Giant Bomb Review

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Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution Review

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  • PS3

It's not a seamless transition, but Civilization Revolution is a mostly successful effort to bring Sid Meier's celebrated strategy series to consoles.

All that I see is my domain!
While I have no prior first-hand experience with Sid Meier's Civilization series, I feel confident in saying that Civilization Revolution is a game not intended for established Civilization fans. Developed specifically for consoles, Revolution streamlines much of the intricacies of Sid Meier's beloved PC turn-based strategy series to make for a much more accessible experience. It's still a surprisingly deep turn-based strategy game, and a pretty addictive one at that. Some of the simplifications feel a little arbitrary, and despite being crafted for the couch, the graphics can chug, and the control scheme occasionally sags under the weight of the strategy. Still, it's very easy to get sucked into that “one more turn” mindset that the series is known for cultivating.

Like its PC-based forebears, Civilization Revolution puts you in the role of the leader of a historical civilization with the goal of conquering the world. There are 16 different civilizations to choose from, each of which comes with a unique set of specific strengths. The different cultures are represented by caricatures of various historical leaders, from Abe Lincoln to Genghis Khan, usually without coming off as aggressively culturally insensitive. From there, the game trades in any of its historical accuracy for defiant anachronisms, with your cartoonish avatar leading your civilization--which can include historical figures from across the globe and throughout recorded human history--for thousands of years. This might upset, I dunno, historical re-enactors? Personally, I found the comic-book crossover quality of the game comforting, letting me know that, despite all the historical trappings, the game wasn't going to take itself too seriously.

Sounds like someone needs a nap.
Unlike most strategy games, which tend to focus entirely on military action, there are four different ways to win a game of Civ Rev. You can win by military might, scientific supremacy, economic prowess, or cultural superiority. While these roads to victory require distinctly different priorities, the technological paths for all four are intertwined. If you focus entirely on one discipline, your civilization simply won't be able to keep up with the competition. It makes for a peculiar balancing act that encourages obsession over the minute details of how your civilization focuses its energies.

In a typical game, you'll start with a single village, and at first, your options for expanding your empire are limited to creating groups of warriors. As you explore the randomly-generated world around you, you'll encounter scattered pockets of barbarians that, when defeated in battle, will often earn you new units and occasionally some new technology. Eventually you'll encounter one of the other civilizations aiming for global domination. This opens up the diplomacy aspect of the game, allowing you to declare war, negotiate short-term peace treaties, and trade technological secrets.

As time passes and your capital city grows, you'll learn about new technology, which facilitates the building of new units, buildings, and wonders. Units are typically military in nature, though they can also include caravans, which you can use to trade with other civilizations, and settlers, which you can use to establish new cities. Buildings will enhance the various aspects of how a specific city grows, while wonders can affect both the growth of the cities they're built in, as well as provide your entire civilization with some specific, sometimes ridiculous advantage. My personal favorite, the Oracle of Delphi, will let you know right before a battle whether you're going to win or not, allowing you to back out without taking any casualties.

Technology can determine the fate of your civilization. Choose wisely!
The tech tree is fairly complicated, with access to more sophisticated technologies requiring knowledge of a number of simpler technologies, though the game provides you with a fairly easy-to-read chart to help determine what you need to research next to make it to your ultimate goal. While much of the research process is intuitive, there are some puzzling sidesteps you can make here. For all the historical liberties the game takes, I cannot wrap my head around the notion of a civilization that's able to suss out space travel without ever learning about something as seemingly fundamental as gunpowder.

There are other anachronisms in Civ Rev that I found oddly bothersome. One of the options you have within each of your cities is whether they focus certain resources on developing science or accumulating wealth. It's an essential balance-check from a gameplay perspective, but those don't really seem like mutually exclusive pursuits to me. There's also the pervasive issue of technologically superior military units being obliterated by more primitive ones. What's the point of sinking precious research time into the latest and greatest when your fighter planes are getting taken down by medieval pikemen? Like I said before, I generally enjoy the game's freewheeling approach to cultural evolution, but it opens itself up to certain criticism with its real-world springboard.

I'm really just scratching the surface of the myriad of actions that can happen in a single turn of Civilization Revolution here, but even for an ostensibly simplified strategy game, this all still sounds pretty complicated, right? For the most part, Civ Rev does an excellent job of easing new players into the experience, providing you with a number of different advisors who will explain the implications of the various decisions you have to make. On its easiest difficulty setting, the game is incredibly forgiving, which can be an excellent confidence builder for newcomers--there's nothing worse that getting absolutely destroyed by a strategy game your first time in. Once you start playing around with the higher difficulty levels, though, the AI opponents become downright sinister, easily identifying and exploiting any cracks in your foundation.

Grey Wolf of the Barbarians is a totally sweet black-metal name.
Civilization has long stood as one of those glimmering examples of a PC game that simply couldn't be done with a gamepad. Revolution gets the job done fairly well, though I definitely noticed certain limitations, particularly later in the game, when my empire was spread to the four corners and I was fighting battles on multiple fronts. The interface simply stops scaling at a certain point, and it can be easy to lose track of what's happening where. The time spent calculating your opponents' moves in between your turns can get inordinately long here as well. The visuals in both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions can get a little choppy at times, though the 360 version in particular can have a hard time simply filling in the landscape in a timely fashion as you scroll around the globe.

In my experience, a single match of Revolution lasts somewhere between three and six hours, and every match--from the founding of your first city in 4000BC to your final turn somewhere in the early 21st century--is self-contained, without much in the way of persistence between matches. Beyond the standard single-player matches, there's a handful of specific scenarios that you can play, as well as an online multiplayer option that smartly limits the time you have to complete each turn. Considering that there are whole games out there that last as long as a single match of Civ Rev, it's hard to hold the meat-and-potatoes gameplay modes against it.

While Sid Meier has been quoted as saying that this is the Civilization game he always wanted to make, Revolution's got plenty of shortcomings, and the scope of its vision can sometimes outstrip its mechanics. That said, this is a really satisfying strategy game, and though it might be old hat for PC players, there are few experiences quite like it on consoles.
62 Comments
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Posted by elliooo

About the same score I would have given it - still an awesome game and well worth trying out.

Posted by Meltbrain

Excellent review. I've heard only good things about this game and after playing a good deal of Civ 4 the stripped-down nature of it did worry me a little, but I reckon I'm gonna grab it at some point.

Posted by The_Icon

Better than expected....

Posted by Kane

i played the demo is seems pretty kick ass going to rent it soon too

Posted by Orange

Nice review Ryan, I'll have to give it a go some time.

Posted by Legend

I've never played a Civ game but I might pick this one up.

Posted by Mushir

Looks very interesting. Nice review Ryan!

Posted by Mexalen

I really do love this game, and play it quite a lot, but there are just some glitches that are hard to oversee and forgive.

For example: if you attack with a force twice the power then the opponents and still lose? Even with an more advanced unit? That's just nigh impossible to fathom...

In the end it made me adapt a gamestyle I usually despise: to save before an important battle and reload if I am not satisfied with the outcome. Because interesstingly, the same battle can be won, if you fight it in an other order of play. That's just crazy...

But nonetheless ... this game is awesome and addictive. Just - one - more - turn...

Posted by McPlated

The demo was pretty solid so its no surprise the full game would be on the level as well

Posted by Batman

Cool.  I just rented this game from GameFly so I should have it by the end of the week.

Posted by TheJollyRajah

This is the first TBS game I've ever played.

For a newcomer, it's great. I love this game so much. After playing this, it makes me want to go out and buy the more complex TBS and RTS games out there.

Great review Ryan!!!:)

Joe

Posted by Arkthemaniac

I've been wondering about this one, since I've been playing Civ since the second one released. I'll give it a try. Good review.

Posted by scurrybot

grey wolf and the barbarians is not a totally sweet band name. its ludicrous. 

Posted by TheCreambun

Got a promotional copy of this game so I decided to try it out and Im glad I did. From the moment i popped it in my 360 I was entertained and ept thinking "just one more round"... And suddenly 6 hours had gone by and I had to get to bed. Never quite had the patience for the old games so the faster feel of this games suits me just fine.

Posted by Gump
What about video reviews?
Why don't you create some!?
caption
Posted by LodvarDude

Oh, no. I can't buy and play this. Considering my earlier history with Civ (going all the wau back to Civ on a 386), my life as I know it would be over... Worse than any WOW-addiction, I tell you.

Posted by SkyTurnsRed

This is the best way Civ could have been ported to consoles. Simply no other way to transition the series over as smoothly as Revolution has. Great review Ryan.

Posted by PatheticMan

This game is great. I'll never forget the moment that Gandhi threatened me with violence unless I handed over a certain technology.
Revolution is handy if you want to play Civ, but you want to finish a game the same day you start it.

Posted by Enyeez

god score, good game!

more vid reviews... ALL! vidreviews...

Posted by Rowr

the issues with the game sound potentially gamebreaking.

The game must be done pretty well to overcome those.

Online
Posted by MooseBurger

Having played my share of Civ games before it's interesting to read the perspective of someone who has none of the previous games under their belt.  Some of the complaints, while valid, are just the norm to anyone who has played civ for a while (ie: spearmen taking out tanks or AI turns taking forever).  I'm glad to see all the positive reviews out there for this game, maybe it will spark wider interest in the more complex TBS games out there like the real civ.  I would be curious to see Ryan play Civ IV now that he's eased himself into the series with this one. 

Anyway, good review Ryan!

Posted by TMThomsen

We neeeeed more video reviews!

Posted by Gump

WE NEED MORE VIDEO REVIEWS GUYS!!!


Posted by Albanian_Killa

Video reviews = better because we can watch the video and  we'll get a better sense of the game :P

Posted by TEAMHOLT

I like the text reviews better, as they have more detail than the video reviews.

Posted by dantebk

I can play as Abraham Lincoln = I'm sold.

Posted by John

Not too shabby!

Posted by mad4it89

Just got this game from Gamefly and I'm really enjoying it so far.

Posted by CitizenKane

I have been playing this game for a while(I am a huge fan of the PC series) and I really like it.  I wish you an raise your own towns and bombard cities from the sea, though.  But, it does have perhaps the greatest military piece in any game:


Ninja Panzer Tank Armies
Posted by TNTMNM

Got it a week ago...still didnt play it...want to..cant now.....but heard great things about it...and now from you guys....i cant wait to play it when im free

Posted by Tortoise

I decided to get Civ 4 instead, and am enjoying it a lot. You can get a pack with the original and both expansion packs for half the price of Civ Rev.
Having enjoyed Civ 2 many years ago but having missed out the intervening titles (mainly due to various MMO addictions) I ultimately felt that on returning to the series any detail left out for a 'steamlined' version would probably frustrate me a great deal over time.
Its still good to see this if it makes turn-based strategy appeal to a wider audience, which I guess is the idea behind it.

Posted by KingHippp0

One of the cool things about the different paths to victory is choosing the right leader to fit your goal. Choosing Spain for a financial victory, or the Mongols for a Military victory, and sticking to your guns, even when your competitors start launching colony ships.

80 percent is right around what I would have given this game the first couple of plays through. But I think if they can patch some of the glitchier moments this game could have some staying power.

Posted by vrebdab
IMPORTANT FACT NOTICE.

WHAT YOU THINK IS CYCLING BETWEEN FOCUSING ON SCIENCE OR CURRENCY IN A CITY IS ACTUALLY YOU CYCLING BETWEEN WHETHER THE GENERATION OF SCIENCE OR CURRENCY IS DISPLAYED IN A CITY. THE PREVIOUS SIMMILER STATEMENT MADE BY CAPTAIN MAX WAS MADE BY ME, LOGGED ON TO MY COMP AND DIDN'T LOG OFF CUZ HE'S FAT.

Posted by coonce

great review guys - keep up the good work

Posted by Clean

I got it was fun while it lasted

Posted by MichaelBach

I will get it used in blockbuster later on... Great review, please make more video reviews!

Posted by MOSES
Sounds pretty sweet. I'll probably pick it up in a few months.

Is it just me, or does anybody else have the want to lick the guy on the main pages mole?

Anyone?
Posted by Venatio

Good review but I want a Video Review Please

Posted by Shocker

Nice review

Posted by Kowalski

The Civilizatin games are fun, but I'd rather keep playing them on the PC. This sound like an ok beginning, and I also feel the newer games haven't evolved enough for a purchase.

Posted by sdauz

i remember in civ3, spearmen beating tanks......after that i stopped playing any civ game and moved onto the TW games and never looked back

Posted by coonce

does anybody know if this controls well on a gamepad?

Posted by Elk

I just sent this game back to Gamefly, It's a great Civ game, but way simple compared to CIv4

Posted by MayorMcCheese

This game is fun, i couldn't play Civ4 because it was too long and boring, Civ:Rev is a good mix of strategy and fun.

Posted by Liquid306

Agreed, the game has a few small problems but it's overall really fun.  Great review!

Posted by _dude_

I'm looking forward to playing something alittle different on the Xbox.

Posted by slowpantz

good review

Posted by MrMiyamoto

Its a good game

Posted by Nettacki

This one's going on my PS3!

Posted by Al3xand3r

I think Civilization 2 on the Playstation was a better attempt to bring the series to consoles, taking that goal on doesn't mean depth has to be sacrificed for a more casual approach. I spent countless hours on that game back then and it didn't feel compromised by the gamepad, though I wasn't a PC gamer by then and all the Japanese RPGs meant I was used to wading through menu screens.

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