Civilization fans have been waiting since 2005 for the next major installment in the beloved strategy game of world conquest. With Civilization V the developers (Sid Meier's Firaxis studio) have completely re-thought the experience that is Civilization, introducing new features in an attempt to make the game both simpler to play but deeper to master. I got a chance to attend a live demo of the game here at E3 and let me tell you, Civilization is back in a big way.
Apart from obvious improvements like better graphics and sound, the developer has made several gameplay tweaks to help streamline the experience for players new to the series as well as to satisfy the hardcore Civilization fans that have stood by the series over the years. The first of these are the new city states. These are small independant nations that you can interact with to change the local political situation in your favour. For example, if you have an economic partnership with a city state and a rival nation attempts to claim said city state, you can decide to help them and in exchange your relationship will improve.
A second important feature making its debut in Civilization V is that now only one unit type can occupy a space on the map. This change was made to add more strategy elements to the combat instead of simply building up a monster force. Now your units have to be strategically placed and your attacks have to be well planned if you are to achieve success.
The world leaders have also been completely revamped. Now instead of a pop-up with the leaders' face, these historic figures are now rendered in full 3D, but more importantly, they react to your tactics and will always be 'thinking' of ways to try and defeat you instead of relying on a pre-determined strategy.
But the most important change that number five brings to the series is the change from the traditional square panels to hexagon panels. These offer greater flexibility in your options when it comes to attacking and exploring and give the player new strategic considerations to ponder over that were impossible in previous games in the series.
The version featured in the demo was obviously not the final build of the game, but if the developers stay on track it looks like Civilization V will turn out just fine. Look for Civilization V to hit stores in September of 2010.