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Conquest and Diplomacy - A Look at Sid Meier's Civilization V

Updated Mon, Mar 15, 2010 by Ethec

While turn-based strategy lies outside our usual content mix, we know that more than a few of you out there in the Ten Ton Hammer audience are avid Civ gamers and have been for years. So when 2K Games contacted us offering a first glimpse of Civilization V at GDC 2010, we jumped at the opportunity to bring you in-depth coverage at the latest in one of computer gaming’s most beloved franchises.

Civilization V takes advantage of DirctX 11 rendered graphics but remains flexible to older versions.

Civilization IV was an instant classic, winning just about every gaming award available to the grand strategy category. This begs the question: why another iteration? That was the first question Firaxis’s Pete Murray tackled, and answers were rife from the first few moments of the demo. Simply put, the game’s graphics are nothing short of glorious. Murray noted that Civ V features the most representational artwork ever found in the series, and the demo was silkily rendered in DirectX 11. Murray explained that though Firaxis hoped to “blow the top off” the game for high-end rigs, Civ V’s min-spec will also cater to the DirectX 9.0c holdouts and mid-market laptop gamers.

The graphics changes don’t stop with the world. Civ V’s sleek, glassy, and perhaps aero-inspired interface features a new sans-serif font - a vast improvement over the chunky typeface found in Civ IV. Helpful new notifications that take the place of the old jarring pop-ups to jump you to areas of interest with a single click.

The biggest change in gameplay with Civ V is that the game will be hex-based, in contrast to the the gridiron gameboard of its forbearers. This allows for more natural diagonal movement and also makes for a cleaner presentation of water gaps between traversable land (no more guessing whether your unit can legally “jump” across a tidal strait via an invisible land bridge).

The hex change is also strategically important, since in Civ V only allows one unit per hex.  That means that players can’t simply pile units into the old “stacks of doom.” Instead, during the combat portion of the demo, lines of units stretched out into fronts much like they’ve done on battlefields since time immemorial, since being surrounded by enemies would likely result in a cheap victory for your opponent. Natural chokepoints like mountain passes will also become much more defensible, and terrain bonuses, terrain penalties, and the ability to improve and fortify positions are just as important as in earlier editions of Civ.

To balance out these changes, ranged units as early as archers can fire over one hex to soften up fortified positions. But Murray noted that ranged units are noticeably more fragile in melee combat to compensate for their ranged capability.

Ten Ton Hammer Video: Click to play.

Given the one unit per hex limitation, you might wonder how you’ll have a prayer at defending your cities. Murray explained the hex change have helped take combat out of the cities somewhat and into the surrounding countryside. But when attacked, cities defend themselves whether or not a military unit is present, having a certain number of hitpoints. One unit can of course be garrisoned inside the city to strengthen its defenses, and we can probably assume that defensive structures - walls, for example - also add to a city’s chances against attack.

Civ V will see the addition of city states, singly city countries that are meant to “grease the wheels of diplomacy,” according to Murray. Unlike the barbarian cities of previous Civs, players can conduct diplomacy with these nations, perhaps to use them as a a thorn in the side of potential enemies or simply to expand their empire without the expense of a settler. Murray also noted that players can spend gold in Civ V to accelerate border expansion” of national borders.

Players can achieve victory by capturing enemy capital cities.

Civ V will also see at least one new avenue of peaceful cooperation between civilizations. “Research agreements” allow two nations to share resources to discover new technology quickly. The one caveat is that if you go to war against that country later on, you’ll lose that tech.

Speaking of wars and winning, the one win condition that the Firaxis team is talking about at the moment actually  involves city capture. Dubbed “Conquest Victory”, a player achieves a win under this condition if he or she captures everyone else’s capital (not necessarily their other cities).

Speculation has swirled around which civilizations will be making an appearance in Civ V. From the demo, we know that the Egyptians, Germans, Americans, and the English will be represented, and Firaxis conceded that players have sussed out about half the list from other demos. The leaders of these civilizations have the signature preferences of their progenitors - Murray used the example of Elizabeth consistently striving to make England a maritime power - and speak in their native tongues. That means no more Firaxlish a la Civilization Revolution, but Firaxis hopes to preserve the sort of character interaction with leaders that helped make Civ Rev live and breathe.

But Murray hinted that not all the civilizations included in Civ V would be familiar from the series. Lead Designer Jon Shaefer, who holds a degree in history, reportedly wants to try out a few new civilizations. These new civs, along with details about tech, culture, multiplayer, modding options and tools, and the new take on religions, will be revealed in the months before Civ V’s planned release on PC only in Fall 2010.

 

 

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