Support Andy, click to buy via us...
Sid Meier's strategy king comes to the 360. Can it dispel the image of the console as 'no good for this sort of game'? Is it just a dumbed down version of its PC counterpart Civilization 4? Or is it a perfectly honed creation that will give both newcomers and hardened veterans a taste of this unique strategy game in a slightly easier to digest package?
I've played Civ games since Civ2 and so have my children so we've got a lot of history with this franchise. As such we may have brought a little PC bias to the table when we started but we were very soon won over by the game and have put in a lot of hours in our attempts to conquer the word (insert evil laughter here).
While it's probably unfair to compare Civilisation Revolution directly to its PC counterpart; which is after all targeted at a different audience; there are a couple of things that are 'missing' that I would have liked to have seen included. None of your units can be set to 'auto explore' whereby they sail / walk / ride around the world until all fog of war has been banished. The 'Open Borders' agreements you can strike up with opponents also seem to have been ditched. These allowed you free access through a friendly neighbouring civs land without having to declare war on them. In my first game I had a couple of cases where I'd sent my troops out exploring only to find I had to send a ship to get them back because one of my opponents had blocked off the route back with one of their cities. And finally I would have liked to have seen a minimap which can give you an instant indication of where you haven't travelled and how your opponents are spreading.
I've played Civ games since Civ2 and so have my children so we've got a lot of history with this franchise.
I'm sure however that there were very valid reasons for leaving these things out, because on the whole Civ Revolution is very polished and a lot of thought has gone into making this a great console strategy game. The emphasis has been put on relatively quick games with rapid progression through the technological knowledge tree and frequent, frantic battles as you try to keep your fledgling civilisation afloat. So, with those caveats out of the way, let's look at the game itself.
For those who've never come across Civ before, a brief summary. Your task, as leader of one of 16 civilisations, is to build a nation from its humble beginnings as a single city and through the research of your scientists, endeavours of your army and hard work of your population conquer the world (aggressively or peacefully) by achieving 1 of 4 victory conditions. These are domination (take your 4 opponents capital cities), with the cultural, technology and economic conditions being the accumulation of sufficient culture, knowledge or money to build the victory item: United Nations, a spaceship which reaches Alpha Centauri and the World Bank.
On the easiest, Chieftain, setting, things really are very easy indeed. The opposing leaders will rarely create more than a couple of cities, don't seem to research anything and don't explore the world. This allows you to grab all the goodies from hidden cities, like Atlantis. Indeed I found the city of the Knights Templar who very kindly gave me an Advanced Tank which was far, far more powerful than anything I had, let alone my opponents. I could have used this to rampage around the globe destroying all in my path if I'd wanted; but I was going for one of the other victory conditions so just used it to put rivals in their place when they rather foolishly declared war on me for not giving them a ridiculous peace ransom. This incessant declaring of war can get a little tiresome, and there seems little that you can do to form a really long lasting peace with any of your neighbours.
The short animated encounters between units are entertaining, with the victor letting out whoops of victory and firing guns into the air. Engaging other forces is a key part in developing your troops skills as, while they can gain bonuses from your government type, certain discoveries and being 'barracks born', defeating enemies gives numerous other enhancements like extra attack, movement and healing skills. Early game victories against barbarians can really drive your unit's usefulness up.
Throughout the game you have the benefit of several 'advisors' - for example military and science. Some of these pop up frequently to prompt you to decide which units, buildings and wonders to construct and can also be called upon to give their opinion about the other leaders. For example your military advisor may suggest that an opponent is weak and you should ignore their threats. The animation for the advisors is done very well - they force their way onto the screen, pushing anyone else out of the way (with the banished advisor sloping grumpily away). However the developers have decided to have them speak simlish at you - something I found mildly entertaining at first. But because they appear so frequently and clearly have a limited 'vocabulary' I had to resort to turning their volume level down. It may just be personal preference and I'm sure some will be perfectly OK with this.
There are a total of five difficulty levels - all the way up to 'deity' which will certainly give even hardened players a tough challenge. Best to start low and gradually work up as you come to grip with the fundamentals and work out some, hopefully, winning strategies.
With the slow ramping up of difficulty, a wide variety of ages and experiences will find it easy to get into.
Revolution certainly has great long term playability. Not only are there the fiendishly difficult higher levels to get to grips with, you can also play a number of scenarios where the rules are tweaked slightly - such as starting at a more advance level. Add a 'Game of the Week' with online leader boards, xbox live play and the fact that you can win by cultural, domination, economic or technology victory and you are getting a whole lot of game for your money.
While there are certainly some nice things missing from Revolution when compared directly with Civilisation 4, if you look at it without this comparison then it most definitely stands up as a great game in its own right. With the easy introduction to the game that is chieftain level, and the slow ramping up of difficulty to deity, a wide variety of ages and experiences will find it easy to get into, with plenty of challenges awaiting them. The colourful worlds and amusing battle animations will appeal to all the family; while the simlish speaking advisors may be fun for some but horribly grating for others (at least you can turn the volume down on them). I heartily recommend this game to anyone with even a vague interest in this genre.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: