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Review: Civilization Revolution

Jordan Deam | 21 Aug 2008 20:55
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Civilization Revolution comes from a long, distinguished line of turn-based strategy games with the goal of leading your race into the annals of history through conquest, diplomacy, or sheer economic or technological might. Thankfully, you don't have to do so much as lift a spade or cut a ribbon to ascend to your throne as the Greatest Ruler of All Time. Being a leader is already hard work, real hard. No, to do the job right, you need to delegate.

Which is why I've deferred to my advisors on the most pressing question of my afternoon: Is Civilization Revolution worth playing? Let's start out with my technological advisor. Your thoughts, poindexter?

"Dahbin dok favinn."

Uh, what?

"Eek-strovalayba!"

Ahem. Right. The first thing you'll likely notice about Revolution is the delightfully loquacious cast of characters. Alongside 16 playable historical figures (which Firaxis terms "Civs"), you're joined by four aides who will periodically offer helpful updates on what to research, what to build and what your competitors are up to. They gesticulate wildly, interrupt each other and speak entirely in gibberish. There's no option to subtly encourage their resignation, either ("for personal reasons," of course); you can mute them, but you'll still have to endure your tech advisor's tongue-tied excitement at having re-discovered pottery for the 20th time.

Shiny new avatars aren't the only new additions to Revolution. There a bevy of new bonuses granted from reaching economic milestones or being the first to discover new technologies. The former helps speed up the pace in the early stages of a campaign, while the latter offers greater incentives for players who wish to research their way to victory. They're not exactly game-changing, but-

"Fullum follum!"

Oh, Christ. It's my economic advis-

"Oodah-pree!"

See, here's where it starts to break down. Like the dispositions of competing Civs - which range from "cheerfully oblivious" to "extremely pissed off" with nothing in between - Revolution sacrifices the franchise's trademark complexity for the sake of keeping core gameplay concepts communicable through visuals alone. In many cases, that means omitting any information that doesn't fit in a speech bubble above a Civ's head.

Pretty much every game system from Civ IV has been "streamlined," with varying results. The City interface has received perhaps the most drastic revision: It's no longer possible for citizens to become angry or sick, merely "uncivilized" (putting in stark relief the disastrous societal consequences of eating your entree with your salad fork). Likewise, you can no longer designate citizens as artists, merchants or scientists; instead, you simply choose from a list of production schemes and let the game take care of the rest.

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