PC gaming is almost entirely dominated by First Person Shooters and Strategy games. Whereas First Person Shooters go extremely well on consoles, Strategy games on the other hand have quite an average history. There have been a few games that have shone through, Command & Conquer 3 for example, but us console gamers with a passion for strategy games have been plagued with rather poor games. Civilization Revolution is the latest game to try the console market. Have they pulled it off? The simple answer is yes--and well.
The last Ciilization game to reach the consoles was Civ II back on the original PlayStation. To say the least, it was poor and a blatant cash in of the success of the original Civ on the PC. But here, we have a Civ title made from scratch for the consoles. The amount of effort Firaxis has put into this is clear, however these changes may not be to the taste of the hardcore Civilization fans.
Civ Rev is similar to every other Civilization game. You take a civilization from bare bones to superpower as you work through the years. You expand your civilization by building your cities up, improving your technologies, making your civilians happy and conquering other cities. I tried just improving my technologies and taking a peaceful way of expanding my civilizations, but on many accounts I ended up starting a war with a civilization, sometimes two.
Civilization games have always been extremely complicated. Civ Rev is exactly the opposite. It has a steady learning curve that enables you to slowly gain confidence and work up the difficulties. When playing on the easiest setting, you have your cartoony advisers holding your hand and explaining whatever you don't understand. This may sound a bit overbearing, but it's not. The advisers don't always pop up, but they do appear at moments that you will need explaining on a first play. The advisers, in general, are great. They don't get that annoying, but they appear often enough to deliver you vital information, such as who is at war with who, that you can use to your advantage.
There are a lot of different nations within Civ Rev ranging from Japan to America to Aztec. Each civilization has a starting bonus that can include things like 1/2 price roads or a mountain of gold to use. Each civilization also get different bonuses as you progress through each era. This adds a level of strategy to think how you're going to use your bonuses to help you expand.
There are 4 different ways to win a match. The first is a Domination Victory, which basically involves you having to conquer the many other civilizations on the map to become the dominant civilization. The second is a Cultural victory. Here you must attract "Great People", who can improve your cities, and build "Great Wonders" so you are able to build the UN Building. Next is the Economic victory, simply put you need to gather lots and lots of money to win. And finally is the Technological victory, which sees you having to expand your technology so much so that you are the first civilization to reach space. Each one is possible, but keep in mind that last minute another civilization could sneakily climb the ladder. The game provides handy pop ups as to which civilization is in the lead and which city is currently the greatest.
To be able to achieve any of these victories, however, you need to be able to manage your cities. This is made incredibly easy in the game. You are able to manage how each city works (eg. how much science they perform or how much food they produce), how each city is defended and what buildings are used where. This is no-where near as deep as the PC games, but it's made simple enough for any gamer to just pick up and play, quickly expanding their cities. Almost everything is done through the city screen, which provides all the statistics you need. This let's you see how much food/gold/science is being produced, how quickly buildings and soldiers are being made as well as being the place where you manage how your city works. It provides enough detail to keep a Civ fan happy, but just enough to make it easy to understand for new gamers.
The game also provides nice little features that encourage you to explore the world and expand your cities. You occasionally get hints of ancient civilizations dotted around the map that, once discovered, provide a vital bonus to your civilization. Also, as your cities become greater and you become more popular, distant leaders will send you gifts such as magicians or dancers to place in your trophy room.
The AI at times can be a little poor. One minute you could be sharing knowledge and helping one another out, the next moment they could be extremely annoyed with you and begin to attack your cities. The AI does, however, provide a challenge on some of the higher difficulties, making you really think what your next move needs to be.
Combat is another important thing to victory. Whether taking a peaceful route to victory or a dominant one, you still need an army prepared to defend your cities from attack. It is extremely easy to manage your armies. 3 troops of any kind can form together to create an army. These armies can provide more defence to cities as well as stronger attacks towards enemies. As troops win more battles, they are able to earn bonuses such as extra defence when fighting on home ground, which is very useful in helping to keep your armies powerful.
The matches themselves are never too long. The PC games always had matches that could last for hours upon hours upon hours, which turned some players off. Here, the matches can last quite a long time (I had one that last for around 3 hours), but there are different scenarios in which some gameplay elements are changed to make the game faster or slower. Civ Rev is not really a game where you can pick it up before going to work and having a quick match. It's one of those games where you need a good chunk of time off to really get settled and focused on the task at hand.
Multiplayer is a great addition to the game. This is basically the single player game, but with real people controlling the other civilizations. This provides a whole new level as you have to make sure that the people will stick by your side and not betray you by invading your cities. However, matches can last for hours if all players are thinking hard about what to do that turn, although there is a timer for each turn that stops people taking ages to decide their next move.
The controls are excellent. I was very skeptical about the controls of Civ Rev as console strategy games have a reputation for having poor controls, but since Civ Rev is built for consoles, the controls have been fine tuned so they work perfectly well. There are a few hiccups here and there, but not great flaws that will intrude on the overall enjoyment of the game
The graphics are pretty good with cartoon-like leaders such as Napoleon and the different advisers (the Foreign Advisor looks suspiciously like Condoleezza Rice) The battle animations are nothing special but will keep you entertained. The game does, however, suffer from a few frame-rate issues especially when the advisers pop-up or disappear and also when the ICBM explodes. The audio is very Civilization-esque which tense music during a battle or nice calm music during a quite period adding to the experience.
Civilization Revolution is how all console strategy titles should be. Fun, easy to pick up with a good degree of difficulty. Civ Rev pulls out all the stops and the input of Sid Meier himself really shows within the game. I'm sure that this game will appeal to gamers that aren't really a fan of strategy titles because it is a lot less complicated than most strategy titles. Not only that but the promise of weekly downloads in the form of "Game Of The Week" will provide endless amounts of enjoyment, making this game well worth your money.