He’s got a whole world in his hands

Rating: 3/5

As someone who’s been pining for a DS version of Civilization for a couple of years, I wonder whether the realisation of such a product could ever have been anything other than a disappointment. Unfortunately, after a few weeks’ play, ‘disappointment’ pretty much sums up my opinion regarding the DS port of the latest game in the famous turn-based strategy series.

To be fair to Firaxis and Sid Meier, it’s actually the DS itself that causes some of the problems with this game, and the Civilization core remains largely intact. You get to take a civilization from prehistory to modern times, building and moving units, researching technology, and aiming to become the greatest in the world via various means (domination, economics, technology, or by building the UN). However, with Civ basically being a strategy title, it’s problematic when that aspect of the game is hampered.

First and foremost, the DS screen is too small to provide you with a decent overview of the world. Although the team wisely ditched the 3D graphics from the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions, opting instead for an iconic approach similar to the original Civilization, the map still feels cramped, and moving around it is a chore. This problem could have been alleviated somewhat by providing the option to allow the map to appear—at least optionally—on both screens; unfortunately, one screen is mostly reserved for pointless battle animations.

Elsewhere, the streamlining of the original concept to hammer it into consoles rather than PCs and Macs has neutered it. Although the game is faster, it’s become more of an overt race than a game of chess. Instead of investing in technology and thinking of long-term plans, a war-obsessed AI largely forces games into tending towards moving units, protracted wars and conquest. The technology tree is very basic, and random events are frequent and absurdly powerful. It’s not uncommon to end up with tanks in 200 AD, especially if you stumble across Atlantis, which always spews forth a number of technological advances.

It’s not all bad news—the game is quite fun, and gives you a quick Civ-style fix for when you’re away from your PC. However, rather than being captivating in a ‘total addiction’ sense, this game instead feels ‘annoyingly’ compelling in the same way as Puzzle Quest: you can’t put the game down, but in your heart of hearts you know it’s actually a somewhat tedious slog that could have been a lot better.

Civilization Revolution is already out in the US, and comes to Europe towards the end of August.

Civ on DS - sorta

Sadly, Civilization Revolution doesn’t have a whale unit—it’s just a resource icon.