I wake and rise with the sun. My chamber maids attend to dressing me and bring my breakfast. I stroll to my window and see the sun greeting me. I take great satisfaction knowing that somewhere in my kingdom, the sun is always shining. It is good to be Queen Elizabeth. This is the type of feeling I had playing Civilization V on MAC. I feel as though I am the true heir of the queen of England. Though she picked no heir and that brute King James of Scotland took over, I feel as though my choices would be more appropriate. Who needs a new bible anyway?
The game starts and loads, and begins to play enchanting music fit for the scope and vision of Civilization V. Beautiful voices play against an elegant orchestra leading you into a start screen. A wonderfully acted narration sets the tone for the journey ahead. I picked a single player campaign, and was led to a screen that shows Queen Elizabeth as a random starting choice. Considering I’m a history nerd and I’ve recently watched two movies about her, it’s quite appropriate. I start with a bonus of Longbowman, and Ship of the line. The Ship of the Line is a perk only available to me. Ha. Europe has no idea what’s about to hit them.
I started off with London as my only territory, and I began about the business of building my empire. On screen prompts elegantly and gently steer you in the correct direction of what you should do such as creating workers to clear land, build roads and farms and make general improvements. The number of options is absolutely staggering. You can choose to receive advice from your advisor counsel (which is a great help to start) and choose to trade or wage war through the diplomacy tab. You start basically in the ancient era with the appropriate technology, and must build from there. When I say build from there, once you establish your land and capitol, you are tasked with building factories and researching technologies. That’s all good and well, but I want conquest! I don’t bother myself with the instructions and want to know how far I can get with mostly onscreen tutorials, and I’m surprised to find out I am able to complete an entire campaign only viewing the games Wiki twice.
Once I establish London, build a tenuous relationship with Alexander of Greece (wow! Talk about arrogant), and Queen Maria I of Portugal (she’s one uppity aristocrat) I set about building an army. But first, I establish York. To conquer new territory, you simply select to produce settlers from your production menu, and after a few turns they are available to be sent out into the world. Once your settlers are on their way, the game will show you the ideal spots to settle with a golden city icon.
The production menu for each city includes all of the types of units that are available such as settlers, scouts and other military units. Each unit, once built, can set out to do specific tasks. Military units can fortify, explore or literally do nothing. Scouts look for danger and resources, and the amount of units available steadily increase with your power and resources.
When you settle land and create a city, you are able to pick the focus of that city’s population. You can choose to make your focus creating great people, as I did with London, or to be a manufacturing hub, agricultural and so on. You can also set it to default, which is smart once you start establishing new territories. Although the options and menus are seemingly endless, I would definitely suggest using the help options available. In the beginning of the game, your advisors will pop up and offer their advice, but you’ll want to understand the systems in place as the game progresses.
The Queen demands tribute
Combat is fun if simple on the surface. Simply check the attack tab, and another tab pops up showing the likely results. If your mission is going to be lopsided against you, your military advisor will pop up on the right hand side and advise against it. You’re able to completely ignore him if you wish, but it’s a good idea to listen to him most of the time. When you choose to attack, you’re shown a grid on the available squares you’re able to attack, and you click and watch a little sequence play out. There are multiple modifiers that go into effect including terrain, whether or not a unit is “Fortified” and so on. To start a conflict, you simply need to move one of your units to an enemy’s square, or move into a territory owned by another world leader.
It was truly invigorating to watch the progress of my humble empire. I watched as my production grew, farms popped up, roads connected my cities and technology advanced. When your city develops and produces a great person such as an engineer or artist, the results were real and useful. Engineers can create and help with your current research, and artists can create a great work that increases your culture. Every time you move into a new era or create a great work of art, you get a pop up cinematic sequence that plays the music created, or shows the art work created. Works of art aren’t really chronological. You can easily get an ancient poem after you get a composition of Mozart. In addition to engineers and artist, you also create great generals. I had one of the Khans appear after Patton, which was interesting on both accounts. The generals give boosts to units stationed near them and can build citadels which boost units stationed there. These perks and additions are a great touch. I had Patton roaming the battlefield in a military jeep, even though I didn’t have modern technology.
Another aspect of the game worth noting is faith and religion. I intentionally kept my kingdom from adopting an official religion, preferring to let them worship their queen. I gave them food, healthcare and jobs, and they repaid me with adopting Catholicism. I was horrified to see little missionaries from Portugal floating through my kingdom dreading their religion and I shook my fist at the screen when noticed London about the religion. Do you not love your queen? There will be no cake for London tonight.
What I’m loathing
Perhaps it was something I was doing wrong, but it seemed like once I had units scattered across the board, the game would lose track of their movements. You can only move so many spaces in a turn, and any spot you choose beyond that should go into a que for future turns. That wasn’t the case, and I would lose tracks of units at times. It usually wasn’t a huge deal, but when you’re positioning your naval forces for a naval blockade and land invasion, you want all of your units tracked.
I played with my Macbook Pro without a mouse, and while it was mostly seamless and I didn’t have a need for hot keys, the game still prompts you to use right click at times when Mac simply doesn’t have that option.
Something else that was annoying was later in the game when you have a lot of territory and units. Near the end of the game, closing in on the year 2050 which is the “end” of the game, I had an overwhelming amount of prompts pop up at the end of several rounds and it nearly caused my game to crash. At the end of every turn, you’re prompted to move your units, create production, can be tasked with assigning spies and receive notifications about all of your trade deals. I stood with wide eyed amazement as 40+ prompts poured in. At this point in the game, I’d advise having any military conflicts tidied up and be prepared for the end if at all possible. I owned the whole of Europe except for city states, was allied with most of the city states and had territories encroaching upon Japan’s huge dynasty, and things started to get messy when my kingdom got greedy and started a naval and border war.
Holding a grudge
Be wary of bullying your neighbors. I was unable to recover from a warmongering tag I received early on from attacking Florence. Once you ally with another world leader and lose that trust, I found it impossible to get it back. Being denounced by another leader has consequences and even though the effects wear off, I had leaders denounce me seemingly out of nowhere throughout the game. I wish the interactions were a little more nuanced with the other leaders. After 200 years, I was still unable to mend fences with Portugal. Considering the long history of the tensions between France and England, Scotland and Ireland with England and so on, it may not be much of a stretch in reality though.
Civilization V for MAC is an engaging and engrossing experience, and outside of the little quirks pointed out, there really wasn’t much to complain about. I found it nearly impossible to do “just one more turn”. I was a kid that had never had sugar, only to discover Reese’s peanut butter cups. I needed more and more and sleep was no longer a need. The conversion to MAC was true, if a little too true with some of the instructions for PC making the jump as well. Instructions are plentiful and DLC through Steam is plentiful. You could reasonably get months of extensive play time from the DLC and with multiple playthroughs.
In under a week, I’m almost sad to say, I spent 32 hours on one play through. I am not typically a gamer that buys this type of game, though I do love strategy elements, but I utterly loved this game and can’t suggest it enough. It took me back to the days of being a teen or my early twenties when I would call in to work or skip class to play Resident Evil or Final Fantasy. That is welcome break from being an adult. The music pulsed and flowed perfectly and always seemed to be appropriate. Battle music was tense and the works of art music that played was always welcome.
Now as I finish my work, I look and see the sun setting, and I retire to bed with the pleasant thought that somewhere in my empire, the sun is rising.
A review copy of the game was provided via Steam from Aspyr.