Civ 5: Initial thoughts.

Yup, this is a civ game – t’aint gonna try to be nothin’ else. There are some pretty significant changes, though the underlying feel of Sid Meier’s Civilization games remains. There are gonna be haters and fambois of the game – there always are – but this game is a good, solid strategy game that has a lot of bells and whistles. And a few annoying bugs.
I jumped right in and started a game that I consider typical for me: I like getting thrown into a random civilization on marathon setting, with everything but map size set to random. I always choose the largest possible maps – I like to stretch out & explore. I wound up as Ghandi and got started.
Well, I sort of got started. Actually, getting into the game was a challenge – I kept trying to start the DirectX 10/11 version & would get booted. Took me a while to figure out that my video card, only a year and a half old, was still a DirectX 9 card. I changed my starting settings and got in.
The opening movie: fantastic… and unskipable. You have to watch at least the first 10-30 seconds of the damned thing every time, unless you make changes to your user settings in the Civilization V folder. (My Games -> Civilization5 -> UserSettings -> SkipIntroVideo… change it from 0 to 1). Even then, you get a black screen for a good 10-20 seconds before you get into the system.
I got set up, started playing, and tried working my way around to see what the changes were. I got about 10 turns in when I was booted to the desktop. Little glitch, tried again, and booted again. I tend to save every 4-5 turns, so it wasn’t a big deal… the big deal was that apparently my rig couldn’t handle the size of the map.
The specs on my computer are well above the minimum, even with my Nvidia Geforce 7950. This should have been a breeze to run, especially on med-low setting, which is what I had it on.
From http://kotaku.com/5607503/civilization-v-pc-specs-released
The minimum system requirements are:
 Operating System: Windows® XP SP3/ Windows® Vista SP2/ Windows® 7
 Processor: Dual Core CPU
 Memory: 2GB RAM
 Hard Disk Space: 8 GB Free
 DVD-ROM Drive: Required for disc-based installation
 Video: 256 MB ATI HD2600 XT or better, 256 MB nVidia 7900 GS or better, or Core i3 or better integrated graphics
 Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card
 DirectX®: DirectX® version 9.0c

But the recommended system requirements are:
 Operating System: Windows® Vista SP2/ Windows® 7
 Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad Core CPU
 Memory: 4 GB RAM
 Hard Disk Space: 8 GB Free
 DVD-ROM Drive: Required for disc-based installation
 Video: 512 MB ATI 4800 series or better, 512 MB nVidia 9800 series or better
 Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card
 DirectX®: DirectX® version 11

My specs?
• AMD Phenom(tm) 9650 Quad-Core Processor
• 3.31 Ghz Processing speed
• 4 GB RAM
• Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition (build 7600), 64-bit
• Nvidia GEForce 7950 vid card
• DirectX 11
• 434.5 GB Free disc space

So I should have been able to handle it, easy, especially with 9.0. I switched to a standard map, and it worked fine. I also had a little windfall, and managed to upgrade my video card to a GeForce GTS 250 (2.7 GB RAM, Pixel Shader 4.0, Vertex Shader 4.0).
The new map was as the king of Siam, Ramkamhaeng, and on DirectX 1, it looked amazing! The details were crisp and clear, the battles are fun to watch, and I really like looking at the map. The leaderheads are more detailed and animated. The artwork for your leader looks like a fine classical portrait. Also, there is no animation for the building of the wonders, just classically rendered portraits. You do get to see them going up if your city is building one.
At this point, I’m in the renaissance era, and have seen a lot of the game; I’ve played about 24 hours total and have a decent grasp of things.
Changes:
• No unit stacking – one unit of any given type per tile (you can have a worker and a warrior on the same tile, but not two workers or two warriors). Units may pass through each other in a turn, but can’t end their turn on a tile with another unit. Makes doing things a little trickier.
• Cities can bombard, and they have attack strengths. Gone are the days when a single warrior can walk into an empty city and take it. If an enemy is within 3 hexes, it can be hit. You need to surround cities with units – it usually take a minimum of three to take a city, and expect losses.
• Ranged damage – archers, catapults etc can shoot enemies 2-3 tiles away now, and they do serious damage. T hey are extremely weak to melee, so be careful bringing them out.
• Gone is the David vs Goliath battle system where you could still have an entire unit wiped if the other unit had an even .1% chance of winning. The system is different, as I’ve written before: when you want to attack, not only does it show your chance of success or failure, but it also shows if it will probably be a decisive victory, major victory, a minor victory, a minor defeat, a major defeat, or a decisive defeat. This is equivalent to how much damage you will sustain and deal out. It also shows the battle, which parts of your unit die, the amount of xp you get for the battle.
• Diplomacy: it’s more difficult to suss out how other leaders feel about you. I still don’t know if Napoleon likes me, even though we’ve been trading for years and have open borders. It’s also difficult to figure out exactly what other leaders are willing to trade without going and talking to them – in Civ 4, you had a list of leaders you could refer to and see if they’d be willing to take silk or not. They are more willing to negotiate trades now, however.
• Wonders: take longer to build, have a bit less impact than before (no need to rush/chop for the Pyramids, now), and you can’t really rush them. You can chop forests to help move them along, but you’re not adding many more hammers when you do that.
• Civics: completely revamped. No more religion. Civics are broken up into categories, and you adopt a type of civic after you get enough culture points. Then you adopt sub-specifics under that heading (for example, you can adopt Liberty, which gives you an instant bonus by increasing the production of Settlers by 50%, then has 5 sub headings you adopt as you earn more points later – Collective Rule: New Cities start with 50% of the Food needed to gain their second Citizen; Citizenship+25% construction rate of Workers. Meritocracy: +1 Happiness for each city connected to the Capital. Representation: +1 Culture in all cities) Republic: +1 Production in every city). If you fully explore 5 of these Civics/social policies, you can win a cultural victory.
• Research: very similar to previous incarnations, though a little more streamlined.
• Natural Wonders: Great Barrier Reef, krakatoa, etc – be the first to discover them, and your people get an extra happiness boost. Build with one in your borders, and the boost is greater
• Happiness affects the whole empire, not just a singular city
• Goodie huts have changed to goodie ruins, and give out approximately the same things (though I haven’t seen any techs yet)
• Great people can only build their buildings outside of cities; this takes up development land
• There may not be a real set city radius – you can work lands fairly far out as long as it’s within your cultural borders
• You can buy plots of land instead of waiting for your borders to expand
• There are city-states now, which aren’t trying to expand or win; they offer mini-quests and bonuses if you find ways to ally with them (give them units, gold etc). If you make them happy, they’ll give you stuff – units, culture, items, etc – it depends on the type of city state they are (for example, Monaco is a city state that is culturally based and boosts your culture for a time).
• You can conquer them – or free them, if they’ve been conquered.
• Tile upgrades have been revamped – no more cottages that develop into suburbs.. Instead, you have trading posts, which don’t increase in the amount of coin produced over time.
• There will allegedly be DLC (downloadable content) like leaders, maps, etc.
Pros:
• Easy to pick up and jump into, very intuitive
• Fun to watch
• Very pretty
• More tactically oriented than before
• Less emphasis on “Wonder Gaps” (if you have a couple key wonders, you aren’t going to throw game balance off.. though if you have a lot of them, you will)
• Learning curve isn’t that steep
• Streamlined features

Cons:
• AI is still not spectacular. I’, playing on the prince setting (where everyone has an equal chance), and I’m kicking ass. I have the biggest empire, in size, culture, army, and scientific achievement. In Civ IV, this would not have been the case. Also, the dialogue is a bit limited (though I like their use of the actual language of the leaders, like Thai, French or Arabic) – every time I talk to Hiawatha, he calls me bloodthirsty, even though I haven’t been to war in centuries, whereas he’s picking a fight every other turn.
• Take a LOT of processing speed. Even with my new video cars, as soon as I uncovered more than half my map & have a bunch of tiles upgraded, it got laggy as hell. I had to switch back to DX9 to compensate. Also, load screens are incredibly long.
• No easy access to information –as I mentioned earlier, I want MORE info on how my relations are, what I can trade, and how the other leaders feel about me. I feel like I have to keep a large army that costs a lot to maintain, because even people I think may be allies might turn on me.
So, if you like this style of game, you’ll probably like this. It’s not as spectacular as I was hoping, but it is a decent game that’s giving me a good number of hours of fun, which is what matters, right?

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