Review: Civilization Revolution (Xbox Live)
The long running strategy franchise has reached Xbox Live for your Windows Phone. First released back in 1991, it's a solid game that has a huge number of fans that's balanced by people who simply cannot get into the game with its huge depth and scope. How does it cope with Microsoft's smartphone platform? Let's find out.
Version Reviewed: 126.96.36.199
This current version of the game's code base started doing the rounds of the gaming platforms in 2008, covering a number of home consoles, the Nintendo DS, and smartphone platforms. The Windows Phone version appears to be a port from iOS - and the jump from touchscreen device 'A' to touchscreen device 'B' means the UI is well thought out, with lots of icons to interact with that have clear meaning. It's just that there is so much to interact with that it feels cramped on the screen as you work through the game.
The graphics aren't as crisp as they could be, there is a very tiny 'fuzz' at the edge of the graphics which lends a slight out of focus feel to them. You could argue that this is simply down to some poor resizing from the iOS version but any level of quality control would pick that up, so this has to be a design decision to create a warm feeling to the graphics. In a sense it does work, creating a look over all the screens and views that does fit with the slower pace of gameplay that is distinctive to the Civilization series.
If you're new to the Civ series, let's do a quick recap. It's a turn-based strategy game, with each turn able to span a number years. You start as a single settler in the year 4000 BC, and then as you explore, find resources, trade with other settlers, and build villages which will become towns and cities over the years, your civilization starts to grow.
As well as resource management and building, you also have to gain knowledge through research and discovery, and these can be used alongside the resources to build new tools and technology. Don't forget that civilizations aren't always friendly, so you can attack, and be attacked, as the game progresses.
There are a number of ways to win the game, through combat, the acquisition of knowledge, amassing gold, or building up technology to fly to Alpha Centauri. Yes, the scope of the game is that wide ranging.
I think the big issue with Civilization on a small screen, as I pointed out at the start of the review, is the huge amount of menus, options, and information, and these can be two or three taps deep. Add in all the options, and you can feel like you are playing hunt-a-tap, and this is the main reason Civilization Revolution is a very hard game for new players to get into. With so many different on screen controls, and statistics for everything in the game, all interacting with each other, it's a very hard game to make any headway with if you've never experienced it before.
There is some help, with Advisers popping up with explanations about the options available to you, but you still need to have the underpinnings of the game in your head to realise what they are talking about. Even in the trial mode, the difficulty curve starts off with a very steep climb for newcomers.
Civilization Revolution, like every Civ game, is an acquired taste. It's a strategy game with a huge amount of depth and interaction at every turn, and there's not a huge amount of documentation available to the player. It's enough to play the game, but I suspect you'll get much more out of Revolution by keeping a player guide or crib sheet to hand from a third party source such as Gamefaqs.
Neither do I think that Revolution is going to gain any new Civilization fans. There are far more accessible strategy games on Xbox Live (even from designer Sid Meier), and the scope of Civilization is enough to worry the casual player. But I don't think that's where the title is aimed. This is one for the converted - I think they're going to enjoy what they find on their smartphone, and I would recommend it for the faithful.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at