The fundamental gameplay mechanics of Sid Meier’s consistently brilliant Civilization series quite frankly didn’t need any re-tuning. Like Nintendo’s immaculate Advance Wars series, Civilization’s all-encompassing purity seemed to have been oiled to faultlessness many moons ago, and more so than any comparable franchise that comes to mind, fans would have been more than happy with just more of the same. Civilization V does throw a handful of the old fundamentals straight out of the window, but fans should definitely rest easy. Every change has been made for the better.

If you’ve never played a Civ game before then the utterly peerless tutorial will set you straight in virtually no time at all. Fans are probably going to want to leap in with both feet in order to get their heads around everything that’s new completely on the fly, and this style of play is helpfully accommodated by an expertly measured learning curve. The somewhat cluttered and occasionally confusing nature of the menu system in previous Civ titles has been abandoned completely, and hints (usually offered up by the city advisers) are presented to you in a fashion that is never intrusive or inconsiderate.

The first thing that hardened Civ fans will notice (if they somehow weren’t already aware of it) is that play tiles are now hexagonal instead of square, but in truth this doesn’t really alter the dynamics of play at all, despite giving you the ability to attack from two fresh angles. You’ll notice one of the most pleasing alterations early on too; the fact that just filling tile-space no longer results in a stream of easy rewards. Maintenance costs are now involved from the off, so you’ll have to be careful about selecting exactly what to build, and when and where to build it. Building mistakes can be made early, but later on, and in multiplayer, you’ll want to avoid them entirely.

Perhaps most importantly, you are now also completely unable to stack your combat units. The old combat system was all about hidden mathematics and bore scant resemblance to actual warfare, and online it occasionally resulted in the odd unjust victory for a player who wasn’t embracing tactics of the cultural or economical variety at all. Only a single unit is allowed on each piece here, and it serves to completely un-cloud the battlefield. You’ll step into combat in Civilization V with a much, much clearer idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are, and in which direction each battle is likely to go.

Any purists who are beginning to suspect that a Civilization Revolution situation is on the cards here, are assured that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Civilization V is every bit as complex and epic in scope as Civ IV was, and only the very best things about Civ Revolution’s overall presentation have been cherry picked for inclusion here. It goes without saying that this is easily the most visually sumptuous game in the series though – but it’s also one of the best-looking, and slickest, games of its kind currently on the market; with some of the cutscenes virtually guaranteed to make your jaw drop.

It’s hard to picture anyone being disappointed with Civilization V; even those who’ve spent the past few years counting the days until its release. The hardcore, lifelong fans are probably going to sorely miss Leonard Nimoy’s cosy, fireside narration (that bestowed Civilization IV with some wonderfully avuncular class and personality) but that aside, there isn’t anything else here that is truly worthy of a complaint. The interface has been simplified but not dumbed down, the presentation is just plain world-class, and some brand new multiplayer modes are planned for the coming few months. If you have a decently specced PC in your home, our advice is simple: do NOT miss it.

Watch the trailer for Sid Meier’s Civilization here:

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