PC Preview

Civilization V

War and peace - no, just war

Historians have long debated whether civilisation rose from the ashes of warfare or was culled through peaceful trade. It's a contentious question because it obviously speaks directly to human nature. In that case, that long-standing question can be answered without the need for more archaeological research or dirty digging. Conflict is a gamer's nature and nowhere is that more apparent than in Civilization V where the march of troops and wafting gun smoke highlight the appeal of new combat elements designed to improve strategy gaming's most recognisable franchise.

How can you not be compelled to annex your neighbours and seize their resources as your own when so much effort has been made to make war easier, more streamlined? Chief among the improvements set out in Civilization V is the manner in which conflicts play out. While much has been revised in this sequel, Firaxis insists that the fundamentals of warfare have been revisited to allow for more strategic play and ease of use. In short, they want to make it as simple as possible to conduct war.

That, of course, isn't to say that actually winning wars will be easier. The changes made in Civilization V answer calls from franchise fans to streamline certain processes and reset conventions to allow for greater strategic possibilities. For example, units can no longer be stacked; each tile may house only a single unit. This has a dramatic impact on strategy since it will force you to consider unit formations carefully as you enter battle. The introduction of ranged units like archers supports this shift. Able to attack enemies at a distance of a few tiles, ranged units now must be accounted for in your war plans. Placing them behind a row of melee combatants, for instance, will shield them from direct attacks and set up a one-two blitz against a rival army.

Also changed is the manner in which cities are defended. Previous instalments required units to be garrisoned within a city in order to mount a defence against invaders. Civilization V still allows you the option of garrisoning troops, but it only augments the city's innate defencive capability. Each town possesses hit points that have to be whittled away before an enemy can lay claim to it. This naturally makes it a little tough to seize cities, but the conditions for defeating another civilisation have been relaxed. Instead of being required to capture every city under a civilisation's control, you need only to invade the capitol. Mind you, that can be challenging, but such a change eliminates the tedious work of mopping up minor cities after a foe's hub has fallen.

There are a myriad of other things which must be considered before marching off to war, chiefly diplomacy and researching of technology. The former presents the opportunity to negotiate with opponents as a way of avoiding war, yet diplomacy is far more useful when used to gain the support of other nations in your pursuit of war. Better yet, new city-states can be leveraged for support. These new players aren't as politically developed as a full civilisation, but possess enough influence and power to actively participate on the international stage.

You're always free to attempt negotiations with leaders of other nations, which have been brought to life by means of convincing 3D models. George Washington, for instance, speaks on behalf of the American people is a colonial library dressed in period garb. Other figures like Elizabeth I of England carry a strong accent and she wears a heavy crown to indicate her affiliation. The best part about these characters: each will speak in the language native to the nation they represent. Enhanced intelligence promises to make these characters more dynamic too. Elizabeth I may call out your decision to amass troops near her border as provocative. Firaxis promises a score of new civilisations will join those that have appeared in past instalments, though these will be announced closer to the game's release.

Lastly, research contributes to your war machine with advances in unit training, weapons, and other technologies. A new option has been added to let you negotiate shared research projects with other civilisations that reduce the amount of money and time required. Of course, the drawback is that your partner shares the benefits of the technology too. Also introduced are expanded financial options that allow you to spend money to seize neutral land.

All of these new options widen the scope of strategies that can be employed, though none necessarily disrupt the challenge of engaging in war. Civilization V may restructure the elements of conflict, but the overall balance should remain even; in fact, it's likely an improvement. How this all squares with religious fervour, cultural prowess, and economic might - systems within the game yet to be detailed - will be something we're keen to learn leading up to the game's presumed late 2010 release.

Article
We need to talk... about 'gamers'
Because that term has a much wider definition than it used to.