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Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution

Platform(s): Nintendo DS, PSP, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Firaxis


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PS3/X360 Review - 'Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 11, 2008 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

In Civilization, players strive to become ruler of the world by establishing and leading a civilization from the dawn of man into the space age - waging war, conducting diplomacy, discovering technologies, going head-to-head with some of history's greatest leaders, and building the most powerful empire the world has ever known.

Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Firaxis
Release Date: July 8, 2008

One of the reasons that PC gaming remains as strong as it does is because it is almost impossible to port certain games to consoles. You can quite easily push over a first-person shooter, but real-time strategy and MMORPGs are awkward at best. The most difficult, however, are turn-based strategy titles that require obscene amounts of micromanagement, where a keyboard and a mouse are almost required to play the game correctly. Of these games, one of the most popular is Civilization, which is a complex game with complex controls and a ton of micromanagement. Games are measured in days, not hours. Porting this to consoles seems like an unlikely prospect at best, but that didn't daunt 2K Games and Firaxis, who are attempting to bring the classic franchise to consoles with Civilization Revolution by adapting the controls and game length to be more console-friendly. Did they manage to do so while keeping the franchise's classic flavor?

Before Revolution even starts, you'll have to pick from one of 16 different civilizations, each with its own unique attributes. The Americans are money-heavy and capable of quick production and really come into their own once you hit modern times. The Mongols, on the other hand, have a powerful early start, with immense attack power and quick civilization building, but they begin to taper off in the endgame. My personal favorite, the Aztecs, begin as a powerful warrior culture and develop into a money-heavy science civilization.

They've done a good job of incorporating each culture's unique qualities into their video game counterparts, although that causes slight balance issues with the various civilizations. Some of the civilizations have abilities that are amazingly overpowered. For example, the Aztecs begin with a lot of gold and the ability to fully heal all units after every skirmish. This makes them absolute monsters in combat, and once they get the archers going, you'll need a massive technological advantage to have a prayer of defeating their cities. Once they level up, they get even more gold, a Science bonus and cheaper roads.

Contrast this with the Chinese, who begin with writing and population bonuses, earn free literacy technology, can build cheaper libraries, and their ultimate modern-day bonus is immunity to anarchy. There's a very noticeable difference in the benefits between nations, and some are far superior to others. It's realistic, but it's difficult to see someone choosing the Chinese over the Americans or Aztecs for anything beyond casual play. A truly skilled player could bring the Chinese to victory, but when you match two equal players, the disadvantage is noticeable. There is a certain realism to it, but one can't help but feel disappointed that there wasn't more done to ensure that every civilization has a fair chance at victory.

Once the game begins, things are very easy to get a hang of. The Civilization gameplay has been distilled down to its very basic elements, and the 360 controller has been carefully adapted to allow you to quickly scroll through your various units. You begin every civilization the same way, with a single Settler unit, and your goal is to find a good place to create your first city. While the game usually starts you somewhere adequate, it might be in your best interest to use the first couple of turns to make sure that there isn't a better location right around the corner. You see, establishing a civilization isn't as easy as finding a fertile plot of land and setting up shop. You have to consider the available resources around you: food, production and trade. At the outset, your options for these three are fairly limited, so it's important to find a location with a solid balance of all three.

Food can be gained from grassy plains, production from trees and mountains, and trade resources can be gained from other squares. Food is the growth of your city, so the more food squares you have, the faster your city will grow; additional population will grant you more workers to gather supplies around the city. Production allows you to build things, so the more production squares you have, the faster you can churn out buildings and units. The final stat, trade, can be set to either science or gold. Science allows you to learn new technologies faster, while gold allows you to buy things from other civilizations, rush units, or bribe your way out of battle.

Once you've founded a city, your goal will be to begin building it up with buildings or Wonders. Every new technology you discover unlocks something new to build. Buildings are simple bonuses that every city can have, ranging from factories and workshops, which improve your production capabilities, to barracks and SDI defense nodes, which can provide an unsurpassed military advantage. Wonders are a bit different and function as a sort of super-building. They take a very long time to build, but provide amazing bonuses, including huge increases in trade, powerful upgrades, and even nuclear weapons. There can only be one of each Wonder in the entire world, so if another civilization builds one before you, you'll be left in the dust. Furthermore, some Wonders can be nullified by the discovery of certain technologies. The East India Trading Company provides a massive increase in trade, but the second another civilization discovers flight, you permanently lose that bonus. It's a risky business, but if you're careful, Wonders can turn the tide of the entire game.

Beyond turning your city into a bustling hub of survival, your next goal is to build up its culture level. Culture can be built up by creating specific Wonders and buildings, as well as occasional bonuses that can be earned through particularly successful play, such as the "We Love the King" holiday that randomly occurs in thriving cities. A high culture level is important because it can serve as an incentive to other nearby cities; if you build up the culture of a city near an enemy's city with low culture, that city may be attracted enough to follow suit. Likewise, a city with low culture is at risk of betraying your culture to another civilization, so be careful. The other advantage to high culture marks is that you can attract Great People to your city, who can provide a continuous bonus, such as a 50 percent increase in gold production or culture, or a one-time bonus, such as converting a city to your cause or automatically complete research on a new technology. Unfortunately, there is a risk, as Great People can be stolen from your city by enemy spies, so you'll have to keep a careful eye on them.

Unfortunately, no matter how clever of a diplomat you are, war is an aspect of Civilization that just can't be avoided. Once war is declared between two nations, combat can occur any time these nations' soldiers come in contact with one another. The attacking soldier's Attack stat is measured against the defending soldier's Defense stat, and whoever has the bigger number will emerge as the victor. There are a few ways to modify things in your favor, though. Terrain matters; attacking someone when he's on a mountain or in a fortified city will mean that he'll gain a bonus to his basic defense stat. Furthermore, every three battles that a soldier is in, he gains a level and earns a new bonus ability. The first bonus ability is always the Veteran status, which improves attack and defense by 50 percent, and each following upgrade can be chosen from a list.

To mix things up even more, three of the same type of soldier can bond together into an army, which creates a unit with the combined attributes of all three. To finish things off, soldiers and armies can be injured by particularly fierce battle, which drops their overall Attack and Defense stats. It's a fairly simple system, and yet it has a lot of depth. Unfortunately, there is a slight flaw with the system: There are bizarre occasions when the numbers don't seem to matter. I've seen a battalion of tanks with 60 Attack lose to a group of riflemen with 37 Defense, with the riflemen not taking a single loss. These occasions are rare, but extremely frustrating, since you lose a fight that should have been impossible to lose, and it feels distinctly unfair to lose your best army to a group of ragged nobodies.

There are four different ways to win the game in Civilization Revolution. The "easiest” is a Domination victory, where you take over a certain number of another civilization's main cities to win. This isn't as easy as it sounds, and while it can be the quickest way to win, once the technological levels start getting high, you're going to face a lot more opposition. The second way is an Economic victory. By reaching at least 20,000 gold in your bank, you get the ability to create a World Bank Wonder, which instantly awards you victory. The third is a Cultural victory. For each Great Person, Wonder or any city that willingly converts (not captured) by your civilization, you earn a point. Once you've reached 20 Culture victory points, you can build the United Nations Wonder, which also awards you a victory. Finally, there is a Technological Victory, which involves researching Spaceship Technology and sending a colony ship to Alpha Centauri. The ship you build can be customized to hold more people and travel faster by creating parts for it in your cities. Once it is built, you launch it toward Alpha Centauri. Assuming nobody else wins in the number of years it takes your ship to safely reach Alpha Centauri, a Technological victory is yours. While a Technological victory earns you the most points, particularly when you have a high number of colonists, it also requires the most effort to succeed.

Beyond the main game, Civilization Revolution also offers a few other gameplay modes. Scenario games have with a slight twist. Take, for example, the Beta Centauri scenario, which assumes that your settlers are colonizing a brand new planet. You begin with access to all of the technologies in the game, but you must also deal with an increase in "alien" barbarians, and since you're already on a new planet, you can't achieve a Technology win. The Golden Age is a scenario where barbarians are less violent, Great People are more commonly appearing, and Technology advances faster. Each of these scenarios offers a fun and unique twist on the Civilization gameplay, and they're a good way to mix things up after you've proven your domination over the regular single-player mode. There are also Game of the Week scenarios that change every week and give you a prepared situation that you have to succeed in. Players can then upload their scores from the Game of the Week to the Xbox Live leaderboards to show off their civilizations.

Finally, and most certainly to be the most popular mode, is the multiplayer gameplay. Up to four people can play Civilization against one another in a variety of ways, such as four-player free for all, a one-on-one match, teaming up, or even with a mix of human and computer players. Civilizations can be chosen, and less-skilled players can even choose to add a handicap to their characters to allow them a greater chance of competing against other players. While you can only play the vanilla Civilization Revolution online, the length and twists to the game, especially in a four-player mode, are sure to keep players busy for a long, long time.

There is one thing that can't be denied about Civilization Revolution's graphics: They are exceptionally charming. They're bright and cartoony, with each civilization having its own unique designs for cities, and each unit being delightfully amusing in its own way. From the happy little dance that a tank does when it defeats an enemy to the bemusing animations of the Great People when you activate their special powers, it is a fun game to watch. Of particular enjoyment are the various advisers and civilization leaders who pop up from time to time. They're well animated and very expressive, and there's nothing quite as amusing as seeing a warlord pop up on-screen, only to have him shoved out of the way by your diplomatic adviser and sulk off. While the Civilization Revolution graphics are wonderfully appealing, there are a few flaws. It isn't a very visually impressive game, even with the excellent art design, and despite being quite simplistic, Civilization Revolution can suffer from some nasty slowdown in some places. It doesn't occur often, and it rarely causes gameplay issues, so it is more of a minor annoyance than a real problem.

Civilization Revolution falls into an odd area. It is quite fun, easy to play, and while there are a few interface quirks and minor issues that bog down the game, they are minor complaints at best and do little to hinder the title's quality. Revolution makes a great starting place for new gamers to learn the ways of Civilization while avoiding being overwhelmed by the massive amount of things present in Civilization 4. Revolution's biggest issue is that it really does simplify things to the point where it might turn off loyal Civilization fans. Games are quicker, shorter, and on the whole, less tactical than those played on the PC. This makes it a perfect fit for console gamers, but eager Civilization fans looking for a fix might be disappointed by these changes; if they're willing to accept a different kind of game, they'll find lots of fun in Civilization Revolution. Newcomers will simply find a grossly addictive game that will eat hours and hours of their lives, both on- and offline.

Score: 9.0/10

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