NOTE: this article does contain a few pieces of strong language. You have been warned.
Just recently I ventured back into the shady and delightful world of PC gaming, having been away for some considerable time due to a simple yet fatal flaw keeping me away from it: a lack of money. Those of you who follow this site know that PC game reviews do appear on here, as do reviews of PC gear, and that’s because I essentially borrow a handy PC not too far from here to cover certain things that really interest me. Despite not owning a PC capable of doing very much more than running this site and complaining loudly about young people these days I still kept up with the PC gaming scene, since that’s where I started gaming many years back.
Finally though I got a tiny amount of money together and built myself a new PC, partially because I wanted to be able to play at least a few games and mostly because I was in dire need of a new one because my old one was on its last, metallic legs, and if it went down then the site went with it. The new machine was built on a very tight budget (less than £200) and therefore isn’t at the top of its game, but is nevertheless actually capable of running more than you would think. At the centre of it all is a Phenom x4 965 3.4Ghz processor with 4GB of Corsair Vengeance ram and a 500GB hard-drive. The only thing letting down the entire system is the pretty old Radeon HD 4670 graphics card, although you’d be surprised by how much it can actually handle. Still, I’m putting it out there: if you’ve got a graphics card going that you don’t need, consider sending it to me! I’ll be your bestest friend forever. There might even be cookies. For me. Duh.
Anyway, the point is that merely a few weeks after I finished up my computer and got everything running those pesky people at Valve began their stupendous Steam Summer Sale, and like everyone with absolutely no money left to their name I went ballistic and bought a load of games, figuring that I could just sell my kidney later on Ebay. Most importantly, though, I bought Civilization V: Gold Edition when it had something like 75% off, which contained the original game, the Gods & Kings expansion and several other chunks of smaller DLC. And oh my god, how fucking good is Civilization V!?
Mostly I’m just amazed by how addictive the turn-based gameplay is. There’s always that desire to hit the Next Turn button to see what’s going to happen next, because there’s always something going on. There’s never a dull moment. You’re either constructing awesome new stuff or keeping an eye on your neighbour and his growing military, or plotting your next conquest or trying to stay on the good side of everyone using diplomacy.
And I’m only six-hours into my first game. There’s much more to come yet.
But I suppose I should probably at least briefly touch upon Civilization V is, although I’m fairly sure that anybody reading this little piece is here because they know exactly what it is. In Civilization V you take control of one of numerous different Civilizations in turn-based action and must guide your people through the different ages, from the days of using simple tools to modern times where war can be waged with tanks and nuclear reactors power your cities. There’s no true campaign in Civ V, you just start up a game and select who’d you like to play for and at what age you’d ike to begin. A single game of Civ 5, starting from earliest days, can take 10 or more hours. But perhaps the thing I love most is that there are numerous ways to win in Civilization V. Sure, you can go for a straight military domination, gearing your cities toward war, adopting policies which bolster your combat abilities and savagely expanding your borders by declaring war at almost every opportunity. There’s also no denying that a military campaign is hugely satisfying, but I’ll get back to some of that later on. Aside from that, though, you can also win the game by building the most powerful economy, by becoming a beautiful culture which the rest of the world wants to imitate, or even by founding a religion which takes over the world.
What amazes me and intrigues me is how quickly the game can change, how quickly your own goals shift and change as the other civilizations around you go about their business. I began my first game, which I’m incidentally still on, with the goal of becoming a cultural and scientific powerhouse. I would win by creating a happy empire of educated people, great scientists and amazing works of art of technology. six hours later I now own numerous cities and a vast empire that has been gained, somewhat to my shame, by military might. My path was changed because of the actions of two other civilizations, and suddenly I’ve gone from aiming to be a fairly peaceful civilization to owning the most powerful military in the world.
Things began simply innocently enough. I had two cities to my name and both were thriving. My closest neighbour was Polynesia and for the entire game we had been on good standing, trading back and forth. My first taste of military might came for the very simple reason that it was my first game and I was eager to check out how combat worked in more detail, and how taking cities also worked. At this point I was ready for a third city, and so I decided to declare war in the nearest city-state. It wasn’t easy as I was unsure how much might it would take to conquer a city, but eventually I prevailed. Upon taking the city, I settled back down and planned to continue on my original quiet route. Still, things were uncomfortable: since the start of the game my other close neighbour, William, had been sticking a little close to my borders with his military for my comfort. I was unsure of his intentions.
A few turns later my good Polynesian friends decided to declare war against the Ottoman empire, and asked me to help them out. I agreed to help them in order to keep our friendship strong, since I didn’t want to piss off the neighbours, but that was a stupid mistake because the Ottoman empire was a considerable distance away and getting my forces down there was going to be a challenge. With Willim still loitering on my borders I decided to send down some knights, a squad of pikemen and a catapult, figuring that Polynesia would already have their full might in the war and that minimal help would actually be required. Once I finally got my troops down their I discovered that Polynesia didn’t even seem to be trying, leaving me to deal with the Ottomans myself. Thankfully they only seemed to have two units and after a short while I defeated those, captured some Ottomon works and constructed some defenses on the border. The problems was while I had defeated the military I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the city, and I couldn’t commit any other forces because William was still being a dick.
Before long, though, Suleiman of the Ottomans popped up and asked for peace between our two empires. Since Polynesia had declared war and then apparently gone home I decided to call it a day, having little interest in conquering the Ottomans anyway, since taking the city would mean attempting to run a city far away from my capital. And anyway, I had only joined the work on the assumption that the Ottomans had been causing problems for the Polynesia people, which, considering the small size of the Ottoman empire, seemed rather unlikely. As I began to head home a message popped up: William had publicly denounced me, declaring me a bloodthirsty bastard, all the while his troops continued to sit on my borders. Still, I heaved my shoulders and let it pass. I wasn’t interested in war. If he wanted it, he could declare it, not me.
Or at least that’s what I thought until the next series of events.
As I directed my troops home Williams military suddenly gathered in the small area between me and Polynesia. The worst was to come because as my military forces headed home William penned them in, literally surrounding my knights and stopping my catapults from crossing the river. I felt sure William was away to invade, yet he surprised me by attacking Polynesia! Incensed by his assault on a civilization that had been friendly to me from the start I publicly denounced William and declared war, attacking his forces. I then made the obvious move and asked Polynesia if they would join me in declaring war on William, but to my utter astonishment Polynesia refused, despite William assaulting their workers and placing troops within their borders. The battle raged on, and twice more I asked Polynesia to declare war on William, yet they refused. Still, eventually I destroyed the bulk of Williams forces and positioned my troops near his border and his first city. Deciding that William needed to be shown force and began the siege of the first of his four cities. and while I did take some loses in the process I eventually conquered the city, taking it for my own. William now had no military left, and I had more units moving into place. Defeat was inevitable, but still I wanted to end this war and get on with my original plans. I opened up the diplomacy panel and asked William to make peace, making no other demands in the process. To my boundless surprise the mad bastard refused. There was only but one course of action then – William must learn by force. I marched upon his second city, and by this time things were even worse for William as my army had progressed to having cannons. With relative ease I took his second city as my own, expanding my borders even further. Again, after taking the city I called for peace, and again I was refused, and so I continued on to his third city. As I arrived William finally saw the futility of resisting and called for peace, sweetening the deal by offering me the very city I was just about to take by force. I therefore accepted, happy to end the war, even if a part of me had revelled in it.
William was not yet finished, though. He was down to just one city left on the continent, with a couple of small, weak settlements on a small island offshore. He had no military, no power. As such I was more than content to let him be, keeping just one or two squads of musket wielding troops within range of his borders in case he decided to try anything stupid. Quite a few turns passed without incident, until William again delivered me a message, declaring that I was getting, “too friendly” with a city-state that was under his sphere. I was shocked: not only was this mad fool issuing threats to me, the man who had obliterated his entire empire, but as far as I knew I hadn’t been doing anything with his beloved city-state. Quite the opposite, I had been ignoring them, having zero interest in them. Apparently, though, I was accumulating good-will with them regardless, meaning I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to because I had no idea why they liked me. The red mist came down. I was annoyed that this moron who had been harassing me since the very start of the game was issuing threats without having any military forces to back it up. Again, then, I denounced William and declared war, deciding that enough was enough, and that he needed to learn a lesson. It took me just a couple of turns to bring in my military and take the only city he had left on the continent, situated just on the edge of the sea. After taking the city I again went to William and ask for peace, which he had little choice but to accept. He now holds two small cities on an island, unable to do anything and of no risk to me. Perhaps one day he will again become a problem, but for now he seems to have finally learned his lesson, and is keeping mostly quiet.
My actions were not without consequences, however. Upon visiting the diplomacy menu I learned that Polynesia had changed their stance toward, moving from friendly to guarded. I was deeply saddened by this chance in my once allies, and couldn’t understand the shift at first. The mystery resolved itself, however, when the leader of Polynesia called me “bloodthirsty”. In my mind I had declared war to help Polynesia, but from their view I imagine how things must have looked: I was the one that declared war against William. I was the one that built a powerful military, a military whose home border’s Polynesia, and proceeded to slowly but surely conquer William’s lands, killing untold numbers in the process. And I was the one that had, with little hesitation, wiped out the last of his cities on the continent, leaving him relegated to an island. To me my actions were justified, but from an outside perspective I had gone from a peaceful civilization to a sprawling empire with a military that had significantly more powerful technology than those around it. Polynesia clearly felt that they could be next, and therefore wanted to keep me at arms distance. It didn’t help the relationship when I discovered a spy from Polynesia had stolen some technology from me, and I demanded that Polynesia cease all spying operations within my borders. Needless to say the relationship is somewhat strained between our two peoples.
So, here I am, the originally peaceful civilization that became the most powerful military force in that part of the world and forcefully took over a total several cities, losing the trust of an ally in the process. I’m actively attempting to cease my militaristic ways, keeping my armies firmly at home and once again focusing on culture and science. This is made easier by the fact that I have seven cities now and no desire to expand my territory further. There’s enough on my plate as it is, without managing yet another war and trying to run even more cities. Yet after a taste of brutal power, how much will it really take for me to once again take up arms and declare war?
This little story of mine really doesn’t do justice to the depth offered by Civilization. There’s som many technology trees to research and so many ways to build up your cities and achieve victory. The happiness of your people must be carefully watched, supplies must be gathered, diplomacy handled, wars fought and border expansions carefully considered. Civilization V is truly an astounding game and I wish I had gotten the chance to review it when it first arrived. It’s not a perfect game, because no game is, but few titles have drawn in this much, especially since it’s turn-based, which I’m usually not big on, favoring RTS titles more because I like to have direct influence over the combat and such. But Civilization V literally had me yelling at the screen and always dying to see what happens on the next turn. The last turn-based game to do that was XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and in case you didn’t know I fucking loved that game as well. The best is yet to come, though, because I have no doubt that taking my civilization from humblest beginnings to the very last era of technology will be the most satisfying thing of all.
Just one more turn. Just one.