Civilization: Revolution Preview

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Publisher: 2K Games (Take-Two Interactive)
Developer: Firaxis Games

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and DS
Official Site

Projected Release: Spring 2008

Kyle Ackerman

It's been a long time since Sid Meier was actively involved in a Civilization game. That's not to say the Civilization games aren't spectacular – they've just been resting in the competent hands of other programmers at Firaxis. But now that the franchise is well into its second decade, it's coming to consoles and handhelds. The game is being redesigned and recoded for consoles, and Sid Meier himself is leading the charge.

Have no fear – Civilization: Revolution is still a Civilization game. You start with simple settlers, build your empire and climb up the research tree. One turn at a time, your civilization expands, conquering the globe or ultimately launching an interplanetary ship. But that doesn't mean that everything in Revolution is the same as Civilization IV and its predecessors.

A Kinder, Gentler Civilization

The rule for Revolution seems to be that everything is positive and streamlined. You won't be micromanaging the cleanup of pollution, because there is no pollution or radiation to scour from the landscape. There are certainly nukes that can be lobbed through the atmosphere to create spectacular mushroom clouds of death – it's just that the consequences of nuclear war are more diplomatic, rather than smearing the targeted territories with ooze. Other aspects of the game have been streamlined to make the game play faster and friendlier. After all, the point of Revolution is to bring new gamers into the Civilization fold, filling in the deep strategy game gap felt by console owners everywhere.

To achieve that streamlined strategy, the team is working to ensure that you don't ever have to leave the main map to play. It wouldn't be a Civ game without a research tree, "Civilopedia" and city management. It's just that your advisors will hop onto the screen to present you simple choices if you don't feel like delving deeply into the details. Military and Scientific victories remain, and Revolution adds an Economic victory option.

Die-hard PC Civilization fans might miss the religion and culture features present in recent PC Civilization games, but to keep things straightforward, Revolution has a construct that is an amalgam of happiness and culture. And, yes, one culture's unhappy city might well convert if the citizens on the other side of the cultural fence are all smiling. There are also new relics and artifacts to encourage new players to explore. These confer even bigger bonuses than native villages, and advisors will give players clues as to their location. For example, an advisor might tell the player that an ancient city is rumored to exist in the west, adding incentives for exploration.

New Visuals for New Consoles

Meier and his team are working hard to ensure that the game is visually stunning. Already, it's unquestionably detailed and more accessible thanks to the friendly, cartoonish graphics and caricature-like leaders of other civilizations. The leaders of the 16 civilizations, like Napoleon, Queen Isabella and Saladin, can be seen to quake in their boots when outnumbered, or to sneer haughtily when holding the bigger stick. The cities of civilizations that I saw, like Rome and France, look different, and even massive wonders are assembled gradually, visibly growing over time.

Some of the biggest graphical improvements over past Civilization games are in combat. As in other Civ games, Revolution's combat is turn-based, resolving based on units' attack and defensive capabilities. But it looks dramatically different than past Civilization games. That's because individual units have limited AI that causes them to choose their targets dynamically, and rag-doll physics has been added to ensure that each death looks different. Each battle should appear different, so you won't just tune out the combat animations. Also, when units upgrade (like ordinary soldiers becoming combat medics), they get a complete visual makeover.

Other tweaks to the Civilization formula continue to streamline combat. Support units like battleships will now automatically add fire support to the battle when nearby. And armies are bigger, better and more powerful. These aren't the armies PC gamers might remember from recent Civilization games. They're still comprised of three grouped units, but can combine three different upgrades and have even cooler new animations.

New Worlds to Conquer

The new consoles will allow Civilization: Revolution to support online play and downloadable content. The development team is taking lessons from the multiplayer offered in Civilization 3 and Civilization 4 to make the multiplayer games simpler to start and much faster to finish. Also, you'll be able to use voice and video chat to swap your live image in for the animated images of famous world leaders so that you can actually negotiate, face-to-face, with the real-world leaders of the in-game factions.

The team is even considering downloadable content, such as a "game of the week" in which players will download a Civilization: Revolution scenario and have all week to play and post their scores on a leaderboard.

In case you're surprised to see the DS and Wii listed as platforms for Revolution, both versions will have the same content as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. Certainly, the graphics and interface will make concessions to each platform, but you'll be able to play fundamentally the same game on the DS that you can enjoy on the Xbox 360. Best of all, you'll feel appreciated as a world leader. In the current build of the game that the team was showing, once victory was achieved all the military units on the map began to dance and fireworks glittered over cities. You'll have your chance at that kind of acclaim next year.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 20, 2007 12:17 PM.

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