A few months ago, we had a chance to sit down with the upcoming Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution on the Xbox 360. At first we were a little bit skeptical over whether or not the game could translate successfully from its critically acclaimed PC brethren, and after a multiplayer session, we left with high hopes that the game could indeed be the title that finally bridges the RTS gap between PCs and consoles.
For those not up to speed, the Civilization franchise is all about starting from scratch and literally attempting to become the biggest power in the world by not only establishing your own cities as successful places with thriving populations and resources, but also by negotiating with other pre-existing civilizations (which includes the option to wage war on them, taking them over by force). We have now had a chance to sit down for an extended play-session with the single player game, and so far we're glad to report that the addictive nature of the PC titles has come across on the console versions of the game as well, featuring a simplified and faster-paced style of gameplay that still manages to capture the unique style that has made the series so successful.
Upon starting your game, you'll be given the option to choose your difficulty setting - players who are familiar with the Civilization universe already would probably be fine setting the bar a little bit higher than normal. When picking one of the easier settings, you'll receive more tips than usual on building and establishing your societies, which will definitely be necessary for newcomers, as there will be a whole lot going on at the one time as the game progresses. The controls of the game actually work well with your standard controller, which is a relief considering the lack of mouse and keyboard support. Simply move around the map with your right thumbstick and then select the unit that you want to use and then choose what you want them to do and where you want them to move to by moving the left thumbstick and the four face buttons.
Building and accessing different elements within your numerous different cities is also quite simple, done by accessing a seperate menu and navigating through it. It's very easy and intuitive, and you'll find yourself building monuments and expanding your civilization quickly and effectively in no time. When any of your units come into contact with a neighbouring civilization, you'll be given the option to make peace with them, trade with them, or our favourite alternative: wage war, defeat them and take their city and resources for yourself. At first, making friendly relations would probably be advisable, but eventually you'll have stronger armies that you can use to take on opposing forces, no sweat.
If you do wish to fight (or if you need to defend your turf), the battles will take place automatically and a winner will be decided based on the power of the units you're using combined with a little bit of luck. It can be a little difficult to know just how your forces stack up with the opposition, so thankfully if you are wishing to wage war with another civilization, you can double-check with some of your more knowledgable allies to see if you have a chance and more importantly, to see if it's worthwhile making an enemy when you could in the same breath make a useful alliance. The game presents a nice balance here, as on one level it certainly is fun to take over each territory piece by piece, making allies who have different knowledge than you can definitely be a positive, so it's really up to you just how you want to take control.
The game itself is turn based, but plays at a much faster pace, so you'll barely notice the brief moments where you have to wait for the AI to move around each map. There is no 'waiting period' when they take control, either; their moves are done very quickly and with no hesitation. We never found ourselves waiting for control again for longer than a couple of seconds. The art style will also be instantly recognisable to fans of the previous games, looking somewhat cartoony but also very polished to create an effective and detailed world that changes drastically with each time period and always looks impressive, especially considering the sometimes crazy amount of animations happening on screen at once.
The key thing we noticed from our time with the game is that as you progress further and delve deeper, you'll find it very difficult to put down. Hours will pass in no time playing this one, and the gameplay has been moulded very well to the controller. We were worried about the change from keyboard to control pad, but the game just feels natural and good to play, despite being toned down to being a bit more simplified than the the PC versions. Add in the entertaining multiplayer and you have a console RTS force to be reckoned with when Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution is released this month.