By Etienne Vlok
Civilization Revolution is the latest offering in one of the most revered PC franchises since the advent of strategy gaming. Sid Meier is living proof that lightning can strike in the same place twice (or even more times) when you consider that with each new Civilization game being released, the bar for the 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) genre of turn based strategy games has been raised.
As such, Civilization Revolution, developed exclusively for consoles, has a lot to do to live up to its PC cousins. It needs to cater to the unique interface limitations placed on it by a console controller (12 buttons vs. a full keyboard requires a lot of simplification) while still maintaining the core gameplay that makes Civilization a classic of the genre.
I regard myself as a long-time fan of the franchise, and I’m happy to report that Civilization Revolution, while sacrificing a fair amount of its innate complexity to cater for the simplified control scheme, is at heart a true scion of the franchise.
The key aim of a Civ title remains intact here – rule the world by guiding one of several pre-generated civilizations to dominance via military, cultural, technological or economic might. Factions are unique in terms of their own starting strengths and weaknesses. As always, these are nicely balanced, with some factions having traits that give them an advantage in the early game (the Greeks get access to democracy quicker, for example) while others pay off in the long run (the American faction having the most powerful military units later on.) The historical leader of each faction has distinctly identifiable personality traits to differentiate them from each other, and the game exaggerates these traits somewhat to comic effect.
The main event of a Civilization game lies in the gameplay, and it’s here that the simplification seems to strip the title of some its allure as the thinking man’s strategy game. Personally, my biggest gripe with the game is the fact that it really loses that highly addictive â€˜just one more turn’ style of gameplay, due to the game playing too fast. Technologies are researched in 3 or 4 turns as a rule, which means you progress up the tech tree at almost breakneck speed, especially when compared to the stately, chess-like planning involved in the PC versions. It is entirely feasible to hit the modern age within an hour and a half of playtime, and an entire game can be completed in roughly 4 hours, if not less. It dumbs down unit command a lot – not being able to micromanage workers irks me, since it was an integral part of my economic strategy for success in previous instalments.
That said, the game still does more things right than it does wrong, even when taking the above flaws into account – combat is simple, yet it offers enough customization of tactics to keep it fresh and interesting, depending on your force combination and how you deploy it. The game still forces you to choose between scarce resources and a mind-boggling amount of technologies you can research to develop a truly unique civilization with which to take on the world. The customization options the game does incorporate – like naming a mountain range or other geographical feature you discover – also adds a nice touch to the proceedings. Finally, the game does still offer a lot of ways to proceed in how you want to conquer the world, something pleasing to the petty despot inside me.
On a technical front, the game is pleasing to look at, with a lot of bright visuals depicting the game world as a whole. Unit actions are animated to a large degree, in order to further create the immersion factor when your armies battle. That said, it’s pretty much on the standard of Civilization IV, so don’t expect the Total War series when armies match up.
Music has always been a strong point of the series, and Revolution doesn’t break the trend: from tribal drum beats to depict your fledgling tribe, through to classical music by to represent the Renaissance at its height, the game constantly dishes up music to fit its surroundings. The sound effects themselves are also pretty good, and volume scales as you zoom in and out of the map: a close zoom will let you hear the sounds of a living city, whereas a distant zoom will let you hear nothing but the rustling of the wind. It’s a nice touch, and does wonders to immerse you in the game.
Although it may not be as deep as its PC cousins, Revolution is by no means a bad game. However, it’s very much Civilization Lite, and as such, you may be disappointed if you buy it and expect the full-blown Civ experience. This is a Civ game reworked for the console generation – more bang for your buck in a shorter amount of time. The game accomplishes this goal admirably, but in doing so, sadly takes away from the classic formula of the franchise. Ultimately, I can heartily recommend it to anyone who loved past Civilization games – just keep in mind that it differs markedly in terms of depth. To anyone else wanting to play a well conceived strategy game for the console market, Civilization offers a lot of fun and longevity. I should note that there is a multiplayer option over Live available, but sadly, I didn’t get around to playing a game online due to work commitments.
Gameplay: 7.7/10 [Ultimately pleasing – I wish I could do more, though!]
Presentation: 8/10 [Polished and professional]
Sound: 8/10 [Suits the era and mood of gameplay with dynamic music changes]
Longevity: 8/10 [A lot of replay value due to wildly differing approaches to winning the game]
Overall: 7.9/10 [Falls just short of true greatness, but definitely an enjoyable Civ game]
Last Updated: July 25, 2008