Veni, vidi, vinco   Leave a comment

Can they build a civilisation to stand the test of time?

On Saturday my sore throat morphed into full-on Lurgy, so that was an excuse to, instead of doing anything useful or productive, do something fun and interesting; I stayed in and played Civilization 5 all day.

Well, I did make it to Lidl to buy some stuff for dinner. And wound up buying loads of Mediterraneany biscuits, and two boxes of Halva. I had absolutely no idea what Halva is, so what else could I do? Besides, it has Tahini in it, and so does houmous, and houmous is nice so therefore. One is chocolate, the other almond. I didn’t actually eat any of those goodies, but I did eat an almond bar which put me 240kCal over the day’s limit. Look, I was ill, and almonds are good for you. Despite having at least the same calorific density as chocolate. OK, the gingerbread hearts probably didn’t help either, but I ate them first.

The rest of the day, as mentioned, was playing Civilization 5. My first game was the tutorial one, which shoves you on the smallest map, at the easiest difficulty, with advisors on overdrive and only one opponent, just to get the hang of what the buttons do. Gandhi’s capital was captured – domination victory! – before the year zero, as you’d hope.

Next was a standard game as the Romans, on Prince difficulty where the AI isn’t crippled but doesn’t receive any special bonuses. My starting position didn’t look good, but I wasn’t expecting to do terribly well so figured I’d stick with it. Besides, I didn’t know the game well enough to be sure.
So far (as of the time of writing) I really like the changes they’ve made since Civ IV. Hexes are always good, if for no other reason than they make things look like a proper strategy game, despite actually reducing the number of tiles you can reach from any other; Civ’s always let corner-to-corner diagonal movement be the same as edge-to-edge movement, so really it was octagons rather than squares. But no longer must you zig-zag for optimal exploration. The combat changes have made wars a lot more interesting than just building a Massive Stack of Doom; only one military unit per tile, ranged units, one unit not necessarily being destroyed in any fight. Definitely better. The social policies unlocking tree thing is a lot more interesting than Civ IV’s, too. I prefer the new purchasing mechanic, and I think I like Science, Culture and Technology all being entirely separate resources rather than just how you set your sliders.

However, it’s not perfect. It’s my second ever game, I’m playing on Prince (equivalent to Noble in previous versions), I’ve not seen most of the tech tree before and am probably picking research and city upgrades rather haphazardly… And I’m winning. I’m no Civilization genius, and I’m only just ahead of the French, but ahead I am.
The problem is the AI (I’m playing it fully patched, which is supposed to contain a lot of improvements). Strategically, so far, it seems OK. Not good, but OK. Some civs are doing well; the French particularly, and most others on their continent are doing OK. Some are doing badly (only one AI is doing OK on my continent, but he’d be doing better without my interference). As you’d expect, and dependent on all sorts of factors. The AI seems reasonable when trading, only demanding ludicrous payments if it only has one of a resource, which seems fair enough.
But when it comes to declaring and fighting wars, it’s rubbish. It just doesn’t take so much into account… Recently I had the Ottomans declare war on me. They have the lowest score in the game, they have lower tech and production, and smaller, poorer cities than I do. Their military outnumbered me, but by completely failing to take into account defence advantage (cities can now defend themselves and bombard enemy units, which is ever so useful), my superior wealth and production (I can buy units instantly if I can afford them, whilst also building something else), and simply being rubbish at tactical combat, I was easily able to kill his attacking forces, and then go on the offensive. So far I’ve destroyed two of his four cities, which was quite convenient because one of them was preventing me from building in the square I wanted. But up until that point we’d been friends, with all sorts of trading and agreements, and I was undeniably more powerful. It made no sense for him to attack me.
It’s also not always good at ending wars when it’s in its best interests, either. The Mongols quit before they were too far behind both times I fought them, but the Japanese… Look, when your capital is a single turn from capture, you beg for peace, and your enemy says “OK, give me all your money”, you say “Here you go”. You don’t say it’s unacceptable. And you certainly don’t repeat this mistake when your enemy rolls over to your last city.

So that’s my impression so far (remembering that I’m only up to Rennaisance tech so far, so there’s plenty I’ve not tried): I really like the game, but the opponents aren’t up to snuff. I think I’ll get at least another game out of it after this one, but I’m not sure it’ll have sticking power anywhere near Civ IV if this really is the AI playing at its full capability. I could ramp up the difficulty to give the AI bonuses, but I don’t really like doing that. I hate cheating AI.

I don’t usually complain about things being too easy…

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Posted 13 October 2011 by Colthor in Diary

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