∑ Scalable requirements. My PC is above recommended hardware except for the CPU, a Core 2 Duo @ 2.4GHz. I was really worried that this would ruin gameplay (long waits for loading and inter-turns), but Iíve been playing on a huge map with no trouble. Iím thrilled!
∑ Excellent UI! The interface is a surprise at first, but easy to learn. The interface is intuitive and handy tooltips explain everything you need to know. Important information is detailed in a very efficient manner, and details are easily accessible without cluttering the screen. Also, the strategic view, which gives a more 2-dimensional view of the map and highlights important features, is VERY helpful.
∑ I love the music. It seems that civs (or at least like groups of civs) have unique in-game soundtracks. In most games I turn off the music, but in CiV the soundtrack amplifies an already-pleasurable experience. For the record though, Iím a classical type; others may not enjoy the music as well as I do.
∑ There are a lot of pleasant little aesthetics, even in setting up a game. When you choose a civ, for instance, the menu shows a unique image about that civ. For example, when I chose Greece, I was presented with a map of Alexanderís conquests. When you start a game, the (quite good) narrator reads a couple of introductory paragraphs that are unique to your civilization. There are a lot of fun bits of polish like this!
∑ Advisors are back, and they actually give relevant advice! They arenít as personable as the Civ III advisors but I find them quite helpful, especially being new to the game as everyone is. They have pointed out many details that I have missed.
∑ Like the UI as a whole, the city screen is excellent. It shows every output of the city, when the next cultural or population growth is due, what tiles are being worked, what good tiles could be worked, and where cultural growth will expand the border.
∑ Speaking of culture, it expands tile-by-tile in CiV, rather than the fat cross of previous games. It is much more realistic and natural this way. Your borders will expand more quickly toward resources that your population want, and less into pointless terrain like mountains, where obviously no one would settle.
∑ Social Policy is awesome. It really lets you customize and play towards your personal strengths, as well as the strengths of your civ. Vastly superior to Civ IV's civics.