Official Civilization 5 release date (September 21st for US or 24th for other countries) is still several days away. With 2K making the game manual available for download I couldn’t resist going through it and making this offtopic post. After all I’ve played all games in the series starting with Civilization 1 more than 20 years ago. Although I wish I had a playable to Civilization 5 Demo to base this article on, reading the manual will have to suffice for now. This article would be mostly interesting to people who played previous games in the series (or at least Civilization 4) as it will focus on the differences in the game mechanics. So here goes…
Civilization 5 System Requirements
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz or AMD Athlon X2 64 2.0 GHz
Memory: 2GB RAM
Graphics:256 MB ATI HD2600 XT or better, 256 MB nVidia 7900 GS or better, or Core i3 or better integrated graphics
DirectX®: DirectX® version 9.0c
Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad Core CPU
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: 512 MB ATI 4800 series or better, 512 MB nVidia 9800 series or better
DirectX®: DirectX® version 11
Hard Drive: 8 GB Free
Not surprisingly these requirements (even on the graphics front) are not too high. Civilization V is a turn-based strategy rather than RTS or FPS that requires lightning fast hardware.
Civilization V Combat Game Mechanics Review
The single most important change in Civilization 5 is elimination of the “stack-of-doom” tactic. It has been present in all games of the series starting with the original Civ I 20 years back all the way to Civ 4: Beyond the Sword. This tactic entails attacking or defending with a huge stack of same or different units all located in a single square. By the end of the game (and especially on large maps) these stacks grew quite large, slowed down the game and generally made it more enjoyable. While stack could be wiped out with a nuke it didn’t deter either human or computer players from abusing this tactic. Another attempt to kill S0D was attempted when artillery and bombers were allowed to deal collateral damage to a limited amount of units located on the same tile.
In Civilization 5 rules were dramatically changed – no two units of the same class can end a turn on the same tile. There are only two classes in the game: combat and non-combat units (settlers, workers and great people). Problem solved! To sweeten the deal many units were given ranged attack capability that lets them attack enemy units from a distance or 2 or sometimes even 3 times. Some units can even attack without a direct line of sight to the target as long as there is another unit within the line of sight of the enemy. When performing a ranged attack, attacking unit doesn’t suffer retaliatory damage.
To balance things even more, now you can’t stack defensive units behind your city walls either. Only one unit can be stationed within a city either as a garrison (adding to city combat strengths but not fighting on its own or engaging in the best defense by offense – attacking sieging units either ranged or melee. Cities themselves become units with health bars and combat strengths. Once city’s health bar is reduced to zero – the city is captured. Cities start with twice the health of regular military unit and heal every turn. They also get additional defensive bonuses which can be enhanced even more by constructing certain buildings. Overall I rate this change as good. This eliminates the annoying need to build defenders in every city (now every city can defend itself rather well right after it is founded long enough for reinforcements to arrive).
Stacking requirement is enforced at the end of turn. So units are allowed to pass one another but can’t end turn on the same tile. You will not be allowed to end the turn until this condition is satisfied. So suppose you just finished building a swordsman in a city that already has one garrisoned and all tiles within 2 tile radius are also occupied by your units that are out of moves. Your only option in such case would be to delete one of the units form the game.
Unless additional measures were taken however in Civilization 5 “stacks of doom” would have evolved into “walls of doom” with players flooding all tiles with endless stream of cannon fodder marching on enemy cities or on each other until the end of times. Besides unit upkeep cost, you are also limited by strategic resources that you control. While weaker or defensive units are not constrained, you can only build so many swordsmen if you control just one iron resource.
So the combat in Civilization 5 is much more about optimally positioning limited number of units to maximize benefits of terrain and formation. Here some highlights of combat game mechanics:
- Attacking unit gets 15% strength bonus for every ally adjacent to the enemy being attacked. So then attacking an enemy on a fully surrounded hexagonal tile you will get 75% bonus to attack. The funny thing seems to be that tank attacking another tank will still get 75% attack bonus even if the enemy tank is surrounded by 5 spearmen it could have otherwise easily smashed
- In certain situations your unit gets 15% additional strength if there is an allied unit adjacent to it (but not necessarily to the enemy unit)
- Units attacking from a hill get a bonus.
- There are separate artillery promotion lines for attacking units in the open (plains) or in the forest/jungle.
- Units have zone of control (ZOC). This means that when you try to sneak past your enemy by moving your unit from one tile adjacent to an enemy unit to another adjacent tile, you lose all your movement points and have to wait for the next turn to move further. Since the manual doesn’t mention any limitations to this rule it would be fair to assume that a spearman can halt an advancing tank column if for some reason tanks will chose not to attack him.
- Fights are not necessarily “to the death”. Both units can survive the combat just losing some health and returning to their original positions.
- All naval units are ranged so they can bombard each other without retaliation (although such attacks are less powerful than a direct attack)
- Interestingly enough the manual doesn’t mention any limit for air units within cities. If there is indeed no such limit one could mount almost unbreakable defense just by keeping a bomber “stack-of-doom” in the city that would bomb all attacking forces into oblivion.
- Great Generals no longer join units permanently but rather follow them on the battlefield as non-combat units providing combat bonuses to all units nearby. However as all non-combat units they are automatically destroyed if left unprotected or if protecting unit was destroyed. Since you can’t stack units there can only be one protector at any time.
- Citadels can be constructed by Great Generals. These provide massive defensive bonuses and deal significant damage to any enemy unit that ends its turn next to it.
- Transports are gone. Instead any ground unit can “embark” becoming (once appropriate tech is available) defenseless naval non-combat unit that is easily destroyed unless protected. This is not so if you are playing as Songhai Civilization – then your “embarked” units can defend themselves.
As I’ve mentioned before tiles gained two sides and changed from squares to hexagons. This results in a more natural distances between places and the fact that in Civilization 5 units can be attacked from 6 different directions rather than from 8.
Since a newly founded city can defend itself from the day it is founded this eliminates a rare but nasty scenario of one Civ being destroyed by another right at the start when their warrior is off exploring somewhere else.
Civilization 5 Non-Combat Game Mechanics Review
City-states are a major addition to the game. They are a non-player entities that don’t compete for victory but rather provide hefty bonuses to civilizations that ally with them by gifting units, gold or fulfilling missions. Just like original capitals they can’t be completely destroyed even if you drop 100 nukes on them.
Native villages are replaced with ancient ruins that provide the same benefits (free tech, money, settler, etc) minus a host of angry barbarians. There are separate barbarian camps for that now that yield some money when they are destroyed.
Economy was simplified somewhat:
- There are no separate controls that distribute commerce between gold, research and culture. Instead if you start running budged deficit and run out of gold, you will lose a research beaker for each gold that you lack. So essentially poor economy automatically causes slow research just as it did before. It’s unclear what will happen if the budget deficit is more than all of the science research. It may be that there will be no further penalty (since the civilization is this situation is already really screwed) or perhaps buildings and units start to get sold or disbanded until a balanced budget is achieved.
- Happiness is computed on a nationwide scale rather than in each city individually. If there is surplus happiness it will accumulate and eventually cause a 10 turn Golden Age. If your citizens are unhappy, your food stores will be penalized and you will not be able to build settlers of workers so your growth and expansion will be severely limited until you correct the problem. If your nation is very unhappy – your armed forces will suffer combat strength penalty, making you an easy target for conquest. Essentially in the long run it is similar to what used to happen in Civilization IV minus the micro management.
- Religion, espionage and corporations are gone completely. While I never cared much for espionage (and I guess that many players didn’t either and that’s why it eventually got removed), I loved religion and corporations (which are also in a way a religion
- You can buy cultural border expansion rather than waiting for cultural expansion which is still present in Civilization V
- When a city is conquered you can either raze it (unless it’s a city-state or a capital), annex it or make it into a puppet state. Annexing cities carries happiness penalty (not sure if temporary or permanent) so making city a puppet is a compromise as it gives you access to some ownership benefits (except building units) but reduces happiness penalty (though it doesn’t eliminate it completely). Puppet cities can later be annexed at any time.
- Any city that used to belong to another Civilization can be liberated and returned to the rightful owner when recaptured. Since original capital cities can never be destroyed, this means that any vanquished Civilization can be brought back into the game.
- Barbarians steal gold, kill citizens and destroy buildings but they never actually capture your city.
- Food mechanics remained largely the same. However granary now provides a fixed increase of food production rather than saves 50% of the food after the population grows. This task is reserved to a hospital and other similar building that become available much later in the game thus slowing the early growth.
- Every civilization now has scouts at the start of the game (in fact it seems that all start with the same tech) therefore making the starting conditions more equal.
- Rather than having a combination of two traits and starting technologies each civilization has a truly unique trait (like using forests withing its own borders as roads for the purpose of movement, or getting some culture for every vanquished enemy unit, etc) and one or two unique units. If there is only one unique unit the other one will be replaced by a unique building.
- Civics are replaced by social policies that are grouped into 10 branches. Each branch has 5 policies that are activated once they are unlocked and the branch is activated. Branches and policies are unlocked by producing culture rather than being tied to technology. Though some branches become available only after certain technological eras. Some branches are mutually exclusive.
- Special building constructed by great people are now built outside of the city in lieu of tile improvements. They can be razed as other improvements. However they can also be repaired like other improvements (new concept in Civilization 5). It may be possible to permanently destroy and Academy or Customs House by building a farm on the same tile (though it would be very unwise)
- Individual building maintenance is back. On the other hand you can now gold-rush production of everything (including wonders) except of projects regardless of your civics/social policies. A good and welcome change.
- You can always trigger a Golden Age by spending a single Great Person. The length of subsequent Golden Ages will shorten but will never be shorter than 3 turns.
- There are two World Wonders that increase Golden Age length.
- World Wonders in Civilization 5 never become obsolete. This has been balanced by the fact that they don’t seem as powerful as they used to be.
- Great People birth mechanics have changed. You can always be sure which kind of GP you are going to get. You can still accumulate different kinds of GP points at the same time. However these points are compared separately to the threshold. Only type of points that becomes greater than the threshold is used. Other types of points continue to accumulate.
- Overall it seems that Great People became less powerful in Civilization 5 but there will be more of them in the game.
Civilization 5 has definitely changed when compared to Civilization 4 Beyond the Sword. Many new concepts were added and many were removed. While I would wish that some things wouldn’t get removed, I’d rather have a simpler yet enjoyable game than another incarnation of “Master of Orion 3″ that became so complex that it was impossible to play.
Civilization 5 Trailer