And Here’s Why: Civilization V

Man, the Internet is huge. There is so much content out there, and not nearly enough time to check out every context-devoid recommendation link you see in your Twitter feed, or Tumblr Roll, or whatever it’s called. “I favorited a YouTube video!” “OMG CLICK THIS SO FUNNY,” or even just a naked link in complete gibberish…is this really the best way to share the good stuff with your friends? The Irreverencia says no. We can do better! Every Thursday, @demoversi can tell you what’s worth your precious Internet time…And Here’s Why.

I’m not going to lie to you; as I write this week’s article, I am suffering from some fairly intense sleep deprivation. I’ve got a reason for it; I’m not sure it’s a GOOD reason, but it certainly relates to the topic at hand.

I’ve played a lot of video games over the years. Hell, you can take a look at my poorly-maintained Backloggery to get an idea of how much of my life has been spent in front of one screen or another. Every now and again, a game will latch onto me like a Lamprey, sucking out all of my time and willingness to do anything else. World of Warcraft, various Elder Scrolls games…hell, even the Disgaea series has claimed over a full week of my life, in terms of hours spent. I’m no stranger to the desire for those damn birds to shut up and stop reminding me that it’s nearly 6 AM and I haven’t slept goddamnit just ONE MORE TURN…oh, to hell with it. I can pull another all-nighter.

That being said, you should still play Civilization V. And here’s why.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V (usually abbreviated to Civ V) is a 4X strategy game, wherein you play, well, a civilization. Kiiinda eponymous, that. A typical game will begin back in ancient times, and you control the path your chosen Civ takes as the eras go by. Starting off with just a settler and a few warriors, you grow your Civ by building cities, refining your society’s characteristics, researching new technologies, setting up profitable trades with competing Civs, and slaughtering your enemies. At a glance, it seems super-deep and complex: exactly the kind of strategy game you can REALLY sink your teeth into, if you’ve got the inclination. I know I do; I hope that you do, as well.

4X, as you know if you followed that infolink above, stands for explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate. I have played a good number of these games, including the previous four Civilization titles, the oft-forgotten Colonization, Alpha Centuari, Master of Magic, and Masters of Orion 1 and 2. (We don’t talk about Master of Orion 3. It’s a disgrace, and we here at The Irreverencia wash our hands of it. It’s not even a 4X game. That’s why I linked to Wikipedia instead of Good Old Games. I hate it.) These games, when done correctly, provide an expansive gameworld and multitudinous tools for you to rock those four X’s. Civ V, originally released in 2010, is a true continuation of the series, building on the successful ideas implemented in previous games.

Every playable Civ in Civ V has three unique traits: an overarching ability, and then two minor ones. These minor abilities range from unique unit replacements (The Aztecs build badass Jaguar units instead of the standard Warrior units), to building replacements (Arabia can build Bazaars, which can be much more lucrative than the typical Market), to unique tile improvements. The unique tile improvements aren’t replacements of anything; they’re just additional options for choosing how best to exploit your resources. There really is a lot of variety across all the different Civilizations, and the different abilities change the way you play the game. The replay value here is more than solid; it’s enviable.

Somewhat surprisingly to me, this game is actually friendly to people who have never played a Civ game, or any 4X title. The various advisors (which can be turned off, thankfully) are quick to make actually useful suggestions. I’ve found myself actually checking with my advisors voluntarily, to see how they thought I was doing. The “You should build a city in this location” icons actually coincided with my expansion plans, giving me a strong feeling of pride because I pre-empted the suggestions. The advisors are a far cry from Clippy, believe you me. And I would know; I used to use Microsoft Bob.

Of course, I have played many a 4X game, and so my perspective on what is n00b-friendly is ultimately tainted with bias. Thankfully, a friend of mine recently bought Civ V on Steam recently, while it was priced for ridiculous value. She just jumped right in, not even customizing her map or choosing which Civ to play, starting out as the Inca. She happily admitted that she was treating it as a test run, and regaled me with stories of annexing her first city-state, and befriending the Celts. While I was thinking about the mechanical benefits of running a Celtic campaign (bonus faith from unimproved forest squares? HELLA early lead in the religion game), she was laughing about how they founded Buddhism. While I was all like, “Yeah, that’s just the RNG,” she was sharing her amusement and confusion about how it wasn’t historically accurate, or likely. THAT got me thinking…and basically set me up to write this article.

This game is a MASSIVE “What If” scenario, augmented by randomness. What if Rome never fell? What if the Iroquois founded Zoroastrianism, and spread it across the world? What if Polynesia became the most socially advanced culture in all the world, because they built enough Moai heads, or had some landmass to go with their coastlines? What if the Maya got serious about the 2012 Apocalypse dealie, and decided to take the Nuclear Option to fulfill the prophecy? (There’s an achievement for that, by the way.) These are easy questions to avoid when you’re just playing for fun, but should you decide to think about how this little alternate world is developing, you’ll find yourself learning more and more about our actual world history. Did you know that the Moai were made a World Heritage Site back in 1994? I didn’t. Not until I played Civ V, and decided to look up those giant stone heads.

Civ V is intellectually stimulating, with deep mechanics but an easy learning curve, and it’s fun. It’s also kind of addictive, as my current state of fatigue more or less proves. Empirical evidence, yo. Not empyrical, though…that would mean that all my proof would be a fire hazard.

You might LOVE Civilization V if:
-You like 4X games and for some reason never tried this one
-You have a megalomaniacal streak and want to get your conquest on
-You want to see an alternate history develop organically
-You love city-building elements in other games, and want to build the best one ever
-MOAI HEADS ARE AWESOME YOU WANT TO BUILD THEM EVERYWHERE

Suggested Civs:
Egypt – Oh man oh man, I built ALMOST ALL the Wonders in ONE GRAND METROPOLIS.
Ethiopia – The Stele unique building might be my favorite in the whole game. Early boost like whoa.
Aztecs – My flatmate’s favorite; crazy good at early-game combat. For those who come out swinging.
Babylon – If you want to win the tech race, Babylon’s got a great kit for it. Not broken, but GOOD.

I sincerely hope you give Civilization V a shot. It’s a delight for 4X fans, and easy to approach for people just testing the waters. Please share any anecdotes you have about playing; I love reading other people’s stories!

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