Review: Civilization Revolution 203 Jul 2014 0
Review: Civilization Revolution 2
Released 02 Jul 2014
Did you hear that there's a new Blu-Ray special edition of The Life Aquatic coming out? I already own the film, but I'm very happy to buy it twice to get a Wes Anderson commentary track and some Seu Jorge bossa nova Bowie music videos.
The new discs will come in a package called The Life Aquatic: Criterion Collection Special Edition. It will not be called The Life Aquatic 2. Because that would be silly.
There is probably no other notable game franchise that embraces change as enthusiastically as Sid Meier's Civilization. We tend to wait about five years between new Civ games, but the reward for our collective patience is a different experience every time. Civ III introduced corruption to check the growth of vast empires. Civ V radically reinvented the map with hexes and a limit of one unit per hex. The formula is malleable and prone to mutation; sometimes for the worse, usually for the better -- but always interesting.
True to franchise form, Civilization Revolution 2 arrives about five years after the release of its predecessor originally appeared for consoles and iOS. And in those five years... nothing has changed.
Not nothing, strictly speaking. Civ Rev 2 is a massive face-lift for Civilization Revolution. The game is now presented on iOS in 3D, and it looks almost as good as it did on the Xbox back in 2008. When Montezuma or Catherine the Great show up on screen to declare war on you or propose an exchange of technology, they gesticulate and grimace like the puppets from Chuck E Cheese. Battles between armies play out in short melees that are just brief enough that you won't want to turn off the animations after a few games. (You can't if you wanted to, though.) I like the look quite a lot and (attention Think Geek) I would happily buy an animatronic Shaka Zulu for my desk.
But gameplay-wise, this is the exact same Civ Rev that you and I played years ago. Civ Rev shaves down Civilization into a lithe little game that can be played from Stone Age to Space Age in two or three hours. Workers and terrain improvements are banished and the map is fixed to a small size with no more than five competing nations. Most of the winning conditions carry over from the PC version: you can build the most culturally refined empire, or the most scientifically advanced one, or you can just churn out armies and conquer the world.
In PC Civ, all of those options are equally viable, more or less, but Civ Rev is hellbent on pushing you into a conquest victory. The AI leaders are all fantastically bloodthirsty, banzai charging your armies and cities whether their military technology is up to the challenge or not. A more appropriate leader for the American civ than old Abe Lincoln would be Donald Rumsfeld, going to war with the army he has instead of the army he wants. It's entirely possible to play for a cultural victory, but even a modestly-skilled player will have to wilfully refrain from crushing the over-extended AIs to do it. You can extract a decent challenge against the AI -- but you must be on the very highest of the five difficulty levels where the computer civs seem to get a lot bonuses.
None of that is to say that Civ Rev 2 isn't entertaining -- most of us don't play 4X games to get a white-knuckle challenge, only to steamroll an opponent that loses convincingly. Civ Rev 2 delivers on that account, but if you want to play a mobile 4X where the AI stands a reasonable chance of beating you, you're better off with Starbase Orion.
Civ Rev 2's real flaw is that the three preceding paragraphs could have been cut-and-pasted from a review of Civ Rev 1. Aside from the addition of some new wonders like Silicon Valley and new units like aircraft carriers, there's no meaningful difference from the original edition. Other than the 3D graphics, the biggest change here is the "Live Event", which consists of new pre-built scenarios that will be periodically added for free. The game ships with the American Revolution, where you have to fight off the British Empire as the Americans on a map cut to look like the eastern half of the US. If 2K make good on their promise to regularly update the Live Events, that will be a worthwhile addition, especially because Civ Rev 2 is a strictly single-player affair. New content will be an important factor in the game's longevity.
If you've never played the original Civ Rev and enjoy empire-building games, then you should add a star to the score down there at the bottom of this review. This is an enjoyable middle-weight 4X game with no consumable in-app purchase shenanigans. From a technical standpoint, this is 2K's best-made app yet. The game never crashed on me once in about five hours of play and picks up right where you left off if you suddenly exit the app. The UI is mostly up to snuff -- moving units around is occasionally fiddly but the game takes advantage of rarely-used touchscreen inputs like long-press and reverse-pinch (spread?) to make it feel truly native.
But if you already own Civ Rev 1, then this Civ Rev: Criterion Collection Special Edition is a much tougher sell. Live Events are a good idea, and it's neat to see 3D JFK demanding technology from you, but Civ Rev 2 ultimately feels entirely inessential.