Civilization V Impressions - First Look

2K Games and Firaxis finally show Civilization V at GDC 2010. Get the details here.

For years, the Civilization series has challenged players to assume the role of one of history's greatest leaders, such as Napoleon Bonaparte or Genghis Khan, and try to conquer the world through force of arms, scientific research, or overwhelming cultural superiority. And for years, the series has been synonymous with things like turn-based strategy, insidiously addictive gameplay, and the compulsion to explore every last square on the map. Except that with Civ V, you won't be exploring squares. You'll be exploring hexes. Yes, as you've probably heard, the new version of Civilization will make some noticeable changes to the series, including changing how maps will be divided not into four-sided squares, but into six-sided hexes, and how archers and other ranged units will actually be able to fire on their enemies from more than one hex away (previously, all units did battle by getting adjacent to their targets). These are big changes, but from what we've seen, they not only seem plausible enough to work, but also seem like they'll open up lots of new strategic possibilities. (Which means, you know, more of those sleepless nights.)

We saw Civ V in a hands-off demonstration at the 2010 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, in the early settlement game, as well as in a later, more-established session against more-developed nations. Civ V's interface is being designed by Firaxis staffer Russell Vaccaro, who also contributed to Firaxis' previous console Civ game, Civilization Revolution. Like that game, Civ V will have a highly streamlined interface that keeps a lot of the information off the main map view in favor of showing the game's detailed 3D world. From a technical perspective, Civ V's overland maps look better than they ever have and feature realistic-looking forests, mountain ranges, and flowing water in the form of inland rivers and sparkling oceans.

Ah, Chancellor Bismarck. How good of you to join us.

While you're gazing from sea to shining sea, you won't have to stare at piles and piles of numbers and icons--instead, while you'll still be able to access menus like your city's build menu, the scientific technology tree, and your diplomacy standings with other nations, they'll all be nested in menus that can be quickly and easily closed up. To make sure you don't forget what you were going to do next, the game will instead offer an enhanced notification system that will alert you to pretty much all happenings in the game, from completed scientific research to finished construction in your cities to discovering ruins (which appear to be the new game's version of goodie huts), and clicking on the notification will always open up the relevant menu and let you do whatever you need. In addition, Civilization III's advisors return in Civ V and will, as usual, offer you helpful tips on the next move you might want to make.

The demonstration we watched showed an early starting game for Greece with a troop of settlers (which act as the single settlers unit from previous games) and a troop of warriors (which act as a single warrior unit from previous games). The settlers immediately started a new city, while the warriors headed out into the wilderness to find a neighboring city-state, one of Civ V's new features. City-states are basically neutral cities of varying specializations (such as a militaristic city-state) that can be conquered if you prefer, though you can leave them neutral and form treaties with them, or take missions from them. Forming a strong relationship with a neutral city-state can be very beneficial--becoming buddies with the militaristic city-state in our demonstration meant that the neutral burg would send us free warriors every few turns--but it can also upset nearby civilizations who would prefer to have that city-state's services for themselves.

Ranged units will attack from a distance. Maps will be hex-based. This will be a different Civ.

Expansion will still be crucial to your success in Civ V, and the amount of "culture" your nation produces will still be the determining factor in how often your cities expand, but this time around, cities will not automatically expand outward in giant concentric circles. Instead, your holdings will expand one hex at a time and will tend to automatically grow toward specific nearby areas that your current civilization needs--for instance, if you've been developing your agricultural base, your nation will automatically tend to expand toward that nearby wheat-growing plain. While you can still use the old trick of annexing nearby resources by just sending out a settler to build an adjoining city nearby, there will apparently be game-specific disadvantages to having two cities too close to each other. Instead, Civ V will offer you a new alternative to send settlers to a desired area and plunk down a huge sum of gold to simply annex that zone and its resources.

After observing the early ages, we skipped ahead to a more-developed version of Greece that lay near holdings from Germany and the good old U. S. of A. Our first encounter with Germany came in the form of greeting a German settler, which brought us an audience with Chancellor Bismarck in his private chambers. Meeting with world leaders will look and sound different in Civ V, since the game will switch to a full-screen view of that leader in his or her current environment (whether that be in a home office or out at war, for instance), which shows more or less a full-body view of the leader as he or she paces about the room, smiling (or frowning), gesticulating, and speaking his or her native language.

Expansion will still be based on your culture but will work differently.

That's right, leaders will no longer be mute mimes who make grandiloquent genuflections in your general direction--Chancellor Bismarck will speak full-on German, while General Washington will speak perfect English. This is a new change that Civ fans have apparently been requesting for some time. In addition, while you'll still be able to negotiate trade agreements, travel agreements, and peace treaties with neighboring nations, Civ V will also let you enter into research treaties--essentially, a joint investment of a lump sum of cash that will accelerate scientific research for both nations. This can be a highly beneficial arrangement that earns you friendship points with other nations, and it can also be a serious bone of contention if you cut the treaty short midway.

In this session, after exchanging pleasantries with Bismarck, we set about making overtures to a nearby city-state along the American border. While we definitely made some friends there, General Washington of America didn't seem quite as happy and addressed us in a cordial but stern manner when we sought an audience with him. For the sake of the demo, our Firaxis hosts went ahead and declared war on the indignant dignitary, and we had our chance to observe Civ V's tactical combat in action.

Civ V, as mentioned, is making some significant changes to the way combat works. For instance, the combined armies of the previous games are a thing of the past--instead, only one "stack" (a single battalion of troops that occupies any given hex) can occupy a hex. No more combining units to make them stronger. In addition, units will take longer to produce and will eventually come to have upkeep costs associated with them--however, they will also have veterancy along the lines of what was introduced in Civ IV. That is, units that survive various skirmishes will eventually grow in power and may be able to select various bonuses to increase their usefulness and survivability. The Firaxis team, led by designer Jon Schafer, envisions more-intimate, tactical battles in Civ V (based on Schafer's fondness for the classic Panzer General)--generally speaking, you and your neighbors will have fewer military units in play than you might have had in previous games in the series, and they'll last longer and be more valuable.

The combat demonstration we watched showed a land invasion of America along two fronts, with enemy spearmen guarding General Washington's town on both sides. Our ranks consisted mainly of warriors, spearmen, and a few archers, and though our relatively weaker warriors unfortunately started on the front lines ahead of our spearmen, we were able to use Civ V's new switch move order to have the two units swap positions, and then we pit our spearmen against theirs. Those crafty Americans set themselves up behind a river, which gave their units a natural terrain bonus, but we softened up our foes with a volley of arrows from a stack of archers placed atop a nearby hill. By softening up our foes and weakening their remaining health, we effectively reduced their terrain advantage and were able to mop them up with our own spearmen, which were at full strength. Meanwhile, on the western end of the border, our troops encountered worse luck. Washington had built his empire around a one-hex-wide choke point in the mountains and blocked it off with spearmen backed up by archers. Because only one unit can occupy any one hex at any given time, there was no way to pass through the mountains without going through the enemy spearmen--cases like these will require your own archers (and other ranged units) to soften up the front lines. However, archers themselves will be extremely fragile and can be easily decimated if they're engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

You'll need to think smarter and make better use of the terrain in Civ V's battles.

And as it happens, in Civ V, units may no longer be garrisoned inside your cities, so defending your holdings will have two aspects. One--all cities will automatically defend themselves based on their current growth level and any defensive structures you may have built inside. Two--you'll want to make sure you defend your key cities with army units, possibly building fort structures nearby to enhance your defenses. This task may or may not be as impossible as it sounds since Civ V's "conquest" victory condition has been tweaked to require you to capture all enemy capital cities, as opposed to capturing every single city on the map. Again, these are big changes and are really pretty bold--but they seem like they could add real depth and exciting new direction to the series. Oh, and one last note--although Civ IV's religion system (which was met with mixed reactions) won't be making a comeback, we're assured by Firaxis that the feature wasn't simply cut without any plans for other new features to replace it. There are definitely more changes afoot for Civ V, and we can't wait to find out more. The game is scheduled for release later this year.

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Discussion

164 comments
timstaes
timstaes

every civ just keeps getting better and better... can't wait to get my hands on this one!

_xymon_
_xymon_

I can't wait for civ 5 ! I have played and enjoyed every civ game so far (except revolutions :[ ) hex tiles! mochirondes! :D

tOrchie
tOrchie

I thought Civ4 was the best of the series, as it combined the best of Civ2 and Civ3, but I really really like the idea of changing to hexes instead of squares (which just makes sense) and non-stackable armies, which will create a lot more interesting strategic options with battle fronts etc.

xguild
xguild

I never really understood why someone who dicovers a game to be "perfect", is then disapointed a sequal? I mean nothing was lost, your perfect game is still there to be enjoyed and with the mod community there is always plenty of new content coming out for games. A game developers job is to do exactly what Firaxis is doing... revolutionize the series, take it in new directions, expand on the concepts, create new concepts. Give us something fresh, not "the same thing with better graphics". I'm personally excited about the new Civ, so far, none of the various civs have been disapointments to me. Each one brought something interesting to the strategy of the game and while each was different from the next, they where all definitivly civilization games. I even enjoyed some of the knock offs. This new version is doing exactly what I expected it to do... give me something new.

ParaBellum71
ParaBellum71

Who cares if it has gone from the simplicity and so called perfection of Civ 2, go play that. You want a graphically updated of Civ 2? That is laughable. Go play Infinity Ward games if you want a company that only improves on graphics, and never expands further then new titles and awards.

Simeon_Crane
Simeon_Crane

this will be awesome. I love exploring and discovering the nuances of each version.

pizzaboyuk
pizzaboyuk

I'll probably get a lot of thumbs down for this but... If you guys really like CivII that much, then why not just go and play that, and let the rest of us enjoy what the series brings.

cecpunkrock
cecpunkrock

stop talking about civ 2, it was good, but get over your nostalgia and let the company make their game.

GNWPCD
GNWPCD

To me Civ II is still the best in the series. All that game did was take the original which was great itself and improve on it. Not revolutionize it, but improve it. tweak it. Add some things to it and make it a game that anyone can play. The wonder movie avis and adviser avi movies were just so cool and fun to experience. When you needed help you would have the military adviser telling you to give him more soldiers. It was simple fun. The series seems to now be moving far away from that simplicity into something that isn't even Civ seeming anymore.Anyone could feel like they could take over the world and it wasn't overly difficult to do yet fun at the same time. Civ Revolutions made things too simple and took away the micro managing aspects that also were fun. Stopping the civil disorders and working the fields around the city to either produce more resources or happier people. I'm a big Civilization fan always have been, but I think the series is just getting too far away from the original fun and concept that CIv II so perfectlly captured. I guess as a series gets farther and farther it's hard to just maintain the same thing without adding so much more content but I for one wish it were just back to the old simple game yet updated graphically and tweaked a bit rather than getting the mess that it seems to have become ever since Civ III. Well either way I will be getting it but here is someone who loves what the series used to be not what it has become.

Rabastu
Rabastu

They should add more atmosphere. I liked how in Civ3 the leaders would go from ancient rags to business suits, but they should expand on that. Like if your talking to a Civ thats a monarchy, give the leader a crown. Or if your talking to a Civ thats a police state, give the leader a soldier uniform. That stuff would be cool. Or if you employ slavery, show slaves working the farms, rather than an emancipated state with happy citizens working the same farms. And have some peolple, carts, animals etc walking on the roads. Let me know there's actually people in a country!

Open_Sights
Open_Sights

I met this preview with discretion.Like @ Cybertori over there, I think the real Civilization was the second one.I will try to make this short: when civII arrived it was like "bang", the most revolutionary strategic game of all times, and as a plus, it was reasonably historically accurate.The impact points made the combat much better, what is really a issue in Civ 3 (as it was at some extent in the first), which is also somewhat awkward in diplomacy, even if it was much more complex, in a good way.When civ 4 came, it was just heavy.You really needed a good computer to play in the last turns.The greatest innovation was a religion system wasn't really necessary (that's because they will be gone Civ V), and while the firaxis was worried with those pesky cartoonish graphics (something unimportant in a strategic game) there was no really deep innovation (just a bunch of American related cultural stuff, the name of the game is not American Civilization), by that time Civ should be much more realistic, not just a contest of who produces more.Combat control or at least more logistical requirements on units (there's nothing like manpower, attrition,supply lines,war production) were a must.But there was nothing like that, and looks like that even now, it will be the same, that's why I don't think there will be a civ game better than the civ II anytime soon, or maybe ever.

Open_Sights
Open_Sights

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Open_Sights
Open_Sights

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

OfficerTompkins
OfficerTompkins

anyway i really want to get this, really need to upgrade my computer though

OfficerTompkins
OfficerTompkins

new graphics make it look like ur seeing an actual satelite view of Earth. very realistic, maybe too real lol.

sinreallybad
sinreallybad

I hope they change the boundary system for civ 5. I think it would be better if one civ's boundaries could not be pushed back by another's through culture, that instead they are fixed once they meet but that cultural influence can still extend well beyond these fixed boundaries. Then when cultural influence changes the demographics of another civ's territory you can make demands for that civ to hand it over. Also it would be better if when you conquer enemy territory that you don't control culturally that the population will revolt and make it difficult to control. I think these changes would more accurately replicate how states operated historically and also make the game more interesting.

iron_zealot7531
iron_zealot7531

@ Cybertori The only explanation i can conceive of for such a preference is that you either never really got into either game, or you're drawn by nostalgia to the older title. I understand everything is subjective and all, but by ever objective measure imaginable, number IV is the superior Civ. CivII is fantastic, and it's least as good as III, if not better. But if you really dig deep into the game's design you wont find anything near the precisely balanced complexity of CivIV. CivII has some options and features that CivIV lacked, but the problem is that they weren't balanced all that well and some of them were either irrelevant to the game, or even broke the game. Perhaps you only played unpatched vanilla CivIV, w/o any of the expansions? CivIV had some difficulties out of the gate, but by the time Beyond the Sword came around, it was the best Civ to date by a mile. There are people who have played CivIV nonstop since it's release and still are finding new and interesting strategies that fundamentally change competitive gameplay. I'd really suggest you give IV another go if you honestly prefer CivII

Cybertori
Cybertori

@iron_zealot7531 Civ IV is unquestionably technically superior. And the religion dynamic was brilliant - its a real shame they are taking that out. But for my money, Civ II is still the definitive Civ. I get bored playing the others, and often don't finish a game. That never happened with Civ II. :-)

Junkai1
Junkai1

hmmm, I think they should leave the victory conditions up to the player to decide. Wasn't that always the case? Not being able to garrison in cities sounds...interesting, I don't particularly relish having to monitor troops in my cities, but it sounds a little unrealistic. I'm looking forward to the hands-on.

drokmore
drokmore

I have to admit I like the idea of scaling back the amount of units. When you play on a large map and on higher difficulties, managing 200 different units became quite tedious and the tactics went to simply zergathons of stacked armies.

Uthar_Wynn
Uthar_Wynn

So the combat goes from "strategic" with huge armies, to a scaled-back, dumbed-down wannabe version of Total War. It should be either an RTS, or a TBS, or, like Total War, both, but separately. This "tactical" on the main map stuff is idiotic. The sense of scale is all screwed up. The whole idea of archers shooting over the geographic equivalent of entire cities is ridiculous. No units in cities? Yeah, because in real life armies NEVER holed up in cities. *sarcasm* Long time Civ fan but pretty apprehensive about this one.

twistyanddark
twistyanddark

It is funny how always trailers of the Civ series fool 9 year old console boys. They expect big explosions and 3d graphics and all they get is a chart based hardcore turn based game. For the above and for the amazing gameplay you have to love Civ.

capbob2000
capbob2000

And what great ideas would those be?

Baructt
Baructt

Taking turns is a minor difference from real time strategy. What matters is that they are all war-strategy games. Civ never learns from the other great ideas that popped up since the original was made. It was revolutionary for its time, but that was long ago. I don't see anything impressive.

Killerlion1
Killerlion1

The only major change that I deslike is not being able to garrison the city, the rest I love it @Baructt Since when is Civ an RTS game, it's turn based not real time

Nodashi
Nodashi

Ince Civ 1 I ALWAYS hoped they would make the map hex based so distances would be mode natural to feel for the player. Finally. I'll play this one for sure. Big civ fan here.

martinbryant
martinbryant

I always thought it would be a good idea to be able to create armies, similar to total war games- for example- a stack of 3 spearmen and 1 archer with a horse unit all merge together to be one army unit which can be replenished as the game goes on. Never found it very realistic having just one group of spearmen marching about the place....

xtrazyx
xtrazyx

This a civ game, it defines a genre by itself !

Baructt
Baructt

When Civ actually learns something from the best of RTS games, I might actually care about it. The game just doesn't make sense. Where's the realism? >.>

The_MaiN_MeNu
The_MaiN_MeNu

hooly chills running down my spine batman, I can't wait. Although I'm kind of scared, 4 is soo addicting already, don't know if my social life can survive another civ game.

dward526
dward526

new civ...okay... remember to breath...damn, my wife is going to be so pissed at me this fall.

Epicurus-Reborn
Epicurus-Reborn

i think tihs has reached my most anticipated games to come out in the future list. This is gonna wreak havoc on my sleep scheduel.

leeb127
leeb127

Can hardly wait for this one! Finally! A more indepth trading/merchant system would be nice as well. In the future when you advance and launch your space ship it would be cool if you could inhabit another planet and bring new resources back to earth and gain new technologies and then have a colony on that planet...but that is probably not gonna happen.

DrEvilKoala
DrEvilKoala

@Urlacher54 I agree that removing religion from the game would be bad. Not only does it cut away a huge part of history, but a very interesting part of the game aswell. I don't really care that my archers will be able to shoot so far. Civ never was about realism (my archer destroyed a tank?), so no problem there. I do hope they'll make larger maps. Look at the huge maps of GalCiv II. I want those in a Meier game.

Urlacher54
Urlacher54

I honestly don't know how they are going to justify the removal of espionage and religion from the game. Religion has been one of the key influences of political relations for pretty much ALL of recorded human history (even up till today). I'm really curious to hear what they've "replaced" these two mechanics with. My other complaint is with scale. If the scale of the map is the same as in previous Civ games, then you're talking about Archers now being able to shoot arrows over a distance comparable to the area of an ENTIRE STATE. That would be like plopping my archer in Westerly, Rhode Island, and being able to hit an enemy in Boston, Mass. Things I like: 1.) Inclusion of neutral city states 2.) Another preview on IGN said that the strategic resources will actually only support a set number of units at any given time. So resource wars might actually become integral. 3.) The Hex grid could be very cool Other changes I would like to see: 1.) Allow (some) naval units to move along rivers (especially galleys, triremes and ironclads). 2.) Have a public approval rating for your actions as leader. If I do something that is extremely unpopular with my people, they should get very upset. I would even like to see this be seperately applied to each city, so that there is the possibility that whole cities may revolt and lead to a Civil War. 3.) Have a chance of plagues appearing in places that are very unhealthy, which can then spread to cities connected via trade routes.

Darth_Maugrin
Darth_Maugrin

Holy cow, I can't wait any longer! I love that they are revamping the battle system. I was getting tired of my swordsmen getting killed by fortified archers when in real life the swordsmen would overrun the archers once they got close. I think using the hexes opposed to the squares will be a big improvement. Plus the graphics looks great, especially for a turn-based strategy where you don't really need good graphics.

thestrateger
thestrateger

Great! Wonderful! What a fantastic!! I will definitly buy it!

jacyp
jacyp

Well, I like most of the changes. Combat needed a revamp ASAP, it was already old when CIV IV repeated the formula. And the way city expansion works now seems to be ideal to emulate the real world, although I would like it to be expanded by choice, not automatically, and I hope the cities will be able to work all the hexes that belong to her culture, not only the 2 closest ones. But combat still has it`s flaws: the new formula is good, but to keep combat on the world map with this formula is kindda ridiculous. I mean, the hexes means several square miles of area, how a troop of arches can shoot another troop several miles away? Well, I guess it's hard to get all. Let's see what happens.

A4477
A4477

hope there are some noticeable improvements in the gameplay.......love this series;-)

Zero9698
Zero9698

i wish they would put this on ps3 civ revwas fun (until you play with all leaders)

azurik15
azurik15

PC!!.It's Meant To Be Played:)

townsforever
townsforever

every game is the exact same as the last

townsforever
townsforever

wow this is disappointing, I've played since the very first game so unless something major is new this will be at the bottom of my list

Slayerduckie
Slayerduckie

this kinda makes me wish total war games turn based section was like this...

ugm_2511
ugm_2511

Civilization just keeps getting better and better. I'm so getting this game.