Imagine yourself entering this huge hall in Cologne. You know that the Civilization V stand you're looking for is overthere, somewhere in Hall 6 B40. But your entire sight is blocked by this huge Blizzard stand. Gigantic screens screaming at you. It's early in the morning. Around you are all kinds of 'game characters' walking by. Barely dressed Babes wearing futuristic weapons. 8 feet tall mech warriors. Noise, flashes and flesh. And then suddenly it's there. Your eye falls on it. An oases of rest. It spreads this classic style. No screaming, no flashing lights. Just decently dressed woman, classical pictures of Washington showing his authority. Victoria and Cleopatra walking between the many screens, showing dignity and majesty. An isle of Civilization in the sea of Decadency and Barbarism of GamesCom.
The Civilization V stand at GamesCom
|Great Leaders of the Past are gathered here at GamesCom|
It's still quiet. The fair has not opened yet for the general public. It's the press day, early in the morning. Many screens aren't working yet. I approach this working screen and feel lucky. Something makes me wonder if I'm one of the very first Civilization fans that's about to play the game. I go straight to the main menu. The familiar options are there, Single Player, Multi Player.... but all in German! My first attempt to change the language fails. It's not possible. The day after we would get our hands on a PC where it is possible switch the language into English. (both spoken language and text language can be switched). For now I have to do it with German. I pick the advanced setup screen of course. I can set the number of city states from 0 to a huge load of them. That's cool! The usual map settings are there, like temperature, rainfall, and map age. A new one is about how the resources are spread. There are about 6 different choices, varying from few resources to many, balanced resources or fully random. There is the One City Challenge option! I'm sure that many people will be very happy about that. The usual barbarians and huts options are there as well.
Then the game starts to load. It takes some time but not too much. And suddenly this new world is painted in front of me. White clouds encircle the small world I can see. This is definitely Civilization. It's all new but it's all Civ! Everything is different but familiar. I have to be honest, even after playing more then 1200 games of Civilization 4, I was not able to play this game as a veteran.
I had to look around to get used to the UI. Not that the UI was bad. But it was very different. While the map, the units breath all civ, the interface was new. There are so many options. No previewer can play Civilization 5 for only one hour and truly understand it. That's good of course! That's why we love it.
This new art deco look has it's advantages. While Civ can never be realistic (how could unit sizes ever compare to city sizes?) this iteration absolutely tries a lot more to resemble real life. A unit consists of 6-10 members, but they're much smaller. It may take more time to learn which graphic is what unit. Experienced Civ players know that this is the case for every new release of the game, but for this version it may take even longer because of the small size of the units. But boy, do you want to use these units! I did not want to settle my settler! I wanted to wander it around. Discover the new lands. Find natural wonders (we would find the Grand Mesa later!). But then finally I decided to settle and build my first worker. The city grows while building the worker! (It stops growing for a settler). Suddenly I was made aware of the consequences of this new '1 unit per unit type per hex' rule. While workers do already need more time (approx 25%) to finish a tile improvement, it is not possible to stack workers and double or triple their speed! Improving your land requires more planning. If you're too late to let your new citizen take advantage of a special resource, you can not quickly send all your workers there to build that mine immediately! Pillaged improvements can't be replaced by having a stock pile of workers behind. When your enemy invades you, it's too late to build the needed roads to defend your land. War is going to be a total different thing in Civilization 5! Not only the army strategy and the positioning of your soldiers will change. Even the long-term planning of your workers, in example, will change. I think that's good.
The new Social Policies screen
After getting some gold and even a settler from ancient ruins and meeting with close neighbors, I decided to start a new game. Make a jump start to the modern game. I launched a game as Napoleon now, inspire by this Napoleon guy that was walking around in the Civilization 5 Stand! (He appeared to be a Civ player himself! If you're reading this, thanks again for your help!). All is good with the early game, now I wanted to see bombers and use nukes! And nukes I used. The new strategic resource system alters the game dramatically. I only had one source of uranium! And both the Giant. Death. Robot. and the nuke needed this uranium resource. So we could only build on of them at the same time. First I started to build the GDR. An amazing unit with three times the strength of the mech infantry unit I had in the fields at the same time. With 3 steps per turn it was walking at great speed towards my new enemy. The city state of Tyrus was going to be toasted. It had no chance. Unfortunately the GDR survived the war, now I still had no uranium for my nuke! The disband unit option did the trick.
Now I was able to build the nuke. jobe already showed us the nuke so no point in doing it here again. It reminded me of the Civ1 nukes, where not only ground zero itself was cleared from units but also the units around were gone. A reasonable decision now the nuke can't be used as the ultimate stack killer anymore. The nuke graphics make you feel like a real villain. It's gorgeous. With the nuke, which should normally be the end of civilization, suddenly a Great Artist was born! Culture after the atom bomb! I used it to construct this special building on a tile outside of the city. Now this tile produced 4 more culture per turn, giving me the idea that Great People aren't as powerful as in Civ4. But once again, it's impossible to judge based on only playing the game for 1 hour in a very noisy hall while being surrounded by Cleopatra, Victoria and Napoleon himself.
A Great Artist in his car with his film crew!
Combat is different, everybody knows. There are hexes and there are ranged units. These ranged units give extra bonuses to ie. melee units next to it, when positioned right. The main question that kept circling in my head was: "How will this work out in simultaneous multiplayer games?". Everybody who's seriously into multiplayer games knows about the problems with fast-click fests, or the infamous "Double Move" problems that arise in simultaneous pitboss games. It was not possible to play the Multiplayer part of the game yet, so there is no answer. There's also hope that Firaxis will include some kind of a 'turned based war' option for multiplayer. Playing this game makes clear how important it is to be able to get the right unit onto the right hex. And because you're not moving around one big stack of doom, you'll have much more directions to give. For single player turn-based games (the core of Civilization 5 of course) the system seems to work quite interesting. It gives this boardgame feeling, a little bit like good old Stratego. (Except that the bombs there have no ranged power). The future will tell how this plays out. Balance is an issue here. But how will it turn out for simultaneous games?
The 'Grand Mesa' Natural Wonder
Now about city states, one of the new things that I am most excited about. I have been playing all these big diplo style multiplayer games where you were playing for almost a year in the same game Then you start to get father-like feelings for the small civ next door. When he was attacked I came to his rescue. City States give some of this same feeling! They're like your little brother, needing your protection. They give you these gifts and announce their friendship with you in public. If you play this game a little bit in character, which is imho a must, at least once in a while, then you will echo this feeling! Nobody touches my friends from Tyrus! (Ok, nobody but my GDR). Diplomacy changes when City States are in the game. I'll see myself maxing out this City States Slider in the game setup every time. Also new to diplomacy is this Research Agreement. Both parties pay a lump sum of gold of 350 gold and after 30 turns both get a random technology. (Which is a change from earlier reports!). If one of these civs declare war on the other during these 30 turns, the gold is lost! And now the good news comes from Peter Murray (Marketing Associate of Firaxis) himself: The AI will abuse this, it will stab you in the back! It will sign this deal with you, let you pay this money, only to attack you anyway after 5 turns! The AI, Murray told us, thinks a lot more like a human player. It wants to win the game and it will backstab you.
My mechs attack this barbarian camp! They win!
What else is there to say? Some awkward stuff, I had to manually move every unit before I could end the turn. (Just like you couldn't proceed without giving building options in Civ4, except that that made sense) There's no palace and there are no wonder movies. (Hardcore Civ fans will be happy that Firaxis invested it's in gameplay rather then graphics! Jon Shafer confirmed this after we asked him for the scenarios. There are no scenarios for Civ5 when the game is being released. That's the job of the community. But if you love these awards after completing a wonder, then you're going to be disappointed.
When you buy a unit directly from the city screen, the unit appears immediately inside your city. That explains why abusing a research pact with your neighbor before starting a war pays. He won't be able to rush buy some extra defense units. It increases the value of gold, but you will need the gold. Every building, every road, every unit needs maintenance costs, as in Civ games before Civ4. It's impossible yet to say if this is good or not. That requires one to play many games. Balance once again is the key here. There is not an always war or an always peace option either. Leaves some desires for the expansion packs!
In this screen one can 'buy' new tiles for your city!
And then time runs out. What is the impression I got from this small Civilization 5 session? There's some bad stuff, missing game options, unsure about simultaneous multiplayer, being unfamiliar with the UI... But the good stuff wins definitely. I want to play this game. Especially because this game will, like no civ sequel before, challenge me so much to create new strategies! Rethink my play style. Especially the city states and the new combat system will renew the series! While it continues the good stuff that was introduced in Civ4, like Great People, the Diplomacy Screen and the resource trade system. And then I did not even write about the social policies yet. It all felt familiar enough to be ensured it is civ. And yet again it challenged me more then enough as well to look forward to move away from Civilization 4. I'm curious how a unit like the Giant. Death. Robot. will play out, perhaps some balancing is needed there. But after all a unit like this shows that Firaxis is listening to the community!
The adviser screen
The Victory Conditions Screen
The demographics screen gives more or less the same information as the one in Civ4 did, and in addition it tells you which civ is the best or the worst in a category. (If you have met that civ)
One Man - One Vote, fair play in the United Nations! The smallest City State has as much votes as the biggest Empire. And all civilizations are candidates.
Index, Day 1, Day 2, Preview, Interview, Gallery, Nuke, Combat, Other Games, Best Game