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Sid Meier’s Civilization V review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £30
inc VAT

The basic mechanics might not have changed much over the years, but Civilization V is an addictive, complex and deeply-involving game that requires your brain as much as your brawn.


Cities can now defend themselves, although you can still garrison units in a town to offer better protection if you want. This makes attacking a harder option and means that another route to victory could be preferred.

Civilization V firepower

Cities are one of the most important resources on the map, as they’re the way that you construct new units and buildings. To build you need to manage your resources carefully. So, in order to create certain units, such as mounted troops, you need to have enough horses, which means carefully expanding your territory (by buying new hexagons or expanding naturally) carefully to make sure that you’ve got enough pastures. Other resources, such as metal and farms for food, have to be managed in much the same way.

The more cities you have the more things you can have in production in any one go. You can either build new cities yourself by creating Settler units, or by taking over another nation’s city in one of two ways: a puppet state, where you have no control over what it produces, or by annexing them and taking over complete control of production.

Civilization V expansion

However, annex a city and your population takes a big hit on happiness. So, to progress, you then need to build the right kinds of things to improve happiness, such as court houses and entertainment venues, rather than focussing on building other things to improve your civilization.

On top of all this you have to carefully pick your research projects, which take a set amount of turns to complete. These can improve your civilization and make it more knowledgeable, or gain you better technology, such as ships with which to cross the ocean or more advanced units with which to fight with. Play the game right and you can drive a fleet of tanks into a civilisation protected by just bows and arrows.

However, carefully balancing your research projects and units has to be carefully managed, as there’s nothing more annoying than going to a path of domination, picking the wrong research projects and getting beaten into space by a neighbour before you’ve had time to capture all of the capital cities.

Then there are all of the host nations you can play. Each one has its own special units and abilities, meaning that there’s plenty of scope to keep playing the game, changing civlizations each time you go.

If this all sounds a bit complex, it’s because it is. However, the brilliance of Civilization is that it manages to make complexity easy to deal with. Regular pop-ups let you know what’s going on, while your different advisors help shape your policy and tell you what you should be building or researching. Because the game starts in pre-history, you’ve got a good few turns of just building your city and keeping your people fed to get used to the controls and system before the game starts for good.

Should you get bored of playing the game against the computer, there’s a brilliant multi-player mode. This replicates the single-player game, but gives each player his own nation to control instead. Here, the simultaneous turns take a real meaning: the player that inputs commands first, gets the actioned first. In other words, if you’re in the middle of combat, you need to be quick to keep the advantage.

The graphics on full detail settings look fantastic, with the fog of war that prevents you seeing parts of the map you haven’t visited taking on the appearance of fluffy white clouds, and the sea is a deep rippling shade of blue-green. Units look fantastic, too, and you can zoom the camera right in to see them in their full detail.

The beauty of Civlization V is that there are so many ways to play it and so many ways to win (or lose). It keeps you coming back for more and sitting down to have a quick game soon turns into a few hours where you keep saying to yourself, “just one more turn”. If you like your games to have a bit more thought, this is the strategy game to buy.

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Price £30
Rating *****