The Civilization series of games will probably go down as both one of the more intelligent and also one of the most addictive franchises in the history of gaming. Spanning across four versions on the PC, each with expansions to boot, the critically acclaimed franchise centres around you creating the most powerful civilization in existence, and gives you a number of different options in just how you can do so. If anything negative could be said about Civilization IV on the PC (the latest and most polished version of the game to date), it's that the experience can be incredibly daunting for newcomers. Even with tutorials and other helpful hints throughout the game, it's still a lot to take in, and the initially steep learning curve can be off-putting at the best of times. Enter Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution, which has two goals that we've all been curious about whether or not it will pull off successfully. Goal One: make Civilization more user-friendly for a more mainstream audience, and Goal Two: create a strategy game on something other than a PC and actually make it genuinely good. So, with those goals in mind...
Civilization: Revolution, to put it in simple terms, plays a lot like a lighter and more breezy version of the PC series. The style of the game will be instantly familiar to veterans, but the several menus and options are a lot less comparatively, which means that newcomers shouldn't find the experience too complicated to begin with. Basically, the goal of the game is to have your civilization achieve victory in one of three fashions; you can win through military conquest, which involves building up your armies before defeating and capturing all other civilizations across the globe, or you can win by achieving financial, cultural or technological dominance, which are less violent approaches and require you to build up specific aspects of your civilizations such as your money, your 'great' buildings and people, and your ability to use science in an effective, forward-thinking manner. Given that there are multiple ways to achieve victory within each turn-based game, it means that you don't necessarily have to play the same way each time; in a competitive sense, trying to win via your cultural resources while other stronger civilizations are trying to win through warfare could be a smart move, for example.
Given the turn-based nature of the game, you're never really rushed to make decisions, which is definitely a positive considering that there will at many moments be a lot of different decisions and tactical manoeuvres that need to be made at any given time. During your turn, you'll be able to designate in each of your cities what you want to build or create; you could focus on strengthening your armies by creating more knights, or you can build a monument such as the Shakespeare Theatre to help put your civilization on the map. There are numerous things you can 'build', which uses a certain amount of resources and will take a number of turns to finalise, with smaller features taking a lot less time to come to fruition. Considering the large amount of options you'll have in terms of building your civilization however you'd like, it all actually works well with a variety of menus navigated using the shoulder buttons and the analog sticks.
Moving around the expansive maps to plan your next move is as easy as moving around with the right analog stick, and selecting what to do with selected cities or characters is explained with simple on-screen indicators informing you which face buttons to press for each specific action you may require. It's easily the best example of RTS gameplay on a console that we've seen thus far; we'd even go as far to say that the game actually benefits from the use of a controller over a mouse and keyboard in this particular case. The fact that they have made the effort to create this game specifically with console gamers in mind rather than just porting over a PC version and mapping the buttons differently shines through, and makes the game feel natural and enjoyable to play through rather than being a difficult and overly complicated chore.
The game also offers a variety of different difficulty settings; choosing one of the easier difficulties means that you'll receive helpful hints from in-game advisers who will continually inform you of your progress and offer suggestions of what to do next if you're not sure of your next move. While these easier modes are good for learning the in's and out's of Civilization: Revolution, they certainly aren't very challenging, so thankfully there are some difficult and far more intense difficulty settings available. Rival civilizations will attack you willingly and will make smart deals, and every move that you make will need to be seriously thought out, as doing something wrong or taking too many moves to make a decision could leave you vulnerable to attack and make advancing your own civilizations all the more difficult.
The most fun that can be had with Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution is when tackling the multiplayer mode. While playing against the AI is entertaining, the actions of a human opponent are always far more interesting, and allows the game to always be played differently based on the type of people you'll come across online. Making peace with other players to share information or technology is certainly useful, and making a concrete alliance with another players civilization opens up a variety of tactical opportunities, where you could potentially 'gang up' on other civilizations and try to rule the world together. Of course, nothing lasts forever, and there can only be one winner, so you'll be wanting to keep an eye on your alliance to make sure that they don't turn on you when it will benefit them the most; you'll want to take advantage of them too, obviously! Needless to say, the thought process that goes through your mind is far different from when battling the AI, and if you are a fan of the game, you could spend a lot of time playing it competitively against opponents worldwide.
The only part of the game that falls sort of flat in the grand scheme of things is in the audio and visual departments. While Civilization: Revolution certainly does look colourful, and we appreciate that there can be a lot of detail on the 'board' at any one time, the character models simply don't impress and a lot of the scenery looks fairly samey. If you take a look close up at the cities, you can see monuments that you have built, which is a nice touch, and while we can see that a cartoon-like style was a design decision, it often stutters and doesn't really look up to scratch when compared with other current generation offerings. Sound is equally a mixed bag, with some sound effects and music fitting the game perfectly, while other elements are in serious need of some audio to make the experience more exciting. Still, they do the job alright and Civilization, while usually looking crisp, was never really about insanely high production values in the first place.
As fans of the PC franchise, we were a little bit skeptical about Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution to begin with. After all, how do you take something so successful with a mouse and keyboard and then translate it adequately onto a different platform with a different audience? When it comes down to it, we probably couldn't think of a better way to do these things than how they've been achieved in Civilization: Revolution. There are flaws, sure; the combat is basic, veterans might not be happy with the simplified gameplay and despite all the helpful hints, some people will still be concerned about the mere fact that the game requires some serious thought to progress, rather than just an itchy trigger finger. Make no mistake, though; this is easily the most successful strategy game that has been released on a console before, and it continues the Civilization tradition of being one of the most addictive games we've experienced. If you have an interest in the franchise or genre at all, then this is a worthy purchase - for fans of the series and newcomers alike.