Hands-on / Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution

Sid Meier is one of the most respected and well-known names in gaming history. His Civilization series shares similar prestige as one of the best strategy franchises ever. But while Civilization has conquered the PC market, the console realm has proved to be tougher than a land war in Asia.

Civilization Revolution (CivRev) will be the battering ram that knocks down that wall between strategy games and consoles.

The Civilization series has always toed the line between “real time strategy” and something like “action strategy.” The focus was shifted from micro managing resources to the aspects of strategy games gamers like – combat with unique units and a myriad of routes to victory. CivRev is no different.

No doubt the biggest challenge for developers was mapping the controls to the controller. With a keyboard, players have an almost endless amount of hotkeys and shortcuts to streamline gameplay. The mouse also makes selecting units and buildings simple and fast. After spending about an hour with the Xbox 360 version of the game, I can say that the controls were very intuitive and easy to learn for even the most green 360 gamer.

CivRev boasts 16 unique civilizations – from the Mongols to the Aztecs to the Americans – each with historic figures as leaders. As in other Civilization games, these leaders pop up with in-game animations to deliver messages of peace, war and/or compromise. I played as Julius Caesar of the Romans and ran into Shaka Zulu of the Zulu nation and Montezuma of the Aztecs during my play time. These leaders add personality and flavor to the game and are also semi-educational. See U.S. government, not all video games evil!

Like many real-time strategy games, players start off with a city and a few villagers. Unlike most RTSs, you don’t have to constantly tell your villagers what to do – just set up a city and forget them. Technology research is where much of the “micro managing” will come from. The tech tree is staggeringly huge (although limited in this demo), ranging from basic ancient technologies like reading and pottery to nuclear weapons and “future tech.” Additionally, if you’re the first to research something, you get a bonus – such as free units or resources. AI opponents will also offer trades for technologies, adding another layer of depth.

Combat was the meat and potatoes of my time with the game. Although not really the warmonger type, I felt it necessary to see how the combat worked. After engaging in a few fights, I was hooked. Units (at least the ones early on) simply have attack and defense ratings. By approaching an adjacent square, you can fight opposing units. The wrinkle comes from things like terrain and elevation. By moving my units on to a tree-covered hill, I recieved a defensive bonus upon being attacked. You can also retreat if you discover a hidden cache of archers in an opposing structure which is a welcome addition.

I asked how long an average game of CivRev would take, as the series is known for marathon-length sessions. At a doable 2-4 hours, you can play world conquerer in an afternoon sitting. Multiplayer games will probably take longer, so make no mistakes – you will be getting your money’s worth with this game.

CivRev is grid based, so at the most elementary level the difference between selecting a square with a mouse and with the left thumbstick is quite noticeable. This was my only problem with the controls (and probably my time with the game in general) – when selecting squares, I felt the cursor jumped far too much in whichever direction I was moving it. After a while I got used it, but I hope the thumbstick sensitivity will be turned before the games July release.

With multiple unique victory conditions, 16 different clans and deep combat and research possibilities, CivRev looks to be another keystone in the legendary series. The controls were integrated well, it looked very pretty on the 360, and with Achievements, online multiplayer and the Sid Meier seal of approval, Civilization Revolution looks to be another solid addition to the current-gen consoles.

[See also: Civilization Revolution gallery]