Last night I hit a milestone. I spent my 1000th hour playing Civilization 5. This game has owned me hard, almost as hard as Super Smash Bros Melee did a dozen or so years ago. I spent some time reflecting on why I love the game so much, and things that I would love to see improved. Dirty secret — I have beaten Immortal a few times, but I’ve never beaten Deity!
I love the fact that you can play peacefully and have a full game. It is very difficult to create a fulfilling peace-based experience in a tactical turn-based strategy game with such a robust and important combat system. Admittedly, the late game suffers from the “just click Next Turn again” problem sometimes, but I feel that on the higher difficulties I really get down to the wire even when doing a diplomatic or science victory and I have to pay careful attention to managing my empire to prevent AIs from sneaking in. Cultural victory is my favorite type, and it seems to be the hardest to achieve. One of the things I dislike is that there are only a set number of things you can do to increase your Tourism modifier with other civs, and Open Borders requires both parties to agree (which will never happen in a multiplayer game). I think if Open Borders gave a different awesome benefit, such as increasing (maybe doubling?) amount of gold and science income from trade routes to that player, then it would become attractive even in multiplayer games with only humans and make culture victory more viable. Right now it’s just too easy to deny a few of the key wonders and culture spam.
The UI is really clean and does a great job of introducing the game to new players. There’s only one thing you need to remember – the button at the bottom right of your screen tells you everything you must do before your turn ends. All other actions, such as managing your citizens /specialists, are optional, albeit important for succeeding at higher difficulties. I am currently using the Enhanced UI DLC and I LOVE the way it shows you what tiles a city is working and what it will grow into just by hovering over the city name. I’m not crazy about how smooshed the condensed UI at the top looks, but it does some cool things like telling you how many turns for your next Great Person and which kind it will be.
I do wish that the espionage and diplomacy systems were expanded a bit more. I have a good bit of options in the diplomacy screen, but it would be great to have some more nuanced options like allowing Open Borders only for certain types of units (military, civilian, etc) or multiple levels of declaration of friendship that give varying benefits (trade partners, science buddies, culture sharing, etc). Also I’d love to specify the amount of time something will last instead of it being a fixed 30 turns all the time. I also think the game would benefit from not allowing flat gold trading for per-turn things (like luxuries), as that is the most optimal thing to do pretty much at all times if possible when playing vs AI. As for espionage, I want more things to do in an enemy city. Let me blow buildings up or sow discontent. Let me assassinate specialists or sabotage great people production. These kinds of things would make Constabularies and Police Stations so much more important and viable for everyone. And these kinds of activities, when discovered, would carry much harsher diplomacy penalties potentially even world-wide.
Social Policies are a huge win for me. I see nothing bad about them, and it’s fun to customize your empire. Sure, there are some balance issues (I’m looking at you, Tradition!!) but unless you are playing at the highest difficulties you can try any strategy. I also really love how the Ideology choice around the Industrial/Modern era turns the world into a 3-way world war. It’s really exciting!
So in conclusion, after 1000+ hours of playing Civ 5 I am still hooked. It is my favorite turn-based strategy game of all time, even replacing the previous reigning champion Master of Orion II which was my favorite for 17 years (since 1996!). Kudos to you Firaxis, your game is awesome!