Monday, September 27, 2010

Civilization 5: Play as George Washington and Lead Your Civilization to Greatness

Sid Meier's Civilization V has hit the marketplace, and it's so popular that stores are having a tough time keeping copies in stock. Civilization V is literally flying off the shelves. And no one should be surprised. This fifth installment of what is perhaps the greatest PC strategy game franchise of all time is well worth the purchase price. And, yes, you can play as George Washington! (You could play as George Washington in Civilization IV as well, but the animations are even better in Civ V!)

As my readers know, I like to occasionally deviate from the serious stuff -- and just have some fun. PC and board games are a great way to have fun with history. My dad and I used to play tabletop wargames all the time, as I was growing up. Among our favorites were the classics Gettysburg and Rise and Decline of the Third Reich. Unfortunately, Dad passed away in 1992, too soon to enjoy the wave of PC wargames that swept the marketplace in the 1990s and continue to be enormously popular today. Nevertheless, if Dad were alive today, I know he and I would be playing Age of Empires II, Age of Empires III, and now Civilization V quite a bit.

Those unfamiliar with Civilization may wonder why I'm blogging about it here. Well, as my readers know, I generally don't blog about things, unless the topics relate directly with early American history. And this is no exception. While the Civilization games encompass all of history, that history includes the colonial period. In fact, you might say that the transition between the Renaissance-era Middle Ages and the Industrial Age is the most significant point of the game. If you don't transition your civilization quickly and effectively from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Age, you will likely lose.

In fact, this period is so critical, that the Civilization franchise includes a standalone title called Civilization: Colonization. It plays similarly to Civilization IV, and features a great system of trade and economy as you settle a new continent and then try to break away from Europe. A word of's very tough to successfully declare independence from Europe. But I digress.

With Civilization 5 (as in the previous installments), you take over a fledgling, nomadic, and primitive people - and lead them through the span of history to (hopefully) become a powerful, dynamic civilization. And did I mention that you can play as George Washington? In fact, you can play as a very long-living George Washington! This immortal aspect to your character is why Civilization is often called a "god game." As a pastor, I'm of course uncomfortable looking at it that way. And, in fact, the only "divine" characteristic you possess in the game is an immortal lifespan. Still, however you want to accept (or not) that aspect of your game's character, Civilization is a fun franchise to tackle.

Every single installment of Civilization has been addictive and immersive. Civilization V ups the ante with expanded visuals, absorbing audio (though Leonard Nimoy's narration from Civilization IV is missed), and adjustments / improvements in game play. Two big changes from Civilization IV are the absence of religion and the shift to a hex-based map. The jury is still out on whether the former is a good change, but I definitely approve of the latter. Hexes make for a richer, more tactical experience than squares.

Civilization V gets a solid A+. 5 stars out of 5. Whatever grading system you want to use, Civilization V rocks the house. :-)  It's well with your time. And, believe me, it will soak up LOTS of your time.

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