Thrown Into the Deep End

User Rating: 8 | Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution DS
Inspired by the immense hype surrounding the recent release of Civilization V, I once again went back to Civilization Revolution (CivRev) DS, a game I've tried several times already to get into but have been unable to crack. This time, however, I decided to read up a bit on the game before giving it another go, and with some patience and a lot of good, old-fashioned tenacity, I think I finally "get it."

In previous attempts to breach this game's steep learning curve, I approached the game as if it were something along the lines of Age of Empires, Dawn of Discovery, or even Advance Wars. No, no, no...that's not what Civ is at all about, really. It's more like Risk, with loads more detail and depth.

Unfortunately, CivRev on DS does precious little to help newcomers to grasp its concepts and gameplay. So, I lay all of my disappointment in that regard at the doorstep of the developer.

That rather sizable gripe aside, I found the game to be utterly addictive and engrossing once I started to acquaint myself with its trappings. The formula is diverse, offering ample opportunities for players to attack the game in various ways, and for the most part, it's a lot of fun.

If, like me, you're one of the uninitiated, here's how Civ works (as I understand it now):

-Establish a city (if your civ doesn't already begin with one).
-Explore the world.
-Develop political relationships with other nations and expand.
-Evolve your civilization in a way that will allow you to win the Civ race either by technology, culture, domination (war or points), or economy.

The devil's in the details, of course, and the DS version of the game finds a nice balance between depth and accessibility. Unfortunately, there's much to be desired still when it comes to the game's interface. Selecting units and navigating the world map is tedious, and the game doesn't always do a great job of pointing you toward the most urgent matters. Heck, I still don't know how to keep track of resources, gold, and food.

There's a lot missing, both in terms of getting the player up to speed and keeping them there. In spite of these flaws, I still find it to be a game that's hard to put down. It's a ton of fun, each campaign is unique, and the extras are really great.

Visually, the game's mostly boring. You'll be too caught up in the political game to notice, though. Everything I've seen so far is 2D, simply drawn sprites and backgrounds, except for nuclear missiles, which are shown in 3D when they launch -- and it looks pretty awesome, too. There's almost no music, aside from moments when something pivotal happens in the game, and the sound effects are very basic.

If (and I stress the "if" part) you're willing to take time to read up on the game and learn its workings, as well as forgive a clumsy interface and do some self-educating on the game's particulars, you may find CivRev to be a really enjoyable companion piece. It's not one of those games you play from beginning to end and are then done with it. No, you play it, play it again, and get lots of life out of it. If it weren't for the fact that the game is just so darn addictive, I'd score it lower. The flaws are frustrating, but there's simply no denying the game is great fun.