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Review – Civilization Revolution Demo

As the name might imply, it’s hard to make a full judgment of Civilization Revolution based on the demo for a few reasons. The game is time limited, you can only play on “pussy” or “Jay” mode (we’ll let the readers decide which is worse), both giving you bonuses significant enough that it’s hard to get a flavor for real balance. The Civlopedia isn’t full, so you can’t analyze all the techs without playing countless times, and you are limited to two civilizations. Despite these limitations, what you can do is get a good feeling for how Firaxis dramatically changed the game-style of Civ while still keeping it Civ–a paraphrased sentence you’ve heard over and over again about the game which is an excellent way to open up this review.

This is unrealistic. If Ghengis Khan had a problem with you he would simply eat your family in front of you, fueled by the sound of your wailing and sobbing.

Leading off the list of changes is the fact the game has done away with workers – those little happy slaves who built the empire of Civilizations past have fled for greener pastures (they hired coyotes to take them to a more liberated game). If you discover a new resource, you get the benefits in the city immediately, no worker-driven improvement (such as a mine, farm, pasture etc) needed. Roads are built via gold expenditure, linking nearby cities. This limits tactical road building for invasions and such, but the maps (seem) to tend to be less sprawling.

On the topic of cities, each square now produces one resource; food, production, or trade. Trade is converted in either science or cash, a choice made on a city by city basis. Special resources, with the right tech, become dual bonuses (so an oxen might yield food and production, not just food, from its native grassland tile), making the benefits of special resources all the more noteworthy. Another substantial change to the game is that buildings are more city specific than before. Many buildings have effects based on the terrain in a city. For example, a granary grows double food on plains squares (which typically grow only one), for a net total of three. So if you see a destitute patch of plains squares, they’re just one upgrade away from relevance. In Civ 4, by comparison, granaries speed city growth and increase the health bonus of grain type resources.

Civ Rev has done away with the old concept of happiness and healthiness, which were driving factors of both buildings and resource acquisition in past Civ games. Instead, the focus of buildings in Civ Rev is more around the increased productivity of native squares of a city and production of gold/science/culture/etc. In practice, this actually works well. It will be more enjoyable when not held to the artificial constraints of the demo, but it will create a substantial learning curve for players. City placement will be influenced by one’s tech path and access to the buildings which can turn a mediocre city into a powerhouse, and that’s something that will take a few play-throughs for people to get the hang of.

If you think nature has been kind to the women in this game wait until you see Abraham Lincoln’s massive wang.

The tech tree is simpler than Civs past, but still surprisingly deep and interesting. The biggest crime committed is that Firaxis added one of the most annoying things a game can do from a design perspective (in my opinion): free bonuses on tech discovery. The first player (AI or human) to research a tech gets a goodie. Rewards can be anything from a free building, a free unit, a global science bonus, or six (real life) hookers. This leads into a gameplay aspect Firaxis decided they would make central to Civ Rev, which is the “race” aspect. And I don’t mean Hutu vs Tutsi race, I mean Indy 500 style racing. Gold, culture, and tech give bonuses at certain achievements. Gold gives stacking bonuses for hoarding, including free settlers, techs, and great people. Culture gives great people. And, as mentioned before, tech is by far the worst offender, simply because it’s the gift that keeps on giving: EVERY tech gives you something if you’re the first person to research it.

Combat is fairly entertaining and I should list some of the neat aspects. There are still relevant terrain bonuses–including a new bonus when attacking from a hill, penalty attacking into a forest (forests are scary and full of witches and nature), and penalty from attacking across a river. Units upgrade, and at max upgrade get to pick a custom skill similar to Civ 4. Units can also combine into armies of three which are nasty little buggers, sharing their upgrades to create some truly fearsome combinations.

Overall: it’s an interesting gaming experience. Without a doubt, Firaxis has done an admirable job of creating a leaner version of Civ without sacrificing much flavor (like buffalo hamburgers). However, despite this monumental success, there are some serious question marks as to whether the game will be fun or not.

As mentioned before, the game goes out of its way to find ways to give you massive bonuses for achievements.. This could be cool, if your concept of video gaming involves gamers frolicking about in a carefree manner as candy, gold, and bottles of scotch fall from the sky to be gathered up, creating a utopian world of happiness. Except in the reality called “the internet,” what actually is going to happen is min/max gamers with too much free time on their hands will decode in about 24 hours the EXACT build order needed to win. There might be some flexibility, and there might be the possibility that goody-mongering is easily defeated by a solid unit rush. But my fear is that the game’s good intentioned bonus-happy mechanic will lead to a very calculated method of playstyle in the competitive sense. Maybe the final version will even have a way to turn tech bonuses off to mitigate this–I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.

Eat it, Iran.

Overall, I have to give Firaxis credit for what appears to be at least, in concept, a success. The game looks good, it plays well, it has a solid interface, and the characters speak in a funny language that’s a rip-off of Simlish. But will the bonus-whore paths be diverse enough to create multiple playstyles, or will there be a single calculated strategy for victory that all must follow?

And, of course… the most important question… will they need to patch it?

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