Civilization V has opened my eyes, but not in the way you'd think

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.

Remember when Ryan did that Quick Look where all he did was blow Brad and Norm's minds with how it wasn't Starcraft II?

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.

28 Comments
28 Comments
Posted by BisonHero

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.

Remember when Ryan did that Quick Look where all he did was blow Brad and Norm's minds with how it wasn't Starcraft II?

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.

Posted by mosdl

I've played a lot of Civ 5 but haven't finished many games. Given I've played each Civ game a lot, fatigue might be my issue. I really should get back into it.

Posted by Claude
@mosdl said:

I've played a lot of Civ 5 but haven't finished many games. Given I've played each Civ game a lot, fatigue might be my issue. I really should get back into it.

Game fatigue sucks. I tend to binge on individual games and once that fatigue sets in, it's almost over. It's something special when I go back and finish it or complete it in my own way.
Posted by Animasta

I'm pretty sure that your hypothetical straw man dude who likes deus ex: invisible war does not exist. I have never ever heard people prefer that game to the original

Posted by Hailinel

@Animasta said:

I'm pretty sure that your hypothetical straw man dude who likes deus ex: invisible war does not exist. I have never ever heard people prefer that game to the original

Same here. I think the idea of comparison someone that prefers Civilization V to earlier titles is not at all equivalent to the notion of the theoretical person that does, in fact, prefer Invisible War.

Civilization is a complex strategy game. Some streamlining was eventually due just to prevent the gameplay and game concepts from becoming too complicated for their own good. There's a difference between streamlining in the Civilization V sense versus the Invisible War sense. Invisible War tore out parts that didn't need tearing out, creating a vastly simplified experience, whereas Civilization V is still a top-notch strategy game, even if its gameplay doesn't have every complexity of the previous game.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Animasta said:

I'm pretty sure that your hypothetical straw man dude who likes deus ex: invisible war does not exist. I have never ever heard people prefer that game to the original

I'm going to quietly raise my hand and wait for everyone to inevitably beat me up for it. I actually did like Invisible War more than the original.

Anyways, back to the OP - I've been a longtime fan of Civilization, and I thought Civ V was great. I was a little disappointed they removed religion, but I think in most areas, their streamlining was smart and made a lot of sense.

Moderator
Posted by ArbitraryWater

As someone who really only got into the series with IV, I think that Civ V's very deliberate and streamlined efforts are far more playable and interesting than prior games. Of course, I'm totally down with a full on expansion (as opposed to the overpriced Civilization and scenario packs) that adds more complexity.

Also, no one actually likes Invisible War. Except .

Online
Posted by BisonHero

@Hailinel said:

@Animasta said:

I'm pretty sure that your hypothetical straw man dude who likes deus ex: invisible war does not exist. I have never ever heard people prefer that game to the original

Same here. I think the idea of comparison someone that prefers Civilization V to earlier titles is not at all equivalent to the notion of the theoretical person that does, in fact, prefer Invisible War.

Civilization is a complex strategy game. Some streamlining was eventually due just to prevent the gameplay and game concepts from becoming too complicated for their own good. There's a difference between streamlining in the Civilization V sense versus the Invisible War sense. Invisible War tore out parts that didn't need tearing out, creating a vastly simplified experience, whereas Civilization V is still a top-notch strategy game, even if its gameplay doesn't have every complexity of the previous game.

Hey guys, I'm totally with you, Invisible War is indefensible.

But somebody out there (say, an original Xbox owner) must have never played original Deus Ex (like I never really played earlier Civs), but played Invisible War, and was like "Yeah, that was alright." And that guy might say on a forum somewhere "Yeah, it was alright", at which point I would spring in and say "OH DEAR GOD, how can you even find Deus Ex: Invisible War enjoyable when the first Deus Ex is leagues better?" The point I was getting at is that without Deus Ex or Thief to immediately compare to, Invisible War probably seems like it does interesting stuff with first person RPG stealth ideas. That guy enjoyed playing the game, whereas all I could do while playing was see how every aspect was lesser than original Deus Ex.

You're right, though, in that the gap between those two Deus Ex games is much larger than the gap between those 2 Civ games, but I think it works with my main point of "one player is able to have a good time with it, one player sees disappointment at every turn, can the latter player please not be a huge dick about it". And seriously, some of the comments I've seen about Civ 5 would have you think that they improved the graphics, and literally everything else is worse.

Any comparisons you might suggest that are more apt, of a sequel that the devoted community thinks is way worse, but is still fairly popular? I sorta drew a blank for examples people would be familiar with. I feel that Pikmin 2 really dumbed down the interesting parts of the game structure in Pikmin 1 (though most of the other changes were welcome additions), but that example seems obscure, and people seem to disagree with it sometimes. So I guess Pikmin 1 is my Civ 4, in that if you like the sequel more, then you're a philistine who can't appreciate how great the 30-day time limit made the first game. But OK, not really, it's still an alright game, they just took out the part I really liked. See! I'm applying the lesson I learned!

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@ArbitraryWater said:

As someone who really only got into the series with IV, I think that Civ V's very deliberate and streamlined efforts are far more playable and interesting than prior games. Of course, I'm totally down with a full on expansion (as opposed to the overpriced Civilization and scenario packs) that adds more complexity.

Also, no one actually likes Invisible War. Except .

I rest my case. And I will continue to expect many a thrown tomato in my general direction.

Moderator
Posted by Animasta

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: you are legitimately the first person I've heard that opinion from. I don't care, I haven't played either (nor do I want to), but still. congrats!

Posted by Hailinel

@BisonHero: That is a fair point. Without the context of earlier titles, it's easy to think well of a game that might in fact be widely considered the worst in the series. Such is common in the Final Fantasy series fandom. Many people that began playing the games with Final Fantasy VII consider it to be among the best in the series, whereas people that played earlier games, particular Final Fantasy IV and VI, consider those FFVII fans to be completely insane. But those very same Final Fantasy VII fans are perfectly justified in their regard for the game because they don't have the context of the previous entries with which to compare.

But Invisible War is still a terrible thing. *Hurls a tomato at .*

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

@ArbitraryWater said:

As someone who really only got into the series with IV, I think that Civ V's very deliberate and streamlined efforts are far more playable and interesting than prior games. Of course, I'm totally down with a full on expansion (as opposed to the overpriced Civilization and scenario packs) that adds more complexity.

Also, no one actually likes Invisible War. Except .

I rest my case. And I will continue to expect many a thrown tomato in my general direction.

It's ok. Reading whatever blog that comes out of you finishing Divinity II will be delicious recompense enough.

Online
Edited by BisonHero

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Don't worry, it's not just you! I actually have a friend who advised that I play IW. He seemed to think the JC Denton area was pretty rad, and thought the endings were cool. Though with all due respect to this friend, when I look at his interests, I get the impression that once he decides he likes a series/artist, he commits himself to continuing to like them. He played Deus Ex, he thought IW was fine, and said people give it a bad rap. He played Red Faction Guerilla, then recently played Red Faction Armageddon and said it was fine. He really liked Blink 182 like 10 years ago, and now he keeps up with the solo projects of all those guys, despite all of it being pretty unremarkable and really far off the radar. Oh, and he legitimately recommended Pariah (I assume because the game leads off with an intriguing cutscene that hints at an interesting story, except the game's story turns out to be AWFUL). None of those opinions are "wrong", but it makes me question what thought process leads to him liking stuff.

Posted by Mesklinite

@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

@Animasta said:

I'm pretty sure that your hypothetical straw man dude who likes deus ex: invisible war does not exist. I have never ever heard people prefer that game to the original

I'm going to quietly raise my hand and wait for everyone to inevitably beat me up for it. I actually did like Invisible War more than the original.

Anyways, back to the OP - I've been a longtime fan of Civilization, and I thought Civ V was great. I was a little disappointed they removed religion, but I think in most areas, their streamlining was smart and made a lot of sense.

Religion is making a come back in the expansion!

Posted by Ubersmake

The thing about the number of people who complain about games online is...you can only gauge the number of people who complain about games. I like to think that those people who aren't complaining are actually playing and enjoying the game, instead of ranting about it online.

I played a lot of Civ 4. And I played a lot of Civ 5. And overall, I think I had a more enjoyable time with Civ V, because all that number crunching I could do for Civ 4 was suddenly less important. There's a place for statistics and number crunching and spreadsheets in any turn-based game, really, but it takes the fun out of it for me. If I lost in Civ 4, it was because I didn't do my homework. If I lost in Civ 5, it was because I made a bone-headed decision. And though a lot of things got streamlined from 4 to 5, I personally much prefer being able to predict the outcomes of my decisions by surveying the situation, instead of having to do the math.

Not that any of that matters in the lower difficulty levels. But if I ever wanted to have a chance of surviving any of the higher ones, oh man.

Posted by chrissedoff

Whoa, there's an expansion for Civilization V coming out soon? Awesome!

Posted by Fattony12000

Civ is Cick.

Posted by ShaggE

I haven't played 5 yet, but I started the series with 4, and I am very happy that 5 has been streamlined. (and no, internet, "streamline" and "dumb down" are NOT synonymous)

4 is an amazing game that very well may be the apex of its kind, but I hate getting lost in miles of status bars and toggles and minutiae.

Edited by Falk

To the OP: I loved what they did with the combat and social policies in Civ V, but unfortunately the game is a big mess in multiplayer. For all the paid dlc they've put out they haven't come close to actually fixing the game. I'm guessing you only play singleplayer? For me Civ is at it's best when played with friends in long epic games lasting several days, and Civ V just can't compare to IV in that regard.

Posted by PenguinDust

I played a fair amount of Civ IV and I prefer Civ V specifically because it is so streamlined and easier to manage. It's a complex enough game as is. I don't want to have to fight the UI and hunt around for things. I like the fluidity of Civ V and its structure allows me to concentrate on my strategies and not a checklist of housekeeping.

Posted by Gargantuan
@BisonHero said:

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Don't worry, it's not just you! I actually have a friend who advised that I play IW. He seemed to think the JC Denton area was pretty rad, and thought the endings were cool. Though with all due respect to this friend, when I look at his interests, I get the impression that once he decides he likes a series/artist, he commits himself to continuing to like them. He played Deus Ex, he thought IW was fine, and said people give it a bad rap. He played Red Faction Guerilla, then recently played Red Faction Armageddon and said it was fine. He really liked Blink 182 like 10 years ago, and now he keeps up with the solo projects of all those guys, despite all of it being pretty unremarkable and really far off the radar. Oh, and he legitimately recommended Pariah (I assume because the game leads off with an intriguing cutscene that hints at an interesting story, except the game's story turns out to be AWFUL). None of those opinions are "wrong", but it makes me question what thought process leads to him liking stuff.

I like Pariah, it had some fun weapons, hilarious physics and enjoyable co-op.
Posted by BisonHero

@Falk: Indeed, I'm singleplayer only. Sadly, my PC gaming friends have always been a Starcraft/Starcraft II group, so occasionally I do some team matchmaking with them.

Posted by BisonHero

@Gargantuan: The weapons were alright, but that was literally the only thing I remember liking. I remember not liking that it seemed to be copying Half-Life's style of "it's all about the journey from A to B, with little direct exposition", except it was done lazily in Pariah just so they didn't have to explain anything in their bonkers setting. And the final level seemed VERY reminiscent of Half-Life 2's final area.

At least Digital Extremes has gone on to do better things in The Darkness II.

Posted by Jimbo

I preferred Civ V overall. It was just unfortunate that the AI was so terrible (at least back when I was playing it). Watching it try and figure out how to behave in combat was lol.

Posted by buft

This reminds me, i need to buy a CIV game for my new PC, OP you have my gratitude.

Posted by ZenaxPure

I know exactly what you're talking about duder, it's an amazing point that not many people take into consideration ever. I was in a similar position to yourself but my very first civ game was Civ Rev on consoles. Overall I certainly preferred Civ 5 to Rev but I really came to love the culture-victory play style in Civ Rev and was very underwhelmed by it in Civ 5, I doubt if I went back and played any of the earlier ones I would enjoy them as much as 5 or even Rev.

Posted by BisonHero

@Jimbo said:

I preferred Civ V overall. It was just unfortunate that the AI was so terrible (at least back when I was playing it). Watching it try and figure out how to behave in combat was lol.

The AI is still a little weird, though I would consider this anecdotal evidence because I still haven't even played a dozen games to completion. Defending your cities is still incredibly easy, as long as you have a ranged unit in the city, and maybe 1-2 backup units nearby. They still lead a lot of offensives that basically look like suicide attacks, and you only really have to worry late in the game when somebody might drop an atomic bomb on your city, because it's so hard to deter those bombers.

Oddly, the AI seems deathly afraid of ever significantly committing to any sort of navy other than basic destroyers, even on Archipelago maps that are largely water. You'd think they'd build a decent navy and then some ground troops to capture cities, but nope, they just build a bunch of ground troops, and only ever attack nearby Civs with massive D-Day-style invasions.

Also, I'm convinced the diplomacy AI is way oversensitive about army size, and even if you build a purely defensive army that resides entirely within your own borders and is garrisoned, suddenly a bunch of Civs become "Guarded" because they're suspicious you're going to attack them, despite your army not even being the largest in the game. And then it becomes goddamn impossible to make any trades with them, because if you ask for even one resource, they'll want you to give them like all of your resources and gold.

I agree that the AI still needs tweaks, and hopefully they put a lot of AI improvements in the expansion, though I imagine the new stuff in the expansion will cause new headaches for the AI. But the AI is really the only sometimes annoying flaw I have with the game, and a lot of the time I think it's perfectly fine.

Posted by hughesman

I love CIV 4 and CIV 5. I don't like all the changes but i love that there ARE changes. They don't seem afraid to switch up established conventions and that makes both games worth owning. I still play both of them regularly.