Sid Meier's Civilization World First Look Preview -- Civilization Invades FacebookBy Adam Rosenberg - Posted May 12, 2011
Sid Meier’s Civilization is arguably one of the most enduringly popular veteran franchises in gaming. There have been regular releases since the original game launched in 1991, with the strategic, turn-based cultural evolution simulator stepping out of its PC comfort zone in recent years, with releases on a variety of consoles and mobile devices. The latest branching off from the core computer games brings a heavily modified version of Civilization to Facebook, Sid Meier's Civilization World. We got to go hands-on with the alpha version a few weeks back and learned all about how this unique take on Meier’s baby will work.
“Hands-on” is a bit of a misnomer here. While we did indeed play with the game, 20 minutes of clicking around and looking at what’s there hardly captures the full Civ experience. That’s true of any game in the series. Civ World is the most dramatic departure from the core franchise fans have seen yet, with many recognizable elements stripped out or fundamentally changed to support the more socially oriented Facebook platform. It’s hard to say if that’s a good or a bad thing at this point, but it is unquestionably different.
For starters, there’s no traditional world map in the Facebook game. The visual layout falls closer to Zynga’s FarmVille in that each player has a city to manage and build as they play. The borders of your initial plot of land, which is a decent size, can be expanded by building structures called Guard Towers at the fringes. The amount of space you can occupy is dictated by these Guard Towers; as long as you keep building them, you’ll have more land to work with.
The basic setup is familiar enough: a group of civilizations vie for dominance in one way or another. In Civ World, each civilization is a team of Facebook users working together. There are no restrictions on team size, but with the endgame goal being to earn as many Fame Points as possible, the more heads you can bring together and cooperate with, the better.
Each playthrough breaks down into 14 eras, and the goal is to emerge from each one as the victor by being the first to fulfill a set of victory conditions, all of which should be familiar to Civ fans. During our hands-on, the era in question could be won by (1) winning battles against 30 percent of the competing players, (2) discovering Invention, (3) building five Wonders, and (4) earning 200,000 in gold.
Since Civ World is all about cooperation, the development of key resources such as culture, food, research, and the like comes first and foremost from the way each city is built. Depending on the structures you build and the locations they’re placed in, workers automatically do their thing to gather resources together. Players can click a “Harvest” button at any time to add collected resources to the overall total, though only a certain number of Harvests can be performed in a set amount of time.
While you have the option of sitting there and clicking again and again to boost your resources, it is wiser to keep a few Harvests in the bank just in case something unexpected occurs, such as a battle with another civ. Should that happen, you simply switch the focus of your resource collection over to production for an immediate boost to your build output.
There are other ways to add to your civ’s resource total as well. Each resource type has an associated minigame; play and complete it successfully for an immediate bonus. The minigames are resource-specific, so, for example, a culture boost is tied to completing a tile-swapping picture puzzle while a research boost involves working your way to the center of a maze. There are also quests to be completed in exchange for gold; early tutorial examples include acts as simple as accessing the game’s chat features – there are global, team, and private channels – or building something in your city.
The key to success in Civ World is getting your team organized and keeping it that way. As we explored other players’ cities during the demo, it was clear that each was tailored to focus on a specific resource. A hard-coded hierarchy exists separately from any structure established by the players themselves; there are Dukes, Nobles, Princes, and a single King. Promotions come automatically, based on how your individual efforts benefit the larger civilization.
The elimination of the global map in Civ World results in some significant changes to the game’s warfare mechanics. Doing battle essentially boils down to a card game. The decision to declare war is made by a civ-wide vote. Once decided, individual battles are waged in stages.
The setup stage comes first, an hours-long period during which players marshal their forces. The number and types of units that can be brought into each battle is dictated by geography, which changes from battle to battle. Individual unit cards can also be set up with different combat styles: Fortify, a Civ staple, ups defense and reduces attack power while Heroic does the opposite. Once the setup is complete, battles unfold automatically.
As this is a social game, Civ World offers several ways to communicate with fellow players and a very specific take on establishing a persistent presence online. While cities will change from game to game, and of course reset at the start of each new one, all players have a personalized throne room. This is where your various achievements – and Achievements, broken down into Fame, Growth, Production, Science, Economy, and Culture categories – can be placed on display.
Civ World will of course will also be fueled in part by microtransactions, in the form of CivBucks. You can earn them by playing or buy them outright. CivBucks have a number of uses; you can purchase new customization objects for your throne room or spend them on specific, temporary gameplay advantages. In an effort to maintain a level playing field and prevent players from simply buying a victory, there is a cap on the number of CivBucks that can be spent on influencing the game.
What you have here is a broad overview, a taste of what is to come when Civ World launches. It is difficult to imagine how this abundance of content gels together until you actually try it. An open beta is being prepped for this summer, so it hopefully won’t be too much longer before that time comes.