Review: Civilization V, More Of The Same or Was There a Revolution?

Civilization is a big hit with hardcore strategy gamers. 2K Games tried their best to introduce the series to a more casual audience with 2008’s Civilization Revolution for home consoles. It was very successful and even touted some of the best controls for a strategy game on a controller. CivRev was a more streamlined approach to the series with more of the in-depth features from the earlier entries taken out in favor of a more friendly experience. Players that enjoyed CivRev and then tried to play Civilization IV came to that realization pretty quickly. Not only was the game sufficiently harder, they have to micro-mange more and think about aspects they never had to worry about on their console. This was the way the hardcore fans liked it. With the announcement of Civ5, some players worried that 2K Games and Firaxis would keep to the console’s direction with the newest numbered installment. Well, how did it go? Was there a Revolution for PC gamers as well, or was the integrity of their in-depth and much loved series in-tact?

Both. Firaxis has brilliantly combined both hardcore and streamlined experiences into the ultimate Civilization game. The game is as thorough as previous entries in the series but brings about new ways to introduce these features to new players or those who haven’t played in awhile. Through a set of advisers, the game can either hold your hand for tutorial round or allow you to ask for help when you feel you need it. Your Foreign Advisor can tell you which goodies the city-states you’ve visited have, while your Science Advisor will lend a hand in which research directions you should take. The option to visit your advisers never disappear and they are always available for you to take advantage of. Help comes in the visual option mentioned above or in subtle icons placed next to wonders, units, and buildings that the game recommends you make. You aren’t locked into these choices, either, you can play the game exactly how you wish with no annoying cross talk from the advisers.

Game play in single player is very smooth and the turns can go by quickly once you get the core mechanics done. Setting up a game shows you how you can change the size of the game map, turn speed, how many AI players and AI city-states will join the game, and which country you will play as. Each country has a hero and with that choice brings exclusive units and buildings to your disposal. If you like choices, I recommend you buy the game from either Direct2Drive or Steam as you gain access to Babylon as a country choice. For a quick example, Japan lets you build Samurai which are very strong melee warriors and quick but small  Zero bomber plans later on. In addition to more units, your country’s hero gives special aspects to game play that vary depending on how you pick. Otto von Bismarck of the German Empire can sometimes force Barbarian units that your destroy to join you. Gandhi decreases unhappy citizens due to the number of cities but doubles dissatisfaction when dealing with other aspects. The amount of exclusive country features makes picking different countries increase the replay value of the game.

Running the game can be difficult for players with an average rig. The specs for Civ5 are a bit steep but the option to play the game in either Direct X9 or Direct X10/11 helps. The Direct X9 version runs better with average computer set-ups or lower, while the higher options cater to above average and high-end system users. Either way, the graphics on Civ5 are a joy. The environments are beautiful and really add to the experience. You can easily tell the difference between units (even without using the icon above their heads) and animations are smooth and fun to watch. The opening cinematic plays in favor of getting you pumped to build your own civilization, its just a shame that after watching it once you can’t skip it again until you watch about 20-30 seconds of the video each time.

Multi-player is easy enough to connect to. Steam is used here and the features it brings should be a welcome addition to all fans. I had some issues with disconnections and slow-down while playing with a few friends online but the game allows you to jump right back in where you left off, even if the host leaves. As expected, turns take slower online and I don’t mean just because a friend can be slower managing his cities and units, but when its time for the game to switch to the next turn there is a huge pause in game play and graphics that can sometimes give you a bit of a startle. If you get disconnected, an AI player takes over for you until you return. When you connect back into the game, it throws every player into a loading screen and starts at either the beginning of the current turn or the previous turn. While it can be a setback for some players, the great game play and additions to Civ5 make it bearable. The biggest issue facing multi-player right now is the lack of a functional save system. As of this writing, you have to press CTRL+S to bring up the save menu and then it gets even more confusing from them. There is a Steam Cloud option in the menu but it doesn’t save it to your multi-player folder, it saves it to single player. Then, when saving the game regularly, the game starts you off at the beginning of turn 1. You have to rely on auto-saves which save every so often (you can change how often in the options). In my experience, after playing for over 6 hours with a few friends, our last auto-save dropped up about 2 turns before when we quit. It is a big problem which I’m sure Firaxis and 2K will take care of. There is also a slight camera issue where the game automatically takes over and moves your focus to units that you either didn’t want to deal with this turn (some of which you tell to go to sleep), or which the game thinks you should start with. I haven’t completely skewered through the options to see if this is something that can be turned off but it can be annoying when your in the midst of a city siege and your primed with your front line unit to strike and then the camera takes you far off to a worker who needs a new order.

Overall, Civ5 is a success. The streamlined experience doesn’t take away from the series great game play yet it furthers it without repercussion. Long-time fans will find a lot to like here and new players or Civilization Revolution fans will find that adapting to a PC Civ game is easier than ever and much more enjoyable. I recommend this game to any strategy fan and implore any PC gamer to pick this up and give it a spin.


  • Easy To Pick Up
  • Smooth and Addictive
  • Great Country Choices and Perks
  • Steam


  • Multi-Player Saving Issue
  • Semi-steep System Specs
  • Camera Issues

Review by Cennus