Review: Civilization V

Sid Meiers Civilization V US Boxart
Sid Meiers Civilization V US Boxart

Civilization V is the fifth main installment in Sid Meier’s acclaimed Civilization series. It is a turn-based strategy game in which the player chooses a famous historical leader and attempts to build a civilization to the point where it is superior to all others in the world. Civilization V has 5 victory conditions: Time, Diplomatic, Conquest, Science, and Cultural. A time victory tallies up players’ scores in the year 2050 AD and the player with the highest score wins. A player achieves a conquest victory by capturing all other players’ original capitals. A science victory is won by the player that builds the game’s spaceship and launches it into space, and a cultural victory happens when a player builds a wonder called the Utopia Project, something that can only be built when a player finishes five social policy trees.

Like its predecessors, Civilization V tracks a civilization’s happiness and the amount of money in gold that it possesses. In this game, however, happiness is a far more valuable thing to have than in previous games. Happiness adds points toward a counter on the top of the interface that indicates how close the player is to a Golden Age, which increases the production and gold output of cities that the player controls. Too much unhappiness and/or too much negative gold per turn will give military units an attack penalty adding an interesting amount of depth to the game. The player is forced to watch their economy in order to keep their military strong if they desire a conquest victory. Happiness and unhappiness are on a measurable continuum, with happiness gained from things like access to luxury resources and trade routes between cities within a civilization. Unhappiness is a byproduct of population and number of cities. This means that players need to be wary of how much their civilization is expanding in order to keep their happiness high. At first, this seemed inconvenient, but it became clear that a smaller civilization was more manageable and defensible.

In 100 more turns, the player might be halfway to victory!
A screenshot of regular gameplay.

One very welcome change to the game that allows cities to become more defensible is the removal of the players’ ability to stack units in tiles. A player may only have one combat unit and one non-combat unit on a single tile at any given time. This drastically reduces the military power that a player can possess, which means that it is far less likely for a player to become overpowered. Cities themselves have been revamped so that they now have their own defense ratings and health bars, giving them the ability to defend themselves without any garrisoned units. Because cities can now defend themselves and players can no longer stack units, it is now far more difficult for a smart economic powerhouse to be conquered by the local warmongering bully. The game becomes more challenging for the military-minded and more playable for the economy-minded. Another drastic change in the game is the hexagonal grid system that replaced the square grid system from older Civilization games. The hexagonal grid changes movement in the game and opens up new squares for players to attack units and cities from, helping to balance the inability to stack units in the game. It also allows a city a wide area in which it can expand and station citizens.

This man is nobody's friend.
Pictured Above: A screenshot of a player meeting Montezuma.

Graphically, the game is much more intensive than even Civilization IV, which can lead to difficulty running the game in later turns. Fortunately, the game has a new strategic view, which simplifies the graphical qualities of the game, allowing it to be run much faster. Strategic view is a much-needed and welcome addition to the world of Civilization. The introduction looks phenomenal.

The music in the game is very good, but perhaps the most impressive thing about the game is the voice acting. Whenever a player contacts an AI opponent during a singleplayer match, that opponent is voice acted. The AI leaders speak in the native language of whatever civilization that they belong to, from Caesar’s impeccable Latin to Oda Nobunaga’s surprisingly accurate formal Japanese. Linguists are bound to enjoy this aspect of the game.

While Civilization V can be fun to play alone against AI opponents, the game is far more fun online with friends. It is a great way to kill about ten to fifteen hours, and the game can be configured so that players are able to join and leave at their leisure, with the AI taking over for players that have left and players choosing to take over for an AI when they join mid-session. Players can choose to play on teams or in a free-for-all game, and games can be set as public (anyone can join) or private (only friends and those who are invited by the host are able to join). It is available on Steam or in stores for both Mac and PC. One of the nice things about the game is that it has been patched so that Mac and PC players can play together. Civilization V is a fun, if long-winded, strategy game that is easy to play but hard to master.


  1. Is Ghandi still a gigantic asshat in this? I know this has been a problem with previous games.

  2. Montezuma is a total bro. Sure, he’ll declare war CONSTANTLY, but afterward a few fights he makes peace like nothing happened!
    Germany, on the other hand…

  3. Gandhi isn’t QUITE as warmongering in this game, as long as you give in to his demands. All of his demands. Which he makes like, every ten turns.

  4. Yes, Civilization games are certainly not for those without the patience of a canyon waiting to be birthed.

    I enjoy them immensely, though!

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