Civilization Revolution Preview
In this age of super-fast consoles, it seems as if many titles previously exclusive to the PC are finally making the leap to systems like the PS3 and Xbox 360. One of these great franchises is Sid Meier's Civilization, which is arguably the best strategy series in gaming history. Prior to this year, every single installment was only on the PC, but Sid Meier himself loves the new consoles, and therefore, we're going to see Civilization Revolution for the next-gen consoles. Furthermore, we got some more information thanks to the Games Convention 2007 in Leipzig this week, and that allows us to take a closer look at this highly anticipated game for 2008. No longer is RTS entirely bound to the PC realm!
You will have 16 civilizations to play and master, each with their own assortment of historical leaders, plus accessible maps and a fresh time scale designed for faster and more intense combat. The game is indeed similar to previous PC installments, but make no mistake: Revolution erases some of the negative concepts and lessens the focus on extreme micromanagement. For example, there will be no anarchy or corruption to slow your progress, there will be no pollution so you needn't worry too much about your cities, and in general, things are just much easier to handle. Obviously, this isn't good news for avid fans of the series, but while Firaxis plans to sacrifice some depth, they're making up for it in good old-fashioned engrossing gameplay. The key? More faster-paced action and more spur-of-the-moment decision making, combined with the standard strategy elements that makes Civilization what it is.
First off, the maps are going to be significantly smaller than what we've normally seen from these games. Now, this will obviously lead to shorter battles, but it should also up the replay value...how could we possibly attain all our goals in one little two or three-hour combat scenario? The game is smaller, in general, but that also allows the developers to add more detail than ever before to buildings and units. You will easily notice the difference between Roman and Egyptian infantry, for example; one will carry short swords and round shields while the others will carry sickle swords and rectangular shields. For the most part, the quality of the visuals in a strategy game comes in a distant second to the quality of the gameplay, but hey, it's a brave new world. Even RTS titles are capable of displaying some super fine graphics, especially given the considerable power of the next-gen consoles. Let's just hope the focus really does remain on the gameplay.
But we have complete faith in Sid Meier and Co. New to the series will be the unit advancement system: the more battles a unit wins, the more he will have access to new promotion levels and branching upgrade/ability paths. As your men score more victories they will also score more equipment and skills; you could choose to give some units helmets while other units attain a medic promotion that will greatly help on the field. But it won't be just your units that gain unique abilities, because such skills will also be available to your entire civilization (of course). Certain civs, like the Egyptians and Japanese, will do best if they can locate the resources to develop a thriving commercial or scientific society. But the Romans will do better with more infantry and free roads, and the Russians will be at the top of their game during the industrial era. It's all about weighing the contrasting bonuses when selecting and ultimately managing your vast city...or what will hopefully become a vast city.
Overall, this one should be the most dynamic RTS ever. In streamlining this series for consoles, they're adding a great deal of enhancements and little extras that will assist in the "absorption" factor. Everything is more interactive and animated. For example, you can choose the option for "war," and when you do, you'll be able to see just how your new enemies will respond. Depending on the current state of their own civilization, they will react differently to your declaration, and you can then adjust your own plans accordingly. A reigning Czar may be more than ready to throw down with an established and massive infantry, but a Northern European barbarian might not be in a good position to spar with the Romans at the height of their empire. With so many interesting civilizations and true-to-history leaders, the possibilities for building, expanding, and eventually conquering appear limitless. And that, without any doubt, is vintage Civilization.
But if you're not familiar with the series, you should know there are always multiple ways to win a contest. There is, of course, the typical military route, which simply means you've conquered your foes by successfully using your own combat-hungry units. But there are other ways. Depending on the civilization you've chosen, you might want to try a more refined and sophisticated approach. Rather than getting all bloody and dirty, you could score an economic victory by working to amass a huge amount of wealth via resources and cold hard cash. Or, you can attempt a cultural victory by converting enemy cities and gaining a massive following of Great People (be careful, though; spy units can steal those Great People away from you!). Heck, you could even win the space race by sending your first spaceship into orbit! Diversity and freedom is a big part of any strategy experience, and that's no different here, so make sure you understand that you don't always have to enforce your will to win.
We can't wait to get a chance to play this one, and for the first time, we can play it in our comfortable armchairs on our TVs (and possibly in HD, too)! Civilization Revolution is scheduled to arrive in Spring 2008 for the PS3 and Xbox 360, and for the Wii and DS in Fall 2008.
8/23/2007 Ben Dutka