Wow. Just … wow.
Wednesday, November 7, DanQ from Apolyton and myself visited Firaxis for an exclusive preview of Civilization: Revolution. We both agreed it was probably the most fun we had had in a while. 🙂 Dan had a video camera with him, and once he edits the footage and posts it on Poly, I’ll post a link.
The day started with a tour of the company. We couldn’t take many pictures during this, since there was a lot of concept art and other non-releasable stuff posted on walls, etc. Too bad, because it all looked great!
Then we sat down with Barry and Sid (and Dennis and Kelly) for the official preview. Sid started a game using the current build on an XBox360, hooked up to a huge (60 inch?) screen. For the record he played as Lincoln of the Americans. As he played, he explained what was happening, and concepts behind it.
If you’ve played Civ4, you should be pretty comfortable with it. Despite what some may say, it hasn’t been “dumbed down”. Certain elements *have* been simplified. For instance, you don’t have to micromanage your cities. But for hard-core control freaks, the ability is still there, just not as obvious. Another change is that if there is nothing to do, by default, it won’t wait at the end of your turn. Workers don’t run around manually doing things. For instance, to build a road between two cities is as simple as selecting that option, and paying the required gold.
Let me digress here a moment. Sid (and the rest) tried hard to make sure we understood a few things. Civ:Rev is NOT Civ5. It is a separate branch of the Civ family. It is targeted at a quite different audience, and for a reason. Not all console gamers are brain-dead. This game is intended to give them a true strategy game. It will also demonstrate that TBS can be *fun*. (And for any concerned about the health/quality of PC Civ, all I can legally tell you is, you’re going to be amazed, and you’re going to have FUN! :D)
Anyway, after Sid did his demo, and we chatted a while, Dan and I got a unique treat: we are the first non-Firaxis people to actually *play* the game! I got the console in the conference room, and Dan took the identical system in the next room. First, Barry ran upstairs and pushed a new build, that had the opening movie in it. Let me just say that this movie, with 5.1 Surround Sound, is simply awesome. I even got to watch it several times, as you will see below.
After the movie, I clicked quickly through the initial screens (single player, new game, difficulty level, etc.). When I got to the “Select your Civ” screen, I paused for a bit, so I could study the different Civs, their leaders, and their “traits”. On the selection screen, each Civ’s special bonuses are explained when you cursor over it. And there are different bonuses for each era of the game. For instance, a Civ might get extra food per worked tile in the Ancient age, an extra gold per worked tile in the Middle ages, a free Great Person in the Industrial age, and a +1 attack in the Modern age. It also lists the Special Unit(s) that Civ can build. Aztecs have the Jaguar Warrior, which auto-heals. The Americans get some WW2-era units.
(Another aside: Catherine of Russia will probably win as the “hottest babe” in this game. 😉 But Cleopatra runs a close second, especially in that gauzy Ancient Age costume. :groucho: )
Anyway, I decided that, for tradition’s sake, I would play my first game as Caesar of the Romans. I selected him, and watched the game crash immediately. 😮 I guess we don’t play the Romans on this build. 😉
After we laughed, Dennis got the Xbox back up, and I tried again. This time, I chose Lincoln, since I was sure that would work. After all, Sid had just played as him. 😉 So we got going, built Washington, and started exploring. Wait a minute. I can *see* everything! Where’s the fog? Oops. Barry forgot to turn that back on when he added the movie. (The developers can use a lot of *cheats* in their builds, to help them debug,) So he went back upstairs to do another build, and push it back to this box. Meanwhile, I saved the game so we could pick up where I left off. Let me also add that fog in this games isn’t just black “you can’t see this” covering, but is gray, drifting tendrils, thick where you haven’t been, and thin where you have. If you watch, you can see it moving. A great effect.
Barry came back, and said we were good to go, so I fired it up again, this time choosing “Load Game” instead of “New”. But the only save I could see was Montezuma. No matter. It was approximately at the same point as my Lincoln game, so I pressed on with it. I began my explorations again, running into some nasty barbarian camps. Camps seem to have 3 warriors in them to defeat. Fortunately, Barbs are “uncivilized”, so they get a negative applied to their combat. My northern Jags defeated the first three barbarian warriors they ran into, and got promoted to Veteran status. Another few Barbs, and I was able to upgrade them. I gave them “March” capability, making them a 2-move unit. Still heading north, I found yet another Barb camp. Took out the first warrior. Took out the second. The third wiped out my nice little Jag unit. 🙁
Meanwhile, closer to home, other Jags were busy exploring. I found several “Friendly Villages” ( = Goody Huts) and gained some gold and techs. And then I met Cleo. The initial meeting we agreed on Peace, and I was able to buy some tech from her, as well. But I soon realized she was blocking a land bridge to the east. I had explored north ans south as far as I could, and to the west was ocean, and I didn’t have any boats, yet. But entering another Civ’s territory is a declaration of war (although you get an “are you sure?”-type message). So I built my forces, and created a Jag Warrior Army. (Note: Any special promotions a unit in an Army has apply to the entire Army. So if a unit has March, the whole Army has March. If a unit has Medic, the whole Army has Medic. Etc. So by selecting the units to go into an Army carefully, you can get a very powerful Army, indeed!)
So I marched my Army, plus a spare Jag, up to Thebes, and declared war. Oops! She has an Army of Pikes guarding her city! And with the City defense bonus, my mighty jags were chopped into little pieces. 🙁 I quickly made sure I had defenses in my two cities, and started building more to be safe. Things seem quiet for a bit, and I start to breathe a little easier. I begin building a galley to go check out the “Great Relic” friendly tribes have told rumors of, off to the north. Then, Cleo pops up asking for peace, for a “mere” 65 gold. Since I’m running out of playing time, I decide to try some things, just to see what happens. I offer her 33G, instead, and she leaves in a huff. Suddenly, her Army approaches my second city. I try to contact her, to offer her 65G, or even more, but the Diplo screen isn’t in this build. All I can do is just watch as she slaughters my brave defenders. Finally, after she has the city, she again offers me peace. I jump at the chance. A few minutes later, Dennis’ jaw drops as far as mine when we realize she is pumping Culture in that city as hard as possible. This looks like a *good* AI.
Anyway, I now have a Galley, with a Jag on it for exploring. I send it north, but in the year 1270 AD, the game crashes. It’s getting late, so Dennis advises against restarting. We go and watch DanQ stomp on the AI in his game. (Of course, I was playing on “King”, the “everything is even” level, and he was playing on Warlord. ;))
We also got a chance to play on the DS for a while. Game play is exactly the same as on the 360, it is just the graphics that change. (Dennis likes the DS version – it reminds him of Civ2, with the 8-bit graphics. :))
All-in-all, I love this game.
Below are more links to Civilization Previews from around the web:
[*]Civilization Revolution Preview @ Apolyton (November 22, 2007 – April 30, 2008)
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11
“CivRev, as it has commonly become abbreviated, is not a Civ sequel. It is not a port – heck, it is not to be playable on a PC. It is a re-imagination of sorts. It is designed for the console gamer by some who have and continue to play console games, keeping in mind considerations such as the standard input device is the controller. Developing a Civ title for a platform other than the PC does not mean that it is only Civ in title but it could. What brings Civ its delightful blend of refreshing and reliable gameplay are those elements that have made Civ greater than the sum of its parts: those which, at the end of one day and into the next (figuratively or literally), leave you saying ‘one more turn’.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Preview @ Gamespy (May 23, 2008)
“While the game might look cute and cuddly, that trick of artistic license belies a genuine attempt to adapt the ancient and revered franchise to consoles.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Hands-On @ VideoGamer (May 23, 2008)
“Civ Rev is about introducing one of the best-loved PC strategy titles to a vast, new audience. Firaxis is hoping this revolution will be one that stands the test of time.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Second Impressions @ GamesRadar (May 23, 2008)
“Overall, the game has a new tone, a funnier and more relaxing feel, which is attempting to suit console gamers’ tastes – everyone knows PC gamers have no senses of humor.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Hands-On Preview @ Teamxbox[/url] (Mar 10, 2008)
“In the console version, however, it’s designed to be less determined who’ll win it by making it possible for players to lose their foothold on what seemed to be an overwhelming victory condition and for others to come from behind to win in the later stages of a match.”
[*]Hands-On: Civilization Revolution @ Wired (Mar 10, 2008)
“With Civilization Revolution, Sid Meier and Firaxis would seem to have accomplished the impossible: Scaling down the sprawling Civilization PC sim series into a game design that’s appropriate for a console.”
[*]Civilization: Revolution Hands-On @ Gameplayer (Mar 10, 2008)
“Which is why we are very happy to report the following: Civilization works on consoles. In fact, it works very nicely indeed – so much so that the hardcore Civheads amongst us had to be literally dragged away from a game.”
[*]Hands On With Civilization Revolution Multiplayer @ Kotaku (Mar 10, 2008)
“It has made the jump from PC to console nicely and the graphical improvements will make it an interesting play for long time Civ players. For new players just getting interested in the title or those who just don’t care for PC gaming, it will be a great introduction into the city building, wonder erecting, micromanaging world of Civilization.”
[*]Civilization: Revolution Preview @ PALGN (Mar 11, 2008)
“In terms of content, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Revolution is unlikely to disappoint. It might take a bit of time to get used to new streamlined format, but from what we played, it has lost very little, if any of it’s addictive appeal.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Preview @ IGN (Mar 11, 2008)
“Akin to rolling a snowball down a steep mountain slope after a blizzard, Civilization Revolution’s multiplayer games grow in magnitude and ferocity with every passing turn, while the pressure imposed by the timer gives these matches an impressive level of momentum. Bold, fun, intuitive and yet still massively engaging, Revolution’s multiplayer looks like it could be another winning formula for Meier and his team.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Preview @ 1UP (Mar 6, 2008)
“Sid Meier may be an old-timer in the game-development community, but that doesn’t mean he’s afraid to kick some ass. In his slightly more streamlined, more cartoony PS3, Xbox 360, and DS versions of his legendary strategy series Civilization, he’s leaving subtle behind and going for all-out war. ”
[*]Civilization Revolution Preview @ GameSpy (Mar 10, 2008)
“It was a remarkably good feeling to look up after “just a few turns” and realize that our hour appointment had stretched out to just past two hours in those “few turns.” Although we’re holding off on our final judgment until we’ve spent more time with the game, our impressions of Civilization Revolution are almost entirely positive so far.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Hands-On @ GameSpot (Mar 11, 2008)
“Fans of traditional handheld console strategy games should be in for an intriguing new experience, while fans of traditional Civilization gameplay will likely be ecstatic that they’ll finally have a version of their favorite game that fits in their pockets.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Hands-On @ IGN (Feb 11, 2008)
“In all, our time with the game revealed it to be a very different creature from the PC version but still undeniably a part of the Civilization franchise. For this version the developers have decided to strip away everything but the essentials (of which there are many) and then heighten and exaggerate those essential elements to an extreme level. It’s not entirely clear yet if console players have an appetite for a turn-based strategy game at this scale but Civilization: Revolution has tremendous potential to enlarge the strategy genre on the consoles.”
[*]Hands-On Preview of Civilization Revolution @ GameArena (October 30, 2007)
“When it comes out next year it looks like even the hardcore 4X guys like me should enjoy Civilization Revolution. It might be “dumbed down” for consoles but it’s definitely a smarter approach to the genre. It takes the elements of 4X games which turn people away and makes it ultra accessible for new players. The best part is, with Civilization Revolution being as easy to play as it appears I may even find someone to play against me.”
[*]Civilization Revolution Interview @ IGN (Jan 28, 2008)
IGN sat down with members of the new Civilization Revolution team from developer Firaxis to chat specifically about the franchise’s DS debut.
[*] Sid Meier Interview @ GamersGlobal (Feb 02, 2008)
“I think there are a variety of players. Many gamers are very happy to spend hours and hours with Civilization 4 on the PC, for example. On the other hand, we’re bringing Civ to the consoles addressing many players who never have heard of the series. So there’s a tutorial built in the game, there’s a lot of fun things to do. Part of the game certainly is to introduce Civilization to a brand new audience. And then, as they get a little more into it, we can spend a little more time explaining all the technologies, letting them try the different governments and building the different units.”
[*]Sid Meier Interview @ Gameplayer (Jan 16, 2008)
“I think the first thing you’ll notice is the presentation. This is the best looking game of Civilization ever. We’re really trying to enhance the players’ status as one of the greatest leaders of all time by giving them cool advisors and having them meet face-to-face with other leaders who are truly over the top. There’s true volumetric fog for the first time in any Civ game and that complements the highly detailed terrain. Combat has also received a facelift and you should see a much higher level of presentation with no two combats looking quite the same. The map will give you nearly all of the information you need to play. You can see where wonders are being built and how far along they are. We are also really ramping up the multiplayer options with features like leaderboards, ranked games, ladders, and auto-matchmaking.”