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Civilization, The Fifth

Tired of the nitpicks I've found for Warlock: Master Of The Arcane, yet desiring more of the same kind of gameplay, I succumbed to the temptation to shell out for Civilization V.  (If only I had not succumbed until a week later: I'd have saved about quite a bit of money when the Steam sale hit this weekend!  At least I got 75% off on the DLC that matters to me...)

Having not bothered much with Civilization since Civilization II or III, it turns out that I missed one of the major innovatory backlashes of gaming, as Civilization V sought to be a bit more accessible and consequently alienated a lot of Civilization fans by being considerably less deep (in some ways) than Civilization IV.  Now, normally I hate dumbing down of games, but I have to say that there are cases in which it is justified to take a game back to the drawing board and that this is one of those cases.  Addressing some of the more popular points:
  • They've either eliminated the major crashes and other obvious glitches the game had at release, or I've been lucky.
  • There's no longer the ability to set government or religion, but the ability to customize your own government via the "policy" system is a pretty fair replacement.  (Apparently religion is set to return in a future expansion pack, "Gods and Kings," and will use a similar "pantheon" system.)
  • The artificial intelligence of your opponent was considered poor during the game's release, but it has been improved a bit since then.  Although you can still outsmart it in tactical combat, that's not necessarily a bad thing for the egotistical gratification of being an apparent master tactician, and you can always balance this out by giving the AI a handicap in picking a higher difficulty.  Your AI opponents do have a tendency to be foolishly aggressive at times, declaring war just because they can, but I suspect this is because they may be in a position where declaring war against impossible odds is their only real shot at winning the game.
  • Civilization V is prone to be a bit hardware intensive at times, particularly at the start of turns when all of your AI opponents perform all their moves at once, resulting in a few seconds of locking up your machine.  Although this does not result in an unplayable game (this is a turn-based game, after all), I can't help but wonder if there's some way to make it so the AI times out their moves, thereby lagging your computer less and letting you see the action unfold better.
  • Though the one-unit-type-per-hex system can make it difficult to maneuver your units at times, I find this to be a small price to pay both for the greater tactical sophistication and for the elimination of the Civilization series notorious, "Stack Of Death," wherein you would stack several units at once and be neigh-unstoppable.
After playing the slick fantasy tactical combat game that was Warlock, I have to say that Civilization V feels quite a bit more cumbersome, loaded down with all the trappings of, well, trying to simulate civilization itself. Simultaneously, however, Civilization V does feel quite a bit better balanced, because there you cannot stack a dozen buffs on a unit and watch it steamroll nearly everything.  (Indeed, the balance is so fair as to seem unrealistic, as you could feasibly use several 18th-century musketmen to wear down a unit of modern tanks, something that would just get them all killed needlessly in a Warlock equivalent scenario.)  Fortunately, both games succeed marvelously on the tangent of being the same kind of game but fundamentally different enough so as to have their own niche of players.

Now on my fourth game, I'm finding it difficult to get properly immersed into Civilization V.  The game seems plodding and (dare I say it?) boring.  However, I suspect that this is not really the case and, should I change the game pacing back from "epic" to "normal," there may well be hundreds of interesting hours of play left in Civilization V, thereby vindicating the expenditure of forty rare dollars.  After all, I've yet to even look at all the mods out for it.


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