By BisonHero 28 Comments
While playing Civ 5, I've had an epiphany, but one that is not directly related to the games or series. When it comes to the Civilization series, I only played Civ II briefly at a friend's house years ago, and that's about it until I decided to jump in with Civ 5 earlier last year. I've been playing it here and there, and having a pretty good time with it.
But man, most comments on gaming sites bitch about Civ 5 whenever it comes up, saying it's sooo much worse than Civ 4. And hey, there's a good chance they're right! And you know what? I don't give a fuck! I don't have time to go back and try out all of the games in the series and then pass judgment. I'm not advocating an "ignorance is bliss" approach; on the contrary, I believe them when they say that Civ 5 has been scaled back in complexity compared to Civ 4, but at the same time, it's not as if it suddenly got demoted all the way down to being Risk. Civ 5 is still an interesting strategy game with a lot of things going on. In essence, they're overreacting - it's still a pretty good game.
If you're a long-time Civ fan who was disappointed that 5 focused on a more intuitive UI, and streamlined the game instead of further ramping up all the systems that were in 4, I can see why you'd feel that way. Those changes certainly made the game easy to approach for me. But looking at the comments on articles related to the recently announced "Gods and Kings" expansion, people are still going on about how much they don't like it compared to the last game. It makes the fans of the series seem like a bunch of unappreciative assholes who don't even make an attempt to be optimistic that a new expansion will bring back the features they miss so much.
So back to that epiphany. Usually, I'm that guy who is like "OH DEAR GOD, how can you like Deus Ex: Invisible War when the first Deus Ex is leagues better?" But now I'm on the other side of that exchange, and I totally get it now. An ongoing series can ebb and flow, and you can find a game perfectly enjoyable, even when the fanbase is sure it's the low point of the series. Because even that low point will contain the basic gameplay hooks that drive the series, aside from cases where a series is rebooted in a completely different direction. And those gameplay hooks can still be fun to play with, even if they have been implemented more elegantly in other instances.
Now, I'm not seeking to just do away with the exercise of comparing a new entry in a series to the old ones. Obviously, sequel fatigue can set in, and a game isn't doing enough to differentiate itself from its predecessors, and that's worth noting. And while this streamlining in Civ 5 was likely done to revitalize the series and attract new people to the series, I don't think you should do that every time; if you do, you end up with Zelda, which seems to assume at the start of every single game that you're a 6-year-old who is just picking up their very first video game. But please keep in mind that in some weird way you're representing a series when you discuss it online, and the least you could do is be constructive or optimistic if you really are convinced the most recent entry was a misstep. I certainly will.