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Critical Reception: 2K Games/Firaxis' Civilization Revolution

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to 2K Games and developer Firaxis' Civilization Revolution, a specifically console-focused strategy title that is "remarkably adapted" from its PC origins, according to reviews.

Danny Cowan

July 9, 2008

6 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Civilization Revolution, a console-focused strategy title that is "remarkably adapted" from its PC origins, according to reviews. Though the Civilization franchise has enjoyed years of sales success and numerous sequels and expansion packs on PC platforms, efforts to bring the series to consoles have been rare. Previously released Civilization ports for the Super NES and PlayStation were mostly well-received, but were criticized for their comparative lack of detail and complex control schemes resulting from the lack of a keyboard and mouse interface. This week's U.S. release of Civilization Revolution aims to provide a console-focused Civilization experience, promising simplified gameplay and intuitive controls. The effort thus far has been well-received among critics, who average a score of 83 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. Adam Gulliver at Gamestyle scores Civilization Revolution at 9 out of 10. "Civilization is a rarity on the Xbox 360," he asserts. "For a start it’s a game that doesn’t involve murky colours, space marines and unnecessary cursing. But it’s also a turn based strategy title that’s been built from the ground up for consoles, so control wise it’s as perfect as a game in the genre can be." Gulliver praises Civ Rev's simplicity in comparison to similar fare on the Xbox 360. "Our hands still cramp up at the thought of trying to play Command and Conquer with the 360 pad," he recalls. "A little helper pops up if you need him and he simply explains how to control your units, building structures and general tips." Gulliver describes Civilization Revolution's goals as similar to those in the franchise's PC origins. "Winning the game can be done in four ways," he explains. "Domination (take control of all capital cities), Economic (make lots of gold and build the World Bank), Cultural (build lots of Wonders and attract great people like Albert Einstein) and Scientific (reach Alpha Centauri)." Much of the gameplay revolves around relationships with other civilizations, according to Gulliver. "Other countries that you discover on the map will be quick to offer their hands in friendship, yet this almost always never lasts," he warns. "In order to win you really need to balance your army as well as the culture of your people because without culture your borders will soon shrink and other countries may be able to take the city away from you." Gulliver finds that Civilization Revolution successfully bridges the gap between PC and console, resulting in a surprisingly accessible experience. "Even if this isn’t your genre of choice try it and like us you may find yourself pleasantly surprised," he recommends. "There’s plenty of depth and challenge that even the best strategist may find hard to conquer. Controlling a civilization has never been so fun." At 1UP.com, Andrew Pfister awards Civilization Revolution a rating of B+. "As a casual Civilization player on the PC," he begins, "I came into the console-based Civilization Revolution believing that a slightly scaled-back version of the empire-building game, adapted to a controller -- and my couch -- would be precisely what I was looking for." The result? "Revolution does a great job of appropriate hand-holding, with its array of cartoon advisers and 'Civilopedia,' which contains a wealth of strategic and operational knowledge, accessible at any time," Pfister praises. "Navigating and exploring the world map is remarkably adapted to analog sticks," he continues. "The right stick serves as the unit-selection tool, while the left stick controls movements. If you have multiple military units within a city (or as passengers on a naval craft), you can select and command individual units with the D-pad." These streamlined controls result in an experience perfectly suited to consoles, according to Pfister. "Those two issues -- parsing information and executing orders -- are the core of Civ, and Revolution nails both," he claims. "The more colorful and caricatured look of the cities and characters also is better suited to the television-viewing crowd, and the music and sound effects -- though intermittent and poorly balanced at times -- are classic Civilization elements." Fans of the PC Civilization titles may find Revolution's depth lacking in certain areas, however. "The scenarios are entertaining, but I still would've liked some more options for terrain variance and map size, instead of predetermined continent layouts on a smaller-though-proportional map," Pfister writes. "The diplomacy mechanics took a minor hit, too, with the lack of defensive alliances among the warmongering world leaders." "But Revolution's greatest omission is testament to just how addicting the game is. It's disappointing not having the option to play 'one more turn...' after a victory condition is achieved and continuing to build (or rebuild) your empire," Pfister admits. "You want to keep playing it well past the completion of any objectives or reasonable bed time -- that's Civilization's hallmark, and Revolution cultivates this same addiction." Gabe Graziani at GameSpy rates Revolution at 3.5 out of 5 stars, explaining that the title fills a needed niche in current console libraries. "The closest thing 360 gamers had to Civilization was Viva Pinata," he explains, "and the poor PS3 folk don't even have a bunch of candy-stuffed animals to manage, much less a sprawling kingdom of continent-spanning metropolises." "Now, Civilization Revolution brings turn-based colony management to the masses," Graziani continues, "and although it's not quite as deep or nuanced as most of its PC predecessors, it does a great job of converting the gameplay experience the series is famous for while providing excellent, intuitive controls on the consoles." Graziani describes a successful Civ Rev campaign as maintaining a balance of defense and technology. "Building an army works much like building new structures, and you must factor at least some defense spending into your budget or risk being overrun by the first barbarian that stumbles onto your fledgling community," he says. "Technology has the largest impact on your ability to conscript more powerful weapons of war, so regardless of which path to victory you choose, you'll always want to maintain a decent level of tech so that you can defend yourself." Civ Rev's computer-controlled opponents sometimes limit player options, however. "Civilization Revolution's AI-controlled civs all seem inherently warlike, and although they will always offer you peace on a first meeting, they sour both quickly and easily," Graziani notes. "In fact, most games played on the tougher difficulty settings seem to force a domination victory as the only feasible means of conquering the world due to the hostility displayed by your opponents." This often results in predictable gameplay outcomes, according to Graziani. "You know what they say, the best defense is a good offense," he counters. "But in Civ Rev it sometimes seems like the only defense is all-out offense." These issues make for an experience that Graziani describes as fun, but limited in scope. "While Civilization Revolution does a great job of introducing the concept and gameplay of Sid Meier's classic PC series to the consoles, it falls just short of true greatness due to a lack of depth in the AI and multiplayer options," he concludes. "It's still lots of fun, but that fun is somewhat stunted in terms of its long-term appeal." Critics agree that Civilization Revolution does an admirable job of transferring an inherently complex PC franchise to consoles through effective controls and decreased levels of complexity. Some feel that this lowered level of detail results in predictable gameplay, however, and that Civilization veterans may find the title to be less enjoyable than its PC predecessors. Most reviews otherwise describe Civ Rev as both a fun strategy title and an accessible entry point for series newcomers.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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