Obsessed with conquering civilisations

I’ve always had a fondness for strategy games. Red Alert, Dark Reign, Cossacks and Rome: Total War each soaked up plenty playing time, but my tendency to play these games disappeared when I made the switch to online gaming. Strangely one series that I never really played was civ.

Recently I felt a desire to play a strategy game but with my PC desk a mess, I opted to have a go at the Civilisations Revolution game that I got free on Xbox a while ago. I’m not sure if it was a good idea.

I’ve played this game a lot. At least 2/3rds of my recent gaming has been playing with wonderful title, but what makes it so great?

I really like the balance of city building and combat, plus how that ties in with the multiple ways of winning. Adapting to the different civilisation types allows me to try new ways of winning and also exposed me to different strategies (although now I have one game plan, tinkered with depending on my civilisation). The combination of different goals and research paths meant that for a console strategy game there’s a fair bit of depth here but it isn’t too complex or involving. For anyone looking to get into more complex strategy games, or just as close to pick up and play as the genre allows, this ticks the box nicely.

The controls are generally speaking pretty good. The two sticks are used nicely to vary between movement and unit selection, although I didn’t immediately realise this and had a few difficulties selecting units or moving. There is one nasty issue when a unit is automatically selected and the cursor moves over an enemy (often a city). It doesn’t let you attack and it can be too easy to end up moving instead, wasting a turn. I’ve been burnt badly by this! In a similar note, the pathfinding is pretty shoddy, especially when there’s something forcing the AI to alter their path. All to often I realise I have a unit has tried to go one route, finds it blocked and goes another direction. Next turn it decides to try the first route, which is blocked so it goes the second again, then decides “this is longer” and returns to same blocked first path. Would have been nice to map out the path for them.

Anyway, my love of the game.

In my younger days I would spend full days playing a handful of battles in the Red Alert and alike. I would use very defensive tactics, making myself hard to beat. Meanwhile I’d get everything in place for an assault and then after an hour or two or four, send an army strong enough to wipe out, well everyone. Depending on the game, the assault would usually have a trigger… For example having a nuke or building 10 mega tanks. I’d be unstoppable.

What I really liked about civ is that I can use the same approach but the long process of building up resources and unlocking new units is more involving and therefore compelling than some of my older games. By having strong defences and a good science background I can win the tech race. I can try and win whilst effectively saying “well come on if you’re hard enough”.

One of the problems with this is that when I come to attack, it can be underwhelming. Sometimes it is a real wrestle but often I wipe the floor with the enemy. When the game is challenging, I find it is usually more bad luck than a test of skill. For example I’ve seen a tank army with a strength of 50 (factoring in variables like hills etc) lose to an army, or unit, of half that. Probably 50% of my fights that ended in defeat were when I was stronger. I have grown to accept that I need to be 50% stronger to have confidence of winning. If we’re equal, chances are that I’ll lose. That may sound pessimistic but genuinely, most the time when we’re equal stats, or I have a slender advantage, I lose. I’ve lost my temper a lot!

I digress. Winning can be underwhelming. When winning by economy or culture you just build something and wait for it to complete. At some point you’ll think “must remember to build a wall in the city I captured” but the game will just finish.

When on the brink of losing the game is not shy of telling me, but I’d like to see more intensity when on the verge of victory. Audio and music is one way. If I’m close to an economic, space or cultural victory then updates every turn would also have an effect. Even better would be for the AI to throw everything at me.

Nonetheless, aside from the anti-climactic endings, path/control gripes and dodgy battle calculations, Civilisation Revolutions is a wonderful way to see an evening slip by.