Civilization V and Online Strategy Games

Civ V really emphasizes the importance of the OSG genre.

The Civlization series is classic, is one of the giants upon which the OSG genre stands, and Civilization V carries that mantle very well. It’s a very polished game that stays true to the feel of the series while introducing a few new elements and simplifying some others. I found it just as addictive as the original, and often found myself up far past my bed time thinking “one more turn, one more turn”.

In my opinion though, the game suffers from two major shortcomings that OSG’s address: an over-reliance on graphics, and a simplistic diplomacy system.

The graphics in Civilization V are good. Probably too good. For a strategy game… a game where the player is permanently fixed to a God-view, 3D graphics seem like overkill. My laptop is only two years old, and it barely manages to run Civ V on the lowest settings. In my opinion, the graphics in Civ III were fantastic, and the 3D aspect of Civ V that’s killing my computer does not add one single thing to the gameplay.

For a genre whose target audience is not necessarily the same as the FPS players who overclock their rigs to get the prettiest headshot, for a turn-based game where FPS is virtually meaningless, it seems like a very poor decision to alienate players who don’t have the latest hardware. What I really appreciate about the OSG genre is that it’s browser-based, and anyone can play it from whatever computer they have. How much more fluid would a multiplayer game of Civ V be if all the players could take their turns throughout the day, a few minutes at a time, instead of maybe twice a day before and after work?

Another shortcoming is the Diplomacy / Multiplayer system. In Civilization you’re either playing against AI, or human players. Since I didn’t have the time to set up a mutliplayer game, and as this was my first foray into the series since Civ III, I went with AI, and it was ridiculous.

I spent most of the game as a fairly peaceful civilization. Most of the AI civ’s seemed to be content after founding 3 cities, leaving me plenty of room to expand my empire without having to fire a shot. This worked pretty well, and I was happy enough to explore the world and balance my happiness, income, science, and culture. Eventually though I reached the modern era and frankly got bored. I saw that America had been getting aggressive, having conquered 2 City States and setting their sights on a third, so I decided to intervene.

Unfortunately, since Civ V makes it impossible to load my tanks onto any kind of transport ship, by the time I embarked them over to America they had conquered the next City State. I declared war, gave them an extra turn before I attacked just to be a good sport, then quickly liberated Dublin, Monacco, and turned to free Ragusa as well.

Out of the blue, Ghandi shows up and tells me he’s cancelling our pact of cooperation because of my Warmongering. Warmongering!? Washington had conquered 3 city states. Every city state in the world, save one, united against Washington and asked for my help, and so I stepped in to free them. Warmongering!?

Aside from that, the AI is incredibly difficult to trade with. When trading luxury goods, even 2 to 1 is not good enough for them. And why wouldn’t they want to form a defensive pact with the strongest military power on the planet? In the end the diplomacy came down to a few points: bribe them into cooperation or declare war.

Anyway, all of this makes me very thankful for the OSG genre. It’s far more rewarding to work with and against human players, and for me that’s really the highlight of any strategy game. Civilization definitely does a lot of things right: the ability to focus on trade, culture, or science instead of just military, watching your empire grow from making pots to stealth bombers, and exploring the world… It would be nice to see a game that properly combines all these aspects.

Cheers,
Oliver

Civilization V

Civilization V hit stores today. It’s veritably taken over Steam. I’m going to start playing and will let you know how it goes!

Cheers,
Oliver

Civilization V: Forthcoming

The release of Civilization V draws near, and a lot more info about the game is slowly becoming available. Last night I watched a live ustream preview, which was pretty cool. The event had the expect onslaught of annoying and silly viewer comments and occasional lag issues, but it was exciting that so many people logged in from all over the world to watch the preview. You can watch the recorded version here. There’s also a great article at Voodoo Extreme and another “400 Turns of Civilization V” at Kotaku.

I’m definitely going to have to think of something big to do when this game comes out. Thoughts?

Cheers,
Oliver