of the micromanagement. If this is your thing, you will probably still enjoy the game, but you will definately miss being able to poke around in every aspect of the game.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 22, 2010
Well, there will be plenty of mods for it I'm sure. In any case, I'll give it a go. Though the two things you've mentioned sound bad.

There are still pioneers to build roads and stuff??
By Azsinistar (SI Veteran Newbie) on Sep 23, 2010
Yes there are still workers to enhance the land around your cities and build roads. I havent seen any changes there at all.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 23, 2010
Looking forward to a drop in price. Something about the Civ games that draws me in, but doesn't keep me. Prefer the Total War franchise more. I do like the 2D display...reminds me of Civ II on Playstation.
Still, I'm afraid if I start playing I will lose days on this. That's the trouble with TBS - just have to keep hitting that "End Turn" compulsively:)

What happened to hating Steam???
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Sep 23, 2010
Love the new combat system, hexes are cool to :).
I will probably wait till it drops in price a little bit though, i kinda stick to not spending more than 30€ per game.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 23, 2010
@Herod: Well it's distributed through Steam so I am defeated. But it's just a competitor based hatred. :p
By Jutzi1977 (I just got here) on Sep 24, 2010
Just bought this a few days ago, its really good. I run it on an old computer (min specs and video card is below min spec's), I was just curious if its just my computer that is making it slow, or if its the gameplay? Like its a minute wait seems like everytime I click next turn while the computer processes the Ai's movements. I was sad that Steam was part of this game, I hate Steam as well. Love the Civ series as a whole, this game might drive me to a new computer to see if it speeds up the gameplay a bit. Somewhat sad that your limited on how expansive your empire can become tho.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 25, 2010
@Jutzi: If it's old computer as you say, then surely yes. Civ needs CPU for turns surely. But how old is your computer? What CPU?

Also what do you mean by limited expansion of the empire?

But, 50 EUR on Steam? Christ, what's with those prices?

[an hour later...] bought it!
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Sep 26, 2010
Hey guys,

Glad you liked the review! Sorry for not replying earlier, I've been on holiday. Good to know Kres hasn't let the site burn down whilst playing Civ V :P

RE: The whole expansion thing - it's actually harder than you'd think to create massive sprawling empires now. You can go through certain policy trees to help, but since happiness is empire-wide, and the more cities you have the more unhappiness there is, it can be slow going.

Not to mention you then have maintenance costs on everything, which also increases the more cities you have. That's not to say it's completely impossible, but it does take a loooong while to get the really big empires now.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 26, 2010
Hehe I started playing around 2AM, and played till 7AM. That's when I can play in peace and quiet... Great game. But yeah different and a bit more difficult to be overly expansive. I'd score it 9.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 27, 2010
Civil War? Oh no, Zerk you're back:)
It's Civilisation, and from user reviews so far I'm not that impressed. Seems to be getting the same flaming Empire: Total War did when it came out (and Sup Com 2). Dumbed-down, or to be more pc: player-friendly.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 27, 2010
Well it's one of oldest great PC games, so you could try it Herod.

I got a slight fuss over the AI turn time. If you pick anything larger then SMALL map size the wait time for finishing AI turns might be too much to handle. You basically spend 50% of game time waiting for turns to finish. I got old Intel C2D E6600 CPU though.

And welcome Zerk! Civilization is the first or second game I've played on PC. Feels like a century ago.
By lacki2000 (SI Member) on Sep 27, 2010
well, my first impression is not very enthusiastic. I was yawning so many times playing first ancient age. This game looks simple comparing to CivIV with good mods and this new interface is for some retarded players or what? All theese big shiny buttons and icons aroud and huge-sized font... (or maybe my 19' lcd is too small... :P). It just do not feel like ancient age playing with this shiny interface. And when I met Bismarck of German empire about 3000BC and there was an oil (or even electric) lamp on his desk... lol what a civilized empire back then :P.
I just don't feel this game so far... I'll wait for some decent, playble mod.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Sep 28, 2010
yeah the game got me the feeling they were thinking that we are stupid too simple i understood the whole game after 10 mins they also could have showed how far a nuke was gonna explode i nuked ghandi then i got a whole part of my land with it too lolz

the stacking that has been removed made me pissed cuz i couldn't get a catapult protected when at a city siege properly because their was no land for the range damn isle
and ships sucks at siege in the early times -.-

i always thaught Civ 3 is the best im actually still think it is(i mod that the strategic resources are unlimited tho lol)
By paelleon (SI Veteran Member) on Sep 29, 2010
I havn't played it, but I see that I was quite right. Too much simplified. The hell! CIV players are not dumbasses! Sid made us think before act! And now some brainwashed, graphic-addicted youngster wants to transform CIV into Panzer General (1994! Very good game, then), trashing all managing aspects. And he even thought that, if his limited mind cannot even manage a good world-spanning empire, you surely cannot either! Dumbass!

Lichlord is right: CIV3 is the best!!! Too bad it has a bad multiplayer code (quite laggy).
By Jake_SI (SI Elite) on Sep 29, 2010
I never played any of the previous Civ games, but I've been a huge fan of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri for about a decade now. After hearing a lot about Civ V in the lead-up to it's release I decided to pre-order the Delux edition, and thus far have completed a 9.6 hour playthrough, and am absolutely loving it.

Pricing was crap though, Australians have to pay almost 30 dollars more for a digital purchase via Steam, simply for not being American it would seem.. and from what I understand, it was just as bad for Europeans.
By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Sep 29, 2010
Easy Paelleon :P Jon is a quality bloke, and his reasons for doing what he wanted to do were sound. Obviously, if its not what you wanted then its a shame, but this is still a good game despite the lack of micro.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 29, 2010
What's stopping me now from playing it is A.I. It has holes. Declares war when it can't conquer even 1 of your city, then ends up giving away some of his cities even though all I wanted was peace. Then he moves his units around your cities so you can easily pick his units off. I'll need A.I. patch if I'm gonna continue playing it. Spending 5 hours playing the game only to have it ruined by "awkward" A.I. in a few minutes ain't happening any more.

I'm changing my score to 7.9 :)
By Jake_SI (SI Elite) on Sep 30, 2010
I've noticed a lot of people complaining about the AI being too agressive, but I didn't notice that in my first playthrough. Other than them randomly claiming they no longer wanted to 'see my face'. None of them were stupid enough to actually declare war on me, nor did I have a single AI faction attack one of my cities, but thats probably because they were too busy defending (very un-sucessfully) against my approaching horde of units. ;)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 30, 2010
Having read a heap of comments now, I have to say I'll be waiting a while to buy this. I have enough trouble managing an entire world with "Empire Total War", and have yet to complete the campaigns of "NTW". Now I'm lusting ovewr trailers for "Shogun 2" (the graphical improvements are simply amazing) and playing "Company of Heroes Online" until my copy of "Medal of Honor" arrives:)
I'd love to see a sequel to "Rise of Nations" or even "Rise of Legends". That being said, "Civ 5" looks to suffering from the new 'player-friendly' approach many Devs are taking now (GPG with Sup Com2 being another), or perhaps this is a trend gamers are liking(?).
By FoolWolf (SI Elite) on Oct 01, 2010
I haven't had the same problems people are pointing out with the AI. Though I have so far not tried all the different settings but started easy. I have more problems with the AI of my workers then anything else...
So far the game is a bit buggy and have some freeze screen crashes especially if you have auto-end enabled and are moving the map....

So far the game delivers a good Civ V with enough updates to make it fresh and the battles are much more interesting now then in earlier versions. The trade is easier to handle and you can actually deal and trade more easily IMO to make that a valid part of your progress.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Oct 01, 2010
Rise of Nations? That RTS? Yeha played it but didn't liked too much. Not a bad game though either.

AI of workers? If you set them to auto? I always manually use them. Otherwise it can get messy and costly yes. As roads are paid now.

I just got approval by gf to play a game!! And I'm gonna play Civ!
By Kres (SI Elite) on Oct 04, 2010
No still running on the old one Zerk. It's not too bad. Still see no reason for upgrading...
By Rangerfish (I just got here) on Oct 18, 2010
I only have two complaints about Civ5 - domination victory is much easier than the others (I think a few other reviewers have mentioned that), and the game seems quite flaky on my system.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Oct 18, 2010
runs all fine on my systems and i turn off most victory types anyway makes the game somewhat harder to win if it means killing the others :P
By Kres (SI Elite) on Oct 18, 2010
I've tried a mod yesterday that was just freshly released that boosts economy, and makes all sorts of adjustments. It's ok. Some RDC something...
By Rangerfish (I just got here) on Oct 19, 2010
@lichlord: glad at least someones having a good time with it. Well, that's not fair because I do enjoy it, it's just that bugs are spoiling that enjoyment quite often.

Stability issues are almost never across the board. I have 2 Radeon 3850 X2 cards in Crossfire mode, which may be causing some issues. I found that some issues with screen sizing went away after I disabled my Vista sidebar. Last night I ran into an issue where it was asking me to choose production targets for puppet cities.
By adamsolo (I just got here) on Dec 29, 2010
After playing so much Civ5 I think it was time to make my review on my blog: Feel free to criticise, correct or comment, specially on the section about the changes from Civ4 (what was removed and added, for sure there are many things I could not remember).

I think I will not keep playing, I'll wait for the next patches and then give it another try. As you'll read in my review my biggest complaints go for diplomacy, global happiness and boredom (not too much things to do).

See you around,
By lichlord (SI Core) on Dec 29, 2010
@rangerfish i think ive tweaked vista soo much you can't even call it vista anymore vista is known to be an epic fail on the games even in time vista is screwing up your pc its really a lot better getting win 7 since its much lighter tho no promises as i didn't tried it myself yet