CivRev is a definite success among anyone who likes strategy games.
- Great graphics: breaking from the isometric tradition was great for CivRev. The new 3D environment, though practically camera-locked, is much more immersive. Battles between units look awesome, and you'll find yourself clinging your teeth quite a few times during a tough battle. There are only two flaws I can point on that matter. Army units are smaller than regular units, i.e., warriors that are part of an army are clearly smaller than warriors that are not. Those David-versus-Goliath kind of fights would detract from the gaming experience if they weren't that funny. Moreover, overrun units sometimes get locked on the fight quadrant and end up running on the same place, exactly like cartoon characters. Anyway, cities look great and unique, worlds look really fluid (i.e., the fact that it is made up of equally-sized blocks is not always in your face). Advisor and leader animation are good, though they don't look as alive as they did in Civ III (not to mention everybody sounds like they had a stroke).
- Awesome console adaptation: the reduced number of buttons makes you wonder why did the earlier installments of Civilization had so many keyboard shortcuts. I remember playing Civ II on the PlayStation and it was quite a pain to play. CivRev for the 360, however, has such an effective button layout that you won't even bother not having a mouse.
- Faster gameplay: the whole simplify-to-make-it-more-fun philosophy behind CivRev has really worked in my opinion. Micro-managers are not gonna like the changes, though. The game has removed from its dictionary words like "corruption", "starvation" and "upkeep". Workers are no longer under the players control, as you can at best allocate them on a city tile. Roads are built through the city panel, saving dozens of turns and making the game much more fluid. Units now cost no more than the hammers (or "shields" for the old-timers) it takes to produce them. Not to mention the array of units is now much smaller. Each phase of the game has basically an offensive and a defensive unit, which takes a lot of the time figuring out which unit you should build. This matches perfectly to the new unit-upgrade system, which makes your units much less expendable by giving them unique attributes after they've reached a certain amount of victories. With much of the micromanaging distractions left aside, you can concentrate on the general strategy for your civilization. You can thus finish a game in less than 2 hours (the mean should be somewhere around 4 hours), something barely impossible before.
- XBL-independent achievements: this one is great news for people like me, who won't put a game to rest before making all achievements. It really grinds my gears to see games that have achievements that require the user to have a gold XBL membership. I do agree that DLC could come with those achievements, but I don't agree with what games like Resident Evil 5 do. If you access the game through a regular non-XBL account, you get a list of 50 achievements, but if you do access the game through an XBL account, you'll automatically get a list of 60 achievements to complete, 10 of which can only be achieved if you have a gold account. This probably isn't much big of a deal for most of you, but knowing that CivRev isn't like RE5 in that sense makes me sleep better at night.
- Addictive: this is one of those games you'll be playing even when you're not playing. You'll find yourself reviewing your strategy while taking a shower or having lunch, so beware: you'll have to keep an eye on yourself in order to keep this game from interfering with the other aspects of your life.
- Great replay value: usually quick games don't have a good replay value, but this is an exception. You can play this game 50 times and each run will be an unique experience. The online games, game of the week and scenario options are more than enough to make this game last at least 100 hours before you get sick of it.
- Oversimplified diplomacy system: as I said before, the simplification of several aspects of the game was really positive, but this is the one thing that was definitely oversimplified. The diplomacy system is so featureless that you will very rarely feel like accessing the Diplomacy Panel for anything but declaring war on someone else. Alliances are gone, and so are free boarders treaties. Gold and knowledge are only exchanged out of threats, and you'll never feel empathy for the other civ leaders. It really looks like all they want to do is extort you. You'll rarely see AIs declare war on each other, and that is definitely a minus for this game. I'm sure I speak for dozens of Civ players when I plead Mr. Meier to give the diplomacy system more love next time around.
- Incoherent sound effects: the sound effects on the game are usually great, but as you enter more advanced eras, you'll get the feeling the sound FX crew didn't get paid in full. For example, the "fortify" sound is the sound of swords being sheathed, which works great for warriors land legion units, but definitely not for galleys and bombers. The same thing happens with the "cancel move" sound. It is the sound of a trot being interrupted and it looks quite weird to be coming out of a destroyer.
- No map: I really miss an Atlas on the corner of the screen. There is a zoom-out button, but it doesn't zoom out enough in order to give you a look at the whole world. It is really important to see how all civs are spread across the globe, specially if you're planning a domination victory, but the game just doesn't give you that. This is such an easy thing to do and I hope Civ V has it back.
All in all:
Civ V is scheduled for release late 2010 and I really hope it addresses the flaws pointed here. Nonetheless, CivRev is a great game and a definite success among anyone who likes strategy games. Not to mention this game was released in 2008, so you can probably find it at a wonderful price. I have to admit that when I read that Civ was coming to the 360 I gave it a big frown and immediately put it on my mental "not to buy" list, but after seeing it get so acclaimed I decided to give the demo a try and turns out I couldn't put it down. So If you have any doubts about whether to buy this one or not, give the demo a spin. It is one of the most playable demos I've ever seen and gives a good view of the whole game.