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Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution on Game and Player

Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution

Michael Ubaldi  //  July 17, 2008

Statecraft for dummies.


hy not take Sid Meier up on his invitation to play a Civilization title "addressing many players who never have heard of the series"? I partially qualified. While Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution would be my first of the turn-based strategy quintet, Galactic Civilizations and its sequel — 4X classics from Stardock Corporation — had seen me exploring, expanding, exploiting and exterminating since 2003.

And? I was first put off by a game I thought lightweight, but continued to play and found value for myself alongside the powerful appeal to a casual audience. If more so for its intended market, Meier and Firaxis Games' work is a balanced, entertaining adaptation.

The lighter side of diplomacy:
talk to the hand, pal.
Offered up, in Meier's words, are "all the best parts of Civilization." Players select one of sixteen nations personified by a leader conspicuous in history, settle fertile land in some corner of a randomly generated globe, and get about raising a state from ancient to modern times — turn by turn, so with plenty of time to think. Setting logistically exclusive priorities to arms, wealth, sophistication and knowledge, players race towards one of four pinnacles: military conquest, cultural primacy, economic control, or a colonial spaceflight to the nearest star. The last triumph, constructing and sending a ship to Alpha Centauri, is an especially interesting twist on what the genre has typically left to ambiguity — no superhuman transposition here, just a definitive first.

Each aspect of leadership is represented by a ministry and guided by an advisor. Animated characters, wearing contemporary garb, sidle on-screen when their command menu is selected. Speaking playful, Sims-like gibberish, they warm up otherwise utilitarian exchanges. Some of the phonetic parodies are much more successful than others, but I admit: they all grew on me. Elsewhere, gameplay is very carefully arranged through identifying sounds — effects merely amusing at first are, in fact, effective nonverbal signals.

A player's competition? They aren't nearly as coy about an interest in your decline and eradication as they could be. No chicanery, machinations or even cold astuteness from foreign thrones — in Civilization Revolution, a player's international rivals are mostly brutish and dull. Nations may quietly work towards becoming culturally or scientifically paramount — but few, for the length of a game, remain content with indirection, and start hectoring even as they shoot for a bloodless win.

This is annoying. And it's absurd when opponents act with indifference to what should be most precious to them: measurements of power. In one match, Otto von Bismarck threatened me from Munich as if I hadn't just sacked Berlin. Then he demanded means to build the bombers I sent to level Nuremburg the turn before. Finally, still stuck in the high middle ages, Bismarck insisted that I give him uranium. Now, conflict or avarice in a game of world domination surprises no one. Predictable, repetitive or even silly interactions, however, take away the fun and purpose of diplomacy.

To expand, exploit
and exterminate, you explore.
Such one-dimensional adversaries will probably divide many experienced players from new ones, but the split should break in Sid Meier's favor. Meier didn't tailor his game for players like me who expect to confront plans arranged like Babooshka dolls. If, during a three-hour game, two nations are belligerent, one is obsequious and the others keep to themselves, casual players will have all the dynamics they need. Civilization Revolution's ease and gracefully quick pace, with the game's colorful and animated interaction, summate a delightful experience.

After managing to ignore neighbors harassing me for money or technology, I found higher difficulty levels challenging testaments to the game's potential for replay. As cultural and scientific advantages are potent against blunt force, an enemy's costly, early-game salient requires a change of strategy more often than a restart. Combinations of sovereigns and the unexpected paths each reign follows enlivens play. I witnessed the unthinkable. Queen Isabella soared on a paradigmatic voyage to Alpha Centauri while Mohandas Gandhi pointed an atom bomb at Spain. All this a few decades after Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the era of . . . American communism.

Streamlined matches also mean mercifully brief endgames: good stewardship culminates in victory or placement, losses can be traced to an oversight or blunder. Stats and scores come afterward, finales marked by the signet of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, "The Great Gate of Kiev." Sid Meier's success? An inclination in players to turn right around and start again.

Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution





2K Games

NA Release

July 8, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Faithful adaptation
  • Plain replayability
  • Clever introduction to 4X


  • Oafish enemies
  • May not satisfy gung-ho

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