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Civilization: Revolution

Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution is the latest in the Civilization franchise. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, it is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to take a civilization: build it from the ground up, learn new technologies, create wonders of the world, wage war and make peace with rival civilizations, etc. The original release was a single-player game, but later expanded to be multi-player. Since, various developers have released games under the franchise. For the most part, Civilization has been a personal computer exclusive, with the exception of the poor 1995 Nintendo SNES release. Regardless, console-based gamers have not had the option of playing one of the best strategy series available. This decision has been for various reasons, which include playability and usability -- the limited interactions with a video game console controller are far inferior to a mouse and keyboard.

Recently, Firaxis teamed up with Sid Meier to bring the awesome series to a few of the current generation video game consoles. The release is entitled Civilization Revolution. It is a multi-platform release for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo DS. This review covers the Xbox 360 version. However, for the most part, this review should be applicable to the PlayStation 3 version.

As previously mentioned, "Revolution" is a turn-based strategy game. The goal of the game is to start with a small city, build it up, learn new technologies, outdo rival civilizations, and achieve victory. In the beginning of a game, the player selects one of five difficulty levels. Next is the selection of civilization, which includes Roman, Egyptians, Greeks, Spanish, Germans, Russians, Chinese, Americans, Japanese, French, Indian, Arabs, Aztecs, Zulu, Mongols, and English. Each civilization has a different leader and special bonuses. For example, the American civilization has access to special units like Sherman Tank, Flying Fortress, Mustang Fighter, increased factory production, etc.

After the game starts, the player begins in ancient times with a single settler and a limited view of the surrounding world. The player can use the settler unit to build the civilization's first city. From this point, as the small city grows, the player will be able to build units like warriors (to attack/defend from other rivals, explore the unknown), settlers (to build additional cities), triremes (to explore the oceans), city improvements (to increase city production, produce culture, gain science, etc.), and wonders of the world (to gain special civilization bonuses). In addition, new technology can be researched, which will allow the civilization to build advanced units, city improvements, and wonders. Also, new technologies will enable a city to use special resources.

Unlike its predecessors, "Revolution" is a watered down version of the Civilization experience. The game is no where near as complex. Past games have offered a lot of flexibility in how the game was started or even played. For instance, you could pick the size of the world map, number of rival civilizations, define victory conditions, and more. However, "Revolution" limits the options. You can only select your starting civilization and difficulty level. I was disappointed with this aspect. As a hardcore Civilization fan, I wanted a little more from the game. The other games in the series can last for countless hours and you can even keep playing after winning (in some). "Revolution" was designed to have a game completed in a few hours.

There are four victory conditions "Domination" (capture all rival capital cities), "Culture" (build United Nations and obtain 20 great persons, wonders, or converted cities), "Economic" (build World Bank and acquire 20,000 gold), and "Technological" (build spaceship and reach Alpha Centauri). I found that they can come pretty quickly... or at least the culture victory. I was frequently disappointed when the game would come to an end as I was gearing up to conquer the last civilization. In fairness, you can avoid a certain victory by not completing the last milestone (for instance, you can't have a cultural victory until you build United Nations).

There are also other minor quirks with the game. One that annoys me more than anything is the lack of a city auto-build feature. When your civilization gets pretty big, the last thing you want to do is micro-manage each city. This process can take a lot of time. It would have been a huge improvement if cities could be set to auto-build. On that note, after all of the wonders and city improvements have been built, there is no option to set city production into an endless loop. Past games had the ability to convert production into gold. Instead, after everything is built, at the beginning of each turn, you will be prompted to build something. When your civilization gets really big, this micro-managing gets tedious.

Despite my complaints about the water-downed game play, I still found "Revolution" to be highly addictive. Sid Meier and Firaxis did a pretty good job with the game. Like past installments, "Revolution" can be intriguing, addicting, and entertaining. What made the franchise great is also what makes "Revolution" so much fun. You have the freedom to direct a civilization to make peace with rivals, develop new technologies, build wonders of the world, or wage war and go for world domination.

Another positive aspect to "Revolution" is the playability and the usability. When I first heard about "Revolution", Civilization on SNES came to mind. This release was an example of a personal computer game that did not port well as console game. "Revolution" is different. Its less complicated game play allows it to be easily accessible to the average gamer. You do not need a mouse and keyboard to play. Using the Xbox 360 (and PS3) controller, you can control units on the world map, the development of a city, negotiations with rival civilizations, and everything else with ease. It is intuitive and easy to pick up.

Overall, I was pretty happy with Civilization: Revolution. As a longtime fan of the franchise, I hesitant to pay 60$ for a watered down version of a game I own more copies than I count. However, after playing the demo on the PS3 and the Xbox 360, I decided to give it a shot. After putting the game in the Xbox 360, twelve hours magically went by -- it turns out that I was addicted. Despite being water-downed, the game is highly addictive and fun. It is also probably one of the best looking Civilization games. The visuals are sharp with a good amount of detail in environments/terrains, units, character models, etc. However, the audio is mundane with a few annoying sounds that occur over and over again. Nevertheless, it is recommended.

Please note that this review does not address the multi-player capabilities of Civilization: Revolution. I do not have Xbox Live! and was unable to access this feature. However, the multi-player support is said to have standard matches, ranked matches, and match making. The gaming options permit up to four players with free for all, head to head, and two on two. But if multi-player support of past games is any indication, I can imagine that there might be delays between turns. Since it is turn-based, waiting for everyone to finish their turn will probably take some time (especially when you get further into the game and you have lots of units and cities to micro-manage). In fairness, players' turns are executed simultaneous, players can exit a game anytime without ending it prematurely, and players can "hot join" a game any time.