Game Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution

Last week I took some time to play a few games, notably The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.  Once my niece and nephews arrived, though, I didn’t have time for much else (although we built some cool planes and helicopters with a big bin of LEGOs).  They love Uncle Portly’s “devices”—my Nintendo Switch Lite (the “big device”), Nintendo 3DS XL (the “medium-sized device”), and Nintendo DS Lite (the “small device”).  My older nephew will spend hours building levels in Mario Maker 2 if left to his own devices.  My niece usually ends up with the “medium-sized device,” leaving my littlest nephew to play whatever I happen to have that will run on the DS Lite.

In digging around for games a two-year old could grasp, I found my old copy of 2008’s Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution.  It’s an interesting, almost “abridged” version of the full Civilization experience—what would now be a cellphone app.  The game contains the major elements of a Civilization game from the Civilization IV era, and the game bears the stamp of many of that iteration’s innovations (as well as one of the major contributions from Civilization III, culture borders).

Naturally, my nephew wasn’t going to be playing that, but I popped it in one evening after the kids went to bed and found the game highly entertaining.

To be clear, Civilization Revolution, at least on the Nintendo DS, is very rudimentary.  It removes some of the mechanics of the PC game, such as builder units, and streamlines the victory conditions (instead of builders, players pay gold to build roads between cities).  The classic victory conditions are there—Domination, Science, Culture (which blends in the Diplomacy victory condition)—as well as one I don’t remember in other Civ games, Economic.  Each reward different styles of play, though I find that they all go together:  Culture relies on attracting Great People to your empire, and reaching some Economic milestones rewards the player with Great People.  Great People can also be captured when taking enemy cities; while I’m not sure if these count towards your total, capturing an enemy capital is often a big culture boost, especially if there are Wonders there.

In a recent (successful) playthrough of the “Beta Centauri” scenario (the game essentially starts all civilization in the Modern Era with all technologies researched), I captured the capitals and destroyed the civilization of the French, the Greeks, and the Germans, and was gearing up to capture Beijing to seal a Domination victory when the massive cultural outputs of Paris, Berlin, and Athens catapulted me to a Culture victory.  Berlin built the United Nations (which is required to win a Culture victory after attracting twenty Great People to your empire) in four turns flat, and the ChiComs didn’t stand a chance.

DS Lite Victory

Honestly, it was a very welcome outcome.  The game was becoming a slog at that point, as I was slowly amassing huge numbers of troops to dash against the rock of Chinese resistance.  In this regard, the game is very punishing:  combat is not as lopsided as in Civ III (in which, infamously, ancient spearman could destroy a modern tank at full health), but it’s often a matter of a.) who strikes first and b.) who has formed units into armies.  Terrain does provide defensive bonuses, but some of those are very generous.  The game also carries over Civilization II‘s differentiation between offensive and defensive strength, so that very strong offensive units are often highly vulnerable to attack, and must be protected.  Players coming from Civilization VI, in which units cannot be stacked, will have to adjust to old-school Civ combat, in which massive stacks of soldiers is the norm.

The game also suffers from a problem that, to my knowledge, no version of Civilization has ever addressed adequately:  the late-game doldrums.  As I mentioned, the endgame for me was a real slog, as I was just praying I could grind down the Chinese defenses with my Japanese tanks and bombers.  The alternative victory condition was a godsend at that point.

While the game shares that unsolved weakness from other Civ games, it also shares their greatest strength:  the (in?)famous “just one more turn” quality.  Civilization Revolution had me constantly losing track of time as I’d keep playing one turn after another.  I was also playing the game on my Nintendo DS Lite, which is smaller than an index card when closed, and about as thick as my pocket calendar.  Naturally, that means it slips very comfortably into a jacket pocket or my back pants pocket.  Sunday morning I absent-mindedly slipped it into my sports coat’s breast pocket and caught myself playing before the service started!

DS Lite and Planner

And that is Civilization Revolution‘s greatest strength:  it is fun, and it maintains that same addictive quality of the other games.  In my younger days, I would routinely make the mistake of launching a game of Civilization at, say, 9 PM on a weeknight, and suddenly find myself, red-eyed and weary, playing at 1 or 2 AM, knowing full well I had to put in a full day of work the next day.

I’m not so reckless now, but this portable version is dangerous to have around at all times.  The small screen size of the DS Lite makes for a bit of a cramped experience, but the game controls very intuitively (I’m supposed to use a stylus with it, but mine fell out long ago).  It would be a bit more comfortable on the Nintendo 3DS XL, which boasts a substantially larger screen, but for some reason the game was not running on mine this weekend.

Regardless, I had a fun walk down memory lane playing this little game.  I’m thinking it will become a part of my bedtime routine—a few turns (or several dozen turns) before bed.  If I start complaining about sleep deprivation and staying up until 2 AM, though, call the Civilization Anonymous hotline.

5 thoughts on “Game Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution

  1. Cheers, Tyler.

    A fun voyage down memory lane but why oh why play it on the DS?! PC is your better platform for something like that. You have more scope and it’s much easier to manage your forces. Get it for PC and try again and while you’re doing it, don’t use your real name. It’s a game after all and you get to be creative. When I play RPGs, I’m Michael the Magnificent or Mikey the Malevolent – it’s all about getting into character! 🙂

    Are we going to see more reviews over the coming weeks? If you find the time, catch up with some of your games. It helps with stress. I’ve found that when I want to alleviate stress, I put on one of the Resident Evil games. That satisfying splash when you paint some zombie art on the wall is relaxation personified!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I hear you—I MUCH prefer Civilization games on the PC, and recently started a big game of _Civilization VI_ as the Incan Empire. But I liked the novelty and fun of this little portable game, and while it is graphically quite limited, it still manages to capture that addictive spirit of the major Civ games.

      I would love to do more of these game reviews. I don’t want to lose too much focus on culture and such, but I know that you and other readers appreciate these little updates. I hope to do more _Morrowednesday_ features, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Excellent. 🙂

        If I get the time, I’ll send you the lowdown on TT’s (Traveller’s Tales) lego games. A lot of gamers would think they’re for kids but they’re more family games and an awful lot of fun.

        I’m also looking at doing a write up on remakes, possibly next generation reboots. We’ve played a few and can easily contrast between the originals and the lesser follow ups.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Oh—to illustrate how addictive this little Civ game is—a trait common for ALL of the games in the series—I got in bed around 11 PM last night and figured I’d play for fifteen minutes or so. I ended up shutting out the light around midnight!

      The game is also punishingly difficult on Deity. My game as Japan is the first one I have actually won on that difficulty, and it was, as I wrote, a slog. I started two games last night as Greece, and Germany destroyed me before the Industrial Era. I think Deity starts the AI with two settlers, so they get a second city out soon, and the maps are all fairly small, so territory is at a premium. It’s very easy to get hemmed in.

      I have also found that once you meet another civilization, any initial peace is very short-lived—they will attack within ten turns. So it behooves you to be isolationist to an extent, but you have to weight that against expanding. I’m still trying to find the right balance to get out of the trap set in the early game at that difficulty.

      Likely, I’m going to scale down the difficulty to King or the like. I was surprised that the game was as challenging as it is on the highest difficulty; I figured a little portable Civ game would be a bit more manageable even on the highest difficulty setting. Guess I figured wrong!

      Liked by 1 person

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