Version Reviewed: 1.0
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Game Controls Rating:
User Interface Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
People often describe games on the iPhone as "addictive," or, if they're using improper grammar, "addicting." Well, you haven't experienced addiction on the iPhone until you've played Sid Meier's classic strategy game Civilization Revolutions. The port isn't perfect, and the graphics won't wow you, but the gameplay still holds up exceptionally well after the translation.
In Civilization, the goal is simple: to become the dominant civilization on Earth. How you get there, though, is a whole different matter. You start the normal game mode by picking one of 16 civilizations to play with, each of which is coupled with a famous leader. These civilizations have different starting bonuses, so it is wise to pick one that fits your strategy. From there, the game is turn-based, with four other civilizations taking up map space. The game is not quite as deep as the PC version, as there is less resource management, but the depth is still seemingly bottomless. The game includes: a large roster of unique units which can gain abilities and stats based on their performance in battle, a good amount of buildings, which give your city bonuses, great wonders to build, great people of history that are attracted your city based on your culture, a variety of terrain types, a robust technology tree, settlers which can build cities, a complex government system, a citizen happiness system, a diplomacy and trading system, and much more. If I listed every strategic element to the game, you might develop carpal tunnel syndrome from scrolling down the page so much. My only major gameplay complaint is that there is no option for map size, and the maps feel slightly cramped. The strategy is perfectly balanced, and with five difficulty levels, you can choose to play the game with as much depth as suits you. During a turn, you can move and activate units based on their movement ratings, utilize diplomacy with other nations, manage city gold, buildings, and wonders, and more. Each turn causes to advance the game a certain amount of years; the game, which starts based in ancient civilization, first advances 100 years at a time, but by modern times, turns only take two years. Games will last at least around two hours, and with the five difficulty modes, 16 civilizations, and random maps, the replay value is immense. The elegant thing about Civilization is that there are four ways to win (or lose, if the other civilizations beat you to it): militarily, scientifically, culturally, or economically. You can defeat all other nations in battle, send the Alpha Centauri mission to the moon, accumulate 20 combined great people of history and wonders of the world, allowing you to build the United Nations (now it can't be said that the organization does nothing!), or accumulate enough gold in your treasury to build the world bank. Each of these objectives totally changes the way you play the game.
In scenario mode, you are given a choice of a bevy of scenarios, each taking place with different resources, at different points in history, with differently developed civilizations, and with different objectives. These are pretty well done, and although they are definitely not the main draw, they are fun to play in bursts nonetheless.
Controls and interface in ports are key, and the ones in Civilization are far from perfect, they don't interfere with the gameplay. The city management interface is well done, but slightly cramped. The unit interface is decent (tapping on a unit displays its option; in addition to a specific movement option you can tap and drag a unit to move it) with one notable exception: when moving a unit, if you move your finger to the side of the game screen, it does not automatically scroll, meaning you'll have to zoom out and start your move all over again, which is a major pain. Another complaint is the slight intentional lag when scrolling the screen. One thing I really appreciate about the sub-menu buttons is that they each require two taps, limiting costly mistakes. Some menus can also be navigated using accelerometer, which just seems odd and out-of-place. The game comes with several manual save slots in addition to a nicely implemented auto-save feature that allows you to quickly resume a game if interrupted.
Graphics in strategy games are not supreme, which is good for Civilization Revolutions. The graphics aren't bad, just not very detailed and a little cartoony; you can tell they've been taken straight from the Nintendo DS version. In addition, battles generate short animated cut-scenes, which are fine, but I could certainly do without. There is also the curious matter of the game placing no limit on zooming, and if you zoom too much, you'll get an eye-full of pixels. There have also been reports of lag on iPhone 3G's, but on mine, the lag is minimal to nonexistent (make sure you restart your phone!). When you're totally engrossed in the gameplay however, I doubt you'll be worrying much about the graphics, and same for the audio - no prevalent music to speak of, but nice ambient sounds, decent sound effects, and fun short bursts of music.
Civilization Revolution, is, in my mind, the best strategy game for the iPhone, and for fans of the genre, at the bargain price of $4.99, it's a no-brainer. Be warned though, before starting a game, make sure you have plenty of free time, as once you start a game, it's awfully tough to stop before you've achieved world domination.