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Gaming Wednesday: The Beating Of A Million Drums

January 15, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Last week, my girlfriend did something that was probably the biggest mistake ever. She thought she was doing something good, but instead, she turned me into an addict. A trouble addict that needs help.

You see, she decided to gift me a copy of Civilization V on Steam. And now I am hooked.

Sure, I’m a little late to the Civ party. This game came out in 2010 (which I want to say is 3 years ago but now it technically isn’t and as such I hate January). Aside from that, I’ve known of the series for several years, but never played a game until now, when a few casual conversations about liking strategy/management type games led to me suddenly having a copy of the game.

Civilization V, for those who aren’t aware, is a simulation strategy game where you lead a civilization to glory over many centuries. It’s a giant anachronism of a game, allowing you to play one of many great leaders (43 including expansions and DLC), placing you in charge of whatever civilization they led. These range from great all-conquering empire-builders Alexander The Great and Napoleon to smaller figures such as Gandhi or Hiawatha of the Iroquois tribe. Why Gandhi is considered Supreme Leader Of India isn’t something I fully understand, but hey, whatever, let’s run with it.

Winning the game comes in four forms. You could develop your technologies to the point where you fly off into space and expand your glorious empire to the stars. You could develop several social policies to the point where you can build a monument to your Utopia and be revered by all. You can win votes at the UN. Or there’s the good old fashioned brute force “take over the world” option, where you build a great army and destroy every other empire on the map and rule over all you see.

I played through my first run, playing as great pharaoh Ramesses II, leading Ancient Egypt to victory. I became friends with Gandhi while simultaneously pelting the King of Siam into oblivion with medieval trebuchets so I could take over an entire continent. I won my playthrough by winning a popularity contest at the UN thanks to my friendliness with Sydney and Cape Town, largely won by paying off all the local city-states with my vast piles of gold. Politics in a nutshell, then.

I am now on a playthrough as George Washington leading MURICA to war with General Bismarck of Germany and Napoleon with the assistance of the Arabian Empire. Yes, I somehow made Arabia the ally of the USA. I’m aware how weird that sounds. I later intend to play as Elizabeth I on a simulated “real-world” map and react to every other nation in the same way the real British Empire did (ie. decide to own it all and ultimately go to war with everyone).

It’s such a delightful anachronism of a game, with of all history mushed together. The fact you can lead the Mayans to build a space program is delightful, as is the fact you can turn Gandhi into a war-mongering dictator. The problem is, of course, that it’s horrendously addictive.

This is not a game that wants you to stop playing. It’s turn-based, and on every turn the game asks you to make further decisions and make you keep going. Every time a new technology is researched, the game demands you to research another. Every time one of your cities builds a new building or unit, it demands you to make another. So much is going on at any given time that it feels impossible to stop until your eyes are bleeding and you realise you haven’t eaten for three days.

It’s hard to say exactly what’s so compelling about the game. Perhaps it’s just in its sheer scale. There are numerous stats to pay attention to, all of which affect everything around you. You have to balance diplomatic relationships with every single other nation that you cross paths with. Plus you still have to gain all those Science points so you can build yourself a Giant Death Robot!

There is also just that great satisfaction of seeing an empire come together and swallow up the world around you, watching your territory expand and fellow leaders get nervous about you moving near them. The game provides a great sense of power as you build Stonehenge before your rivals and because Glorious Emperor Of The World, a title I’ve often wanted to give myself but will probably never get the chance to in real life.

I honestly don’t expect to ever be finished with Civilization V. With so many great empires to lead, and all the Steam achievements you can hoover up, it’s the sort of game that will be commanding my attention for quite some time.

I just need to make sure I actually get things done in between play sessions, which is easier said than done. Kinda puts a spanner in the works for my Becoming A Grownup plans.

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  1. January 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

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