The Civilization franchise has always excelled due to the fact that, in addition to being well designed, it has that unquantifiable aspect of soul. Civilization V is not an exception to this, bringing the trademark feel to substantially improved content and visuals.
The franchise has been around since the original Civilization was released in 1991 and as you'd expect from a game that has remained consistently popular for 20 years, its core concept is well founded. It is a turn-based strategy game where the player takes the helm of entire civilization (that explains the name, then), beginning at 4000 BC and then races against the other AI civilizations to become top of the pile.
The basics of the game are clear and relatively straightforward (especially compared to other titles in the genre). Starting with a single settler, the player initially builds a city and so begins the path to greatness. Once that journey has began, the player can then micromanage the affairs of the nation. This includes balancing the important tasks of exploration, diplomacy, paths of scientific enquiry, further city growth, production and warfare. In the early days of the franchise, conquest was basically the only path to victory. Now, coexisting in peaceful harmony can now achieve victory.
Despite being very easy to play, Civilization V has all the levels of strategy that the hardcore gamers could desire. In addition to battling against an impressive AI, the player has to coexist with barbarians and the excellent idea of city states - a new feature for the series. In addition to the normal civilisations, these independent cities can be influenced to give support, conquered (at the risk of a great deal of reputation) and made into vassals.
These city states can offer a great deal of influence, band together if too many are attacked and interrupt the regular game heavily. Other complexities to deal with includes great people, cultural benefits and civilisation golden ages, where progress made from your cities are greatly improved . It all comes together to be a fascinating experience for just about everyone.
Whilst a lot of players are well aware of the Civilization series and its appeal, the new gamer should not feel daunted. The tutorial is clear without being overwhelming and proves to be a wonderful introduction. It is an ideal game for those who are not familiar with turn based strategies and want to have a fun time. For those who are familiar with the series, there are enough new shiny bits to keep them interested and the evolution is quite impressive to behold. New civilizations (in addition to the old favourites), increased complexity of technology to prolong the later stages of the game and the improved AI prove an exciting challenge.
The graphics are excellent – the game is aesthetically pleasing and for the retro-inclined, the game can be played in a view that is largely reminiscent of Civilization I. Sadly, one complaint of the previous games in the series has been the bland soundtracks. This has still not been addressed, a minor complaint but an issue all the same.
In the later stages, there is a huge amount of stuff happening on-screen
Considering the excellent multiplayer mode, there is no reason this game should be played for less then 200 hours, and in all likelihood far more then this. So as a take home message: Civilization has been around for 20 years and as the developers continue to grow and improve the game there is no reason why it cant continue to excite and impress, as this game does.