There are few games that stand the test of time and earn the title “legendary.” Civilization is one of those games, a real-time-strategy game (RTS) that’s deep enough to make other games seem trivial at best. Civ’s fans are legion, and for the first time, franchise designer Sid Meier has decided to extend the series’ reach to console gamers via Civilization Revolution for PS3 and Xbox 360. The next-gen consoles have seen a few RTS games, most notably EA’s The Lord of the Rings games and Command & Conquer 3, but no one has come close to hitting the sweet spot. Microsoft hopes to hit that target with Halo Wars, but that’s still a ways off. The key issue with all of these titles is the control scheme, something Sid Meier and his team focused on intently with Civilization Revolution. Did it succeed?
In a word, yes. Civilization Revolution takes that “broken console RTS game” mold and shatters it. Without a doubt, this is by far the best-playing RTS we have played on a console. Wisely, it isn’t a port of the current PC game Civilization 4. Instead, it was built specifically for the consoles from the ground up and has streamlined many of the options. This enables games to last about an hour or so while not losing any of the addictiveness of the series.
There are four objectives in the game, and accomplishing just one nets you victory. However, you can achieve only one. Sometimes you’ll find yourself winning the game in spite of yourself, but at the cost of the objective you were trying to reach. It’s a little thing, and I’m sure it’s there for a good reason, but it’s still a bit confounding.
At the start, you’ll begin picking the technology you want your people to learn, which unlocks various units and buildings. For instance, if you tell them to learn about gunpowder, you’ll end up having units with guns. This process is quite streamlined, but to make matters easier for console gamers, your in-game advisor will still usually give some words of wisdom. Thankfully, you won’t have to worry about resources and mining them to build units; the game takes care of this for you, reducing you to waiting the appropriate number of turns.
The one thing you won’t be doing is playing alone. There are other civilizations on the map too, progressing at their own pace competing against you for victory. This brings another layer to the game in terms of diplomacy: you can threaten, trade and sign pacts with other nations, or ignore them and conquer them. This is where the game can elicit a smile, as your avatars are caricatures of well-known political leaders who speak in a dialect similar to their nationality. The actual speaking is gibberish followed with text, but getting threatened by Gandhi is pretty cute.
Graphics are colorful and a step up from their PC counterparts, and there’s a solid camera that you can use to check-out your various cities and tributes. The map is a set size, although the geography may change a bit, but those expecting various maps may be a little disappointed. The relative lack of maps doesn’t take anything away from the game play; in fact, this, combined with the other factors, is probably why the game plays as well as it does. Newcomers and vets will find a lot to enjoy, and the “just one more game” mantra still comes into effect.
There is a story mode of sorts, but you’ll push past it in days, so the game’s replayability lies in its online options. An interesting concept is the game of the week. This map is free downloadable content, and players compete to get the best score on the ranked leaderboards. There’s player-versus-player options are also there, but it can be hard to find anyone playing it (at least on the PS3 version), so it’s best to play this one online with friends whom you know will be there.
If you enjoy games like Catan, this game goes a little deeper and offers a lot more, but with exceptional controls that give you a fun, action-based experience without all the memorization of various control schemes. Heck, the omission of that all-too-monotonous resource mining is worth the price of admission alone. A lot of other developers could learn from Civilization Revolution, and not just RTS ones. This is how games I any genre should be conceived, developed and presented.
- Score: 8.5
— Phillip Vollmer