Civilization has always been one of the most meaningful gaming experiences of my life, trailing back about as far as Sid Meiers decided that he wanted to peddle a more brightly colored version of electronic crack. It’s a smart, grandiose sort of experience for those of us who weren’t content to play a single hero on the ground floor–we were the egomaniacs who wanted to be gods.
For years, Civ has made and remade itself in various incarnations, with one of the more recent being the Civilization: Revolution iteration. With a simpler, more cartoony style than most of its predecessors, Revolution was released in 2008 for consoles, and later for mobile devices. It was a scaled-down, more streamlined experience, adapted with newcomers in mind, but nuanced enough to entertain even the most jaded of grognards. I’m of the opinion that Revolution was meant to be a colorful taste to get console gamers to dive into the more complex, sprawling hinterlands of Civilization IV and later Civilization V.
On July 2nd of this year, 2K Games released Civilization Revolution 2 for iOS, or, as I like to call it: Civilization Revolution 1 for everything else. That’s not to suggest that it’s a bad game–far from it. But it’s essentially the Civilization Revolution that was too complex to be originally ported to mobile devices in the first place. The first incarnation of CivRev was a vastly clunky and primitive experience compared to its console iterations, and that seems to be where this sequel has shined through.
Your victory conditions are largely the same as the original, with a few new pieces thrown in. Goal challenges are a nice touch, with bonuses offered as an incentive to various conditions, i.e., research a certain technology by a certain time, or have a number of cities by a specific year. There are a couple of unlockable leaders and a few new technologies and wonders, but the real reason for Civilization Revolution 2 seems to be that it just flat-out doesn’t look as awful as Civilization Revolution originally looked as a mobile game.
It’s lush, gorgeous, and heavily engaging in all the ways the original CivRev for the iPad was not. Animations run smoothly, and the color-palette runs an interesting gamut that is one part cartoon and one part tabletop terrain. I’d argue that it’s actually prettier than my more-familiar Xbox 360 version. But seasoned Civ players looking for more than the opportunity to play as Winston Churchill against a pretty backdrop (which admittedly is an amazing incentive) might find themselves disappointed. Multiplayer is conspicuously absent, and details such as unit selection aren’t always terribly obvious.
That said, it’s pretty clear that CivRev 2 isn’t meant to replace or overthrow Civilization V (or IV, for that matter), but instead supplement and entice. Players unfamiliar with Sid Meiers’s Jabberwocky of a game could (and will) be drawn into a classic entry in the canon of strategy gaming. Old-hat civ players will have a scaled-down but still meaningful experience that they can take wherever they go.
Ultimately, what Civilization Revolution 2 represents isn’t a new crown upon the brow of the Civilization franchise itself, but an improvement on what tablet gaming can be. And if that means in the future we can be playing Civilization 5 on our iPads between sessions of Civilization 9 on our PC, it just might be worth it.