Jan. 13th, 2013

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I can find neither my post on the game toy continuum nor the article I originally stole the idea from, so I'm going to give a quick recap. Games have specific rules about how you are supposed to play them, toys are things you make up games with. A doll is almost entirely toy, "monopoly" has very specific rules and is very much a game (although the prevalence of house rules makes it more toy like than other, more complicated games). Despite the name, table top role playing games are very toy like. The computer game concept "linear" translates to "game" pretty well.

Which brings me to Civilization 5. I had previously played 2, 4, and Colonization. It is perhaps instructive to note that I loved Colonization to death for letting me make elaborate supply chains, but always quit when they got to the part of the game where you rebelled against your colonial masters. That was partially because it was so unwinnable I assumed I fundamentally misunderstood the game, but maybe also because I just don't care. I was never very interested in the military portions of traditional civ games either, unless it was civ 2 and I was playing the Germans in the World War 2 scenario, because you could just crush everyone.

A lot of people have complained that Civ 5 dumbed down the concept, but I do not think that is fair. I think that what Civ 5 did is move closer to toy. They got rid of a lot of fiddly bits and gave you the choice to automate many others. When I play, I find myself obsessed with harvesting resources. I research technologies mainly with an eye towards revealing and using more resources. Some of these resources have strategic value, but I don't really care. I just like imagining the diversified economy they would create.

Alas, the you can't automate war the way you can automate landscape improvements. This means I either have to stick to the easiest AI levels (who can be bought off or defeated without effort) or invest a bunch of time on a bunch of stupid military units. Their weird decision to make units unstackable doesn't so much make the game harder or easier as make the payoff curve for thought investment really lumpy. For Civ 6, I seriously want them to implement a way to specify military spending, possibly the cities involved in building, and then have the AI worry about building and directing units. This would allow me to focus on my core competency, finding new sources of citrus.

I have several friends who love this toyness of Civilization, many of whom don't otherwise play video games. I have a single friend who really loves 4x games in general, but never warmed to civ. So my conclusion is that Civilization 5 is a mediocre game but a bang up toy. The UI design is fantastic, the graphics are pleasant, and if it's a little slow even on my new 200 gb SSD*, it is a cost worth paying.


*I didn't buy civ 5 myself because it was over my $5 limit on games, a friend bought it for me for New Years. But once I had it, and I accidentally stabbed my OS in the heart around the same time, it totally seemed worth $250 to upgrade to a full size SSD so I could stop constantly fighting to get programs to run from secondary drives. And play civ significantly faster.

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May 2014

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