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Civilization V is not a new game. On the contrary, it's almost seven years ago. Its sequel, Civilization VI, has been out for almost a year. Despite that, I find myself repeatedly coming back to Civilization V to get my 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) strategy game fix. Having gotten back on a Civilization kick this past week or so, I plan to review Civilization VI before too long, but before I do, I thought it would be good to go back to the game that got me full-on addicted to the series.
Civilization puts you in the role of the leader of a budding civilization, having you build from a single settler unit and a warrior unit to - hopefully - a massive empire turning the world green with envy with your religion, culture, science, economy, and military might. The base game includes 18 unique civilizations, each with their own unique units, traits, strengths, and weaknesses. There are two major expansions that add an additional 18 civilizations along with a few more minor DLC packs that add another seven civilizations for a grand total of 43. It's not just the in-game differences that make these civilizations unique but the detail that went into them; every civilization leader is fully animated and complete with lines of dialogue spoken in the leader's native tongue. For example, when interacting with the Romans, you'll see Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, fully animated with lines recorded in Latin. When interacting with the Aztecs, you'll see Moctezuma I (no, that's not a typo) speaking Nahuatl. While it's not exactly a work of historical fact, obviously, as a history teacher, the amount of detail that went into the leaders and their presentation makes me absolutely giddy.
Civilization V offer five different paths of victory. Of course, you have the tried and true domination victory in which you must crush your enemies. As of the Brave New World expansion, you must control all players' original capitals including your own to achieve a domination victory, meaning that you could technically win through domination without actually wiping out a single civilization. Leaving them alive, however, will obviously give them incentive to retaliate and rid their capital of your filth. You also have the option of a science victory, requiring you to complete certain research projects, build, and be the first to launch a starship to Alpha Centauri. Cultural victory involves making your culture so vibrant and desirable through various policy upgrades (that, in turn, end up influencing your Tourism) that other civilizations' citizenry all start to prefer your culture over any other. Diplomatic victory involves progressing to the point where the World Congress is created and then develops into the United Nations. From there, you must attain enough votes from your own delegates as well city-states or - if they have no sense of self-preservation - other empires to be elected "world leader" by the UN. The last victory type is the time or score victory. Unless this victory type is disabled, whoever has the highest total score by 2050 AD (that's turn 500 on standard speed) is the winner. Score is determined by pretty much everything - gold in your treasury, units you possess, research you've done, territory you control, the number of cities in your empire, the population of your empire....it's an exhaustive list, but the idea is straightforward - the highest score wins. Of these various victory types, cultural is probably the most obscure due to the less-than-straightforward relation between the culture that generates your policy upgrades and the tourism stat that actually triggers the victory
My favorite thing about Civilization is that it can be as confrontational as you want it to be. If you want to, you can start wrecking shit right off the bat. If you're more into the empire building aspect than the empire conquering aspect like me, you can build up your empire relatively peacefully, maintaining just a defensive army (or no army) and focusing on science, culture, and city growth. Diplomacy, while having some flaws in Civ V, allows for relatively peaceful interactions as well as confrontation with various trade options and a few different kinds of pacts you can pursue with other nations. Making all of this better is the option of playing online with a mix of people and CPUs. My favorite thing to do is play with a couple of friends and handful of computer players and - hopefully - keep a relatively cooperative, peaceful relationship with my human counterparts. It's a lot like Risk in that there are some backroom deals going on but unlike Risk, avoiding confrontation is a perfectly viable option.
Civilization V was, in my opinion, the absolute pinnacle of strategy game perfection at the time of its release. As my first "main" Civilization game (excluding the spin-off Civilization Revolution), it's secured both a very special place in my heart as well as the status of being my primary point of reference when playing any other Civilization or 4X strategy game. While there are a few areas that I think could have been improved, it's still a definite masterpiece of strategy design. The detail of the maps, the variety of strategic and luxury resources to claim and exploit, the diplomatic aspects, the number of different victory types, and the diverse array of civilizations from which to choose all make this game truly mind blowing when you stop and think about it. If you have any interest at all in strategy games, I'd give this one a go. With Civilization VI having been on the market for nearly a year, Civ V isn't too pricey these days, and it's still an amazing experience, and that's even before you take into account the various (and often hilarious) mods on the Steam Workshop that you can download. Of all the games I've recommended, this is one of the most highly recommended, hands down.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.