If you've never played a Civilization game before, Sid Meier's next effort might be the game for you. The legendary game designer and the team at Firaxis are looking to bring the strategy series to consoles and handhelds with the upcoming Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution. We got a chance to see a brief demo of the game during a meeting with Firaxis and publisher 2K Games, and it's obvious the team is looking to balance the depth of the long-running strategy series with the ease of use of a console game.
The basics are still the same: You play as an up-and-coming empire builder looking to extend your influence across the world. And, as in previous Civilization entries, you'll have a number of ways to win the game. There's the military solution, where you bully your neighbors through sheer strength; economic victory, where you price your competitors out of the picture; cultural, where the city with the most advanced culture comes out on top; and the space race, where the first society that makes it into space declares ultimate victory.
Firaxis developers made a point to tell us that you can switch strategies should one tactic not be to your liking, in order to find the best path to victory and deal with the game's challenging artificial intelligence. In one humorous moment during the demo, the Roman forces, attacking a seemingly helpless Egyptian city with a catapult, were met with stiff resistance from wave after wave of Egyptian soldiers; developers said they hadn't yet encountered this much resistance despite playing the scenario many times before. And because Revolution will deal with the evolution of your society over thousands of years, technology will change as you progress--from the up-close-and-personal style of fighting by Roman Centurions to the destructive ICBM nukes that can flatten an army in one shot.
As you progress through the game, your various units will improve as you go along. The small phalanx of soldiers we saw in the beginning improved to veterans after just their first battle. Though you initiate battles manually, the actual combat will be hands-off and feature a ton of animations from the different combatants. Finding success on the battlefield, or elsewhere in the game, will result in you earning upgrades for your different units. For the soldiers, it could mean upgrading them to scouts, or giving them an infiltration upgrade (essentially turning them into ninja soldiers and granting them a 100 percent bonus when attacking a city), or giving them the ability to heal themselves when on the battlefield. In addition to individual upgrades, three soldier units can combine to form an army that is stronger than the sum of its parts. Also, any upgrades held by the individual soldiers will carry on for the army that is composed of those soldiers.
If these different gameplay aspects of Revolution seem like a typical Civilization game to you, its look and feel most likely will not. Graphically, the game will feature big, bright characters and units that have an almost cartoonish feel to them. Though you'll probably engage in plenty of battles in the game, they all have a sort of lighthearted appeal to them that will ensure the game is family friendly. The different societies in the game will all have their own look and feel--including unique architecture for buildings and costumes for units. As you progress through the game, you'll be occasionally met with luminaries from other empires as well as your many advisors that will give you tips on how to progress, or advise you of new opportunities. These have their own look and feel too--from the sultry, sexy Cleopatra to the bow-tied science advisor, and even Napoleon himself. These characters have fun animations all their own--one of our favorites was watching as our military advisor came onscreen to shove luminaries such as Cleopatra or Napoleon out of the way in order to offer his tactical advice.
In addition to a vigorous single-player campaign, Civilization Revolution will feature some robust multiplayer options including ranked games for up to four players (including four-player free for all, 1-on-1 duels, or 2-on-2 team matches), as well as leaderboards and support for video chat. One of Meier's ideas for multiplayer was a game of the week, where players can compete in a scenario and post their high score online.
Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution is currently due for release in spring 2008 on the PS3, Xbox360, and DS, and will arrive on the Nintendo Wii in the fall of 2008. Stay tuned for much more on this game in the coming months.