When a console iteration of arguably the most accomplished PC strategy game of all time was released in the summer of last year, reactions were mixed. Many hardcore fans of the series blasted Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution for removing strategic depth, while others embraced the streamlined gameplay and console-centric control scheme.
While Civ Rev came nowhere near the commercial success of its PC brethren, it performed well enough critically and in the market to warrant a port to the iPhone. As a fan of both the PC games and Civ Rev, I was curious to see how the title performed after being shrunk down to portable size for play on the go.
Is Napoleon really holding an iPhone inside his uniform, or does this release represent the game’s Battle of Waterloo?
My biggest concern prior to playing Civ Rev for the iPhone was that Firaxis would have to scale back the depth too far in order for it to work on a mobile device. I felt the streamlined approach to gameplay taken with the console versions found a really nice balance. It allowed for all of the classic Civilization elements to be present, while also making it so that I could finish a game prior to the next arrival of Halley’s Comet.
I was extremely pleased to discover that Civ Rev for the iPhone maintains almost all of the depth of its Xbox 360 and PS3 cousins. Full tech trees, military units, and building/wonder options are present, and all four methods of victory still apply. City control still allows for reallocation of resources, and research vs. gold toggles to provide some micromanagement tools for the control freaks out there.
Where the iPhone version does scale back is map size. The console version already featured a reduced playing field from the PC games, and the mobile game shrinks it even further. This does impact a few aspects of gameplay negatively.
The small land mass makes exploration less of a factor in the game, and if you don’t get a ship out on the ocean immediately, you will have a small chance of landing a game changing artifact unless it spawns near your home city. You will also run into the other civilizations much more quickly, forcing you to attack or turtle up earlier in the game.
Visual design is clean and colorful, just like the console version. Despite the small screen size, units are rendered clearly, and are easily distinguishable from one another. The iPhone version retains many of the art assets of the console release, which is a good thing.
Most mobile games are egregiously irritating when it comes to sound design. Firaxis bucks that trend with excellent music and embedded sound effects, which provide a nice ambiance without detracting from the experience.
The interface is understandably compressed, but navigates very intuitively; I picked up the controls quickly. Touch controls were responsive and friendly, with the exception of plotting long range movement orders for units. This may be one of the reasons map size was reduced.
The game auto-saves when a call comes in, which pulled me back from the brink of a heart-attack when discovering that answering the unexpected call from a relative didn’t erase 20 turns worth of progress like I assumed it would. Its thoughtful design makes what could have been a rush-job port stand out from the crowd.
All in all, Civilization Revolution made the leap from consoles to iPhone more or less fully intact. For those who were frustrated at the strategic gap between the PC and console iterations of the series, there’s nothing here to turn you into believers. Those who enjoy Civ Rev, however, will be delighted to see that the same solid gameplay is well implemented and suited for short bursts of gaming on the go.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the game, and it has quickly become my go-to title for mobile gaming fixes. At $6.99, the ease of use, replayability, and near-flawless transition of the core console gameplay make Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution for the iPhone a great pickup.
Gamer Limit gives Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution for the iPhone an 8.5/10.