Firaxis has built something of an empire out of empowering gamers everywhere to cobble together globe-spanning empires of their own. "Civilization V" arrives in stores on September 21 and, after diving in for a marathon, day-long round of world domination with Raamses II and the Egyptian people, I'm pleased to report that the game is shaping up to be every bit the evolution over previous "Civ" games that a fan could hope for.
A lengthy list of changes have been made in "Civ V" over previous games, and a number of them will be immediately apparent the first time you play through you first game. After the jump, I've highlighted a few ways in which these new elements fundamentally change the way you play the game.
Settler Rush, Begone
If you're used to employing the strategy of an early settler rush, prepare to have your world shaken. Production of these units early on comes slower and there's less advantage in spreading out your starting cities to lay claim to a general area. Competing Civs will frequently complain with harshly worded diplomatic messages when you establish a new metropolis too close to their borders, though they won't hesitate to spread into your own lands. There's also a new thorn in everyone's side, these little mini-Civs called...
City-states are essentially one-city civilizations with fewer diplomatic options than a standard civ. You can support them with promises of protection or ignore them, but invade one and you risk angering any other civs they may have allied with. They pop up all over the place, making it difficult to focus on staking out borders by spreading out settlers across the land.
Manifest Destiny In Close Quarters
What all of this means is that staking out your borders in the early game is largely dependent on establishing a group of cities in relatively close proximity to one another, or even just sticking with your core capital and growing your influence from there. It feels as though the lands surrounding each city are put to better use by the game's automated management, which further encourages closely linking your metropolises.
No More Excessive Force
Also new is the removal of military unit stacking, even within cities; no longer is it possible to group vast armies together on a single square (now, hex). Instead, a one-unit-per-hex philosophy applies. Not only does this give more of a visual indication of the size of your armies, it also adds a new layer of small-unit tactics that have been absent in previous "Civilization" games. Really, between this, the city-states and the slower expansion, combat tactic and military strategy get a major shake-up in "Civ V."
Cities now have automatic defenses. These can of course be improved by building walls, castles and the like, as well as garrisoning one unit -- no more than one -- within its hex. The process of capturing a city is changed as a result; since it is no longer possible to stack up a large army in one space right outside, concerns such as angle of approach and unit locations make a huge difference. If you can't keep up a sustained attack during a single turn, units surrounding the city are left at risk when automated defenses strike out in the following turn.
Bonus: Giant Death Robots
Giant Death Robots are a new late-game military unit. And that's really all I have to say. Other than to reiterate that they're called Giant Death Robots.