Hands-on with Civilization Revolution

About a few weeks back, I was invited out to 2K Studios to check out Civilization Revolution for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo DS. Yup, that’s right, another PC series is making the console jump. This is, in fact, the third title I’ve previewed this year for a console game that one would think would be far more suited for the PC. I think this is a sign from the gaming gods, really. You see, I have two left feet when it comes to playing PC games (excluding Solitaire, of course). I’ve always wanted to try out the Civilization series and now I can finally get into it, thanks to this next chapter in the series.

So how was Civilization Revolution? Were Sid Meier and 2K able to make the experience enjoyable with a controller? What about the DS version of the game? All is answered after the jump.

Civilization Revolution for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo DS was built from the ground up. This isn’t just some port with a fresh coat of paint here, folks. This is the first game since the very first Civilization game that Sid Meier himself worked on as lead designer (he’s worked on the others, but not as lead designer).

Before jumping into the game, you get to pick between one of 16 different civilizations: the US, British Empire, Japanese Empire, Aztecs, India, Mongolians, Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, French, Arabians, Greeks, Zulu Kingdom, Russians, Spanish Empire and the German Empire. All the nations and countries are ruled by some of the most influential and prominent leaders from history. Abraham Lincoln is in charge of the US, the British have Queen Elizabeth, the Romans have Julius Caesar, and so on.

For this demo (which I played on the Xbox 360; it’s the exact same thing on the PS3), I picked the German Empire. I was born in Germany, so I had to represent. Each civilization gets specific bonuses such as getting faster upgrades and bonuses. For the Germans, their upgrade gets them better warrior class upgrades faster compared to the other civilizations. 

One awesome thing about Civilization Revolution is that you can play the game how you want to. You can play to conquer the world, win the world over with your culture, have a ton more money than anyone else or be the first into deep space. I decided to take the war route, as I play games to kick some ass, not to treat them nice so I can get in their pants …

This was my very first time playing any Civilization game, so I was a bit nervous going in as there is a lot of depth to the game. There is a tutorial mode, however, and it will guide you through everything suggesting to you what your next step should be. It’s very helpful and doesn’t really get in the way.

Every map you play on is completely random. The game will always randomly create a new map for the campaign and multiplayer and you’ll be placed on the map randomly, too. This can be good and bad, depending on where the game puts you. An entire battle can be settled just on where you’re dropped. Luckily for me, I was placed on the left edge of the map surrounded by water with only one path in and out of my city. 

Like any RTS, you have to explore your surroundings to get new items and clear the fog of war. The game is still turn-based, as each unit gets one turn and you take turns while fighting the enemies. With each win in a battle, you will gain experience, which will upgrade your units and abilities. After your warriors get to a certain level, you can combine a group of three units of the same level to form an Army. This helps tremendously, as you have more fighters in that group to take on the opposition.  

Control-wise, the game is very simple. Sure, it might be a little slower and annoying to people used to the PC experience, but the Civ team made the controls very easy to use. You use the left stick to drag a route on the map for your troops to follow; the right stick moves you around on the map; the D-pad lets you cycle through your units quickly; A confirms; X tells your units to defend a position; and B will let you skip turns. The menu system is very easy to use, as it will show you how many resources you have and what you can place on the map. This is also where you’ll research new weapons and such for your civilization. 

Overall, I felt the controls were great. I never once felt that the game suffered at all with the lack of a mouse and I was able to do everything with the controller without any problems. 

As you explore, and if resources permit you to do so, you can place new cities along the way (so long as they’re near some resources, like trees). After a while, we were also able to build roads from city to city, which would cut down the time it took for units to move from one location to another.

As I progressed, I got into fights with a few Barbarians and made peace with the Zulu Kingdom. I later attacked the Zulus and stole some of their workforce. As the game went on, I got an important historical figure who added cultural points to my city. The French Empire, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, wanted my new cultural figure, but I wouldn’t let him go. After refusing his “offer” a few times, Napoleon declared war on my people. 

After playing for a little bit, I was shown Civilopedia. Civilopedia is an awesome bonus feature where they give you the entire real-world history of all the things you see in the game. This feature is actually sponsored by National Geographic and there’s a lot of text, photos, and videos that you can explore. This is unlocked right at the start of the game and I can imagine hours upon hours just being wasted here.

The game will be overloaded with 50 possible Achievements. Some are small, like getting in touch with your first civilization, but there are more complicated Achievements such as playing a game with Sid Meier himself (so I hear).

I didn’t play any multiplayer, but it’s basically the exact same thing as playing the A.I., more or less. There will be Vision support, so you can look at your opponents’ horrified faces as they lose a city with up to four-player support. Other online aspects will include a Game of the Week-type deal where everyone can download the same maps to compare their best scores with one another.

After I saw the console versions, I briefly got my hands on the DS version. The DS version is the exact same thing, except for the obvious difference being the graphics. You’re still given the 16 civilizations and all the main gameplay mechanics from the console version.

The DS version does lack extras such as Civilopedia, which is understandable. You’ll still have the Game of the Week download that the console version has, and it supports multiplayer as well. And just like the console version, controlling everything on the handheld is simple and easy. You don’t even have to use the touch screen at all, in fact.

The game will be out later this year and there will be a demo coming soon containing the single-player and multiplayer portions of the game.

Hamza Aziz