The methodology is simple, take one game founded on the PC and start hacking bits off until it fits on a console. This is akin to a crazed child attempting to fit a round peg into a square hole. This is not the first time such a premise has been tried, and judging from previous efforts the attempt to reinvent a game for the console is not one that is easy to pull off. So how does Sid Meier’s Civilization: Revolution fare when the war drums beat and the game marches off the desk and onto the television?
The premise remains largely unchanged, and for those unfamiliar with the Civilization series, let’s recap. You guide nations led by prominent individuals from over a dozen civilizations (i.e. Queen Elizabeth for the English, Abraham Lincoln for the Americans or Gandhi for the Indians). And also relive the primal barbaric age where you will command burly men with sticks to fight other burly men with sticks and take them roaring into the 21st century where you will command burly men in tanks to fight other burly men in tanks. There are multiple ways to complete a campaign in which you fulfill the requirements of one of four conditions: Technology, Culture, Economic or Domination. Essentially, be the boldest, the smartest, the richest or the most popular.
As mentioned above, you can choose one of approximately 15 nations to play as, each with their own strengths and bonuses. For veteran Civilization players, the bonuses will seem absurdly overpowered, but this buff is seen throughout all nations so they remain essentially balanced. Although when you raise to the harder difficulties you will need to play according to these strengths and plan what kind of victory you are aiming for from the outset. This boost in power is one of the large differences between the the PC and Console side of the franchise. In that, Revolutions is made to step away from epic battles that last several days with players spending the majority of their time in a sub-menu of a sub-menu selecting how they want the flower arrangement in the town hall to be displayed. This game focuses on speedy and tactical combat, and you will most certainly be seeing a lot of it, even if you are aiming at one of the more pacifist oriented victory conditions.
The interface is one of the game’s strongest points, fully translating almost all of the PC’s controls onto the control pad. Left stick is the movement control, right stick is selection control, and d-pad is used for selecting between multiple units on one area such as in a city or on a transport vehicle. Units’ individual actions (Defend, Heal Unit, Found City, etc.) are mapped onto the face buttons and each command is always accessible.
Streamlining the controls and features from the PC versions is something that Revolutions does incredibly well, at times. Unfortunately, there are elements in which it doesn’t fare as well. Whilst you have choice over which leader you play as, you have no control over map size, nor the amount of people you will compete against. As someone who found the epic scale of matches on prior releases a big selling point, the downsized size of the maps will become apparent after multiple sessions. The diplomatic options and relationships seen on Civilizations PC counterpart are also lacking.
To offer some variety, the game has a plethora of difficulty levels. The easiest (chieftain) is an almost instant victory parade where you will complete the game in just a few hours with barely any stress. The hardest (deity) being the almost sadistic, in which you will need to play smart from the go and be prepared for a long haul. The game also offers several scenario options which will places limits such as victory criteria, grant bonuses such as increased research speeds, or throw extra challenges into the fray with an increase in the enemy’s number and power. Online mode is also available, further prolonging the hours you will lose to this game. Leader boards and even a game of the week table round out the online community to encourage for regular competition.
The game is vibrant, intuitive and addictive. It’s also a great starting point for players who have never played a Civilization game before. Yet the game offers enough depth that most people familiar with the series will also find something to enjoy. However, if you are a hardcore fan of the series who has played every incarnation of the series so much that you have concocted your own 412 step plan to take over the world (and regularly stalk Sid Meiers) then this title is probably only worth a rent at most. Although you should probably spend your money on psychiatric help if you are that far gone.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Rich and vibrant designs for characters, units and landscape along with an impressive interface.
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More addictive than heroin, by the time you notice the flaws, the game will have you in its merciless grasp.
Sound effects that blend with the overall tone of the game perfectly, set to decidedly average background music.
Multiple completion methods, nations to master, scenarios to conquer and online play to top it off.
Among the peak of strategy games on consoles, yet still a few flaws to master.