Review: 2K Games Civilization Revolution
Over the past year games have begun appearing on the App Store that demonstrate the flexibility of the iPhone as a gaming platform in general and the capabilities that it can bring to more complex game genres such as strategy. This becomes most apparent with the appearance of titles for the iPhone that were first made popular on the PC/Mac and console gaming platforms -- these games have a reputation to live up to and players are going to naturally expect much from them. Civilization Revolution is a good example of just such a game, taking the extremely popular Civilization game series onto the iPhone and iPod touch.
Fans of the Civilization series of games will be familiar with the general format and gameplay of the iPhone version, although players coming from the PC/Mac versions of the game will find the iPhone version to be scaled-down compared to its desktop counterpart. Civilization Revolution is actually based on the console game of the same name, and remains faithful to that version in terms of features and gameplay. As with other Civilization games, you start by either playing a random map or choosing from one of ten scenarios.
If you choose to play a scenario, you're shown a description of the setting and goals for that particular scenario. You can choose to play that scenario, return to the list of scenarios, or page through to different scenario descriptions using the left and right arrows in the top corners of the screen, a nice touch that easily lets you find a scenario that interests you without having to move back and forth through the scenario list.
Civilization Revolution includes five difficulty levels that can be chosen for either a random map or a scenario. Once you've chosen a difficulty level, you next choose from one of 16 specific civilizations and leaders you will be playing as. Each leader has its own attributes and bonuses which you can view by tapping on the leader's picture. This allows you to choose a leader appropriate for the scenario or your preferred playing style, as well as offering some good variations in game play as each civilization will provide a different experience and require a different approach to game play, even in the same scenario.
The first time you play the game your advisors appear to provide an in-game tutorial and take you through the early steps of the game. You can turn this off from the game options, or simply select the End Tutorial option from your advisor screens.
In a random map game, Civilization Revolution automatically starts you out with a single city with a single warrior unit and no technologies researched beyond those provided as bonuses for your specific civilization. The first thing you will normally do is build additional units, build some settlers to found new cities, and tell your science advisor which technologies you want to research to advance your civilization. In a scenario, your starting position will be determined by the nature of the scenario itself.
Navigating within the game works much as you'd expect for a game on the iPhone or iPod touch: You tap on items to select them, zoom in and out with the standard two-finger pinch gesture, and pan around the map by dragging with one finger. As you explore the map, you'll encounter other civilizations, small villages, and barbarians. Other civilizations will normally greet you neutrally, allowing you to decide whether you want to take a peaceful or hostile approach to them, although you will occasionally find exceptions, particularly in scenarios where another civilization is automatically your avowed enemy. Villagers, on the other hand, are small non-aigned tribes which will usually be easily impressed by your civilization and offer to share information, technology, or gold or possibly even join your civilization as a new city.
Barbarian villages are similar to normal villages but are defended by barbarians which you must defeat in order to capture the village and gain either gold or information from the village. In some cases, barbarian villages will even offer to join your civilization as cities.
Combat in Civilization Revolution is a relatively simple affair from a gameplay point of view, involving more strategy than tactics. Actual combat is automatically resolved based on typical RPG-style factors such as attacking strength, defending strength and unit health, with some randomness thrown in for luck. At the beginning of a potential combat session, you're shown a display of the attacking and defending units' relative abilities and given the option to either proceed with combat or withdraw. In the early stages of the game, little information is presented about your opponent; you must research technologies and improve your unit capabilities to be able to gain more intelligence information. Once combat begins, an animation of the combat is displayed, with an option to withdraw still available should the combat be proceeding poorly. As your units win battles, their capabilities will also improve.
Founding a new city is not a simple matter either, as the game provides a map rich in various terrain and resource types, each of which provide a bonus to any nearby cities, making it important to scout the map and choose the best possible location for your new cities.
In addition to building units and new cities, you must also build improvements within each of your cities. Various new units, buildings, and world wonders become available as you research new technologies, and each building provides a unique bonus or ability to your city. Major projects, known as World Wonders can also be undertaken. Each of these can only be built by a single civilization and require a large amount of resources and time to construct, but also offer significant bonuses to your civilization as a whole.
Construction of World Wonders and buildings that improve your civilization's culture will also result in the appearance of Great People in your cities from time to time. Great People appear like other units in your Civilization, but carry special abilities and bonuses that you can take advantage of by either settling the great person in a specific city to provide a bonus to that city or using them to carry out a special task.
Diplomacy also factors in as a very important aspect of the game. As you meet various leaders of other civilizations, you can trade resources and technologies with them, make peace or declare war, depending upon your goals and objectives in the game.
Civilization Revolution also provides a sophisticated set of technologies that you must research in order to advance within the game. Research is conducted by telling your science advisor which technologies you wish to focus your research efforts on and the time it takes to make new discoveries is dependent upon how much research and science your civilization is undertaking. Certain buildings in your cities such as libraries and universities will speed up your research efforts. As your research progresses, you will move into newer "eras" within the game with provide additional bonuses.
Research will also make new government types available within the game. Each government type provides different bonuses and rules for your civilization. As new government types are discovered, your advisors will offer you the opportunity to switch to the new government type, but you can also switch between any of the discovered governments at any time, although your civilization will go through a period of anarchy during the transition, at which point no resources will be produced.
There are four different ways in which you can win in Civilization Revolution, and the goals for each of these are relatively straightforward. You win a Technological Victory by being the first to build a spaceship and fly to Alpha Centauri, an accomplishment that requires that you first research every technology in the game. A Domination Victory is accomplished simply by capturing four enemy capital cities. An Economic Victory is accomplished by reaching eight economic milestones, which are based on the amount of gold you've accumulated in your treasury. Finally, a Cultural Victory is attained by improving your civilization's culture through the constructions of World Wonders and the birth of Great People within your cities as a result of your high culture. The Economic and Cultural victories also require that you construct a specific World Wonder to trigger the actual victory and win the game. This extra requirement is actually a nice touch as it prevents the game ending automatically when you hit a certain threshold even though you may still want to play a few more turns, or may be playing toward a different victory condition.
Some basic screens are available within the game to track your progress and access features such as the diplomacy screen and change government types or research goals. The game options menu provides the ability to save your current game in one of ten saved game slots, load a saved game, adjust game options, or access the in-game help system. Your advisors will also remind you to save your game progress from time to time as you move through different game eras. Your current game progress is always retained whenever you exit the app so you can easily pick up where you left off, however this "autosave" is not stored in a saved game slot.
The game provides a good set of in-game help screens to get you started, with a link to an iPhone-optimized web page for detailed game instructions. Unfortunately, the web page is opened in Safari, requiring you to leave the game, although your current game progress will be automatically retained in the same way as it is when existing the game in any other way.
Civilization Revolution is an excellent adaptation of the console game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Players of the console game will find it to be a very enjoyable playing experience with the same features, game play, and even the same scenarios. Players more familiar with the Civilization series on the PC and Mac platforms will find this to be a "lite" version, but still very fun and appropriate for play on a handheld device. Fans of the Civilization series and turn-based strategy games in general will not be disappointed here.The ten scenarios, sixteen unique civilizations and five difficulty levels will easily provide weeks of enjoyable replay value and this version retains the very addictive "just let me play one more turn" nature of its console and PC/Mac counterparts.