Civilization – Or Watching the Simulation Play Itself

Ask any archaeologist or anthropologist, human civilization is an absolutely remarkable thing.

From squatting in caves and swinging through jungles atop vines, to skyscraping buildings that defy gravity and bending soundwaves to produce some of the world’s most beautiful musical compositions. Humanity’s existence, perseverance, and ingenuity is nothing short of a miracle – and Sid Meier knows this.

Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise has always been the go-to game for players looking to immerse themselves in a play arena steeped in human history, strategic movements, and a straight-to-the-vein addictive “one more turn” gameplay pattern.

The franchise has endured and flourished for well over a decade, but we can’t help but think that there might be something crucially amiss with the game’s formula. In short: the simulation.

Civilization is built on metrics. Dozens of them. Supply, demand, funding, culture points, research points, automated and un-automated movements, city-state interactions, player interactions, AI interactions… you get the picture.

In the past, noticeable lag used to occur when games would progress far enough along and the game AI would have to take longer and longer to calculate every movement and action resolving at the end of every turn. Yet while the newest iteration in the series has managed to remedy any optimization and performance issues, the simulation still bogs the game down.

At some point, no matter what your course of action or preferred win-condition is, the game starts playing itself.

We don’t mean that the entire game goes on autopilot. What we do mean is that at a sufficient point in every Civ match, there comes a time where the layers of complexity stack so high that player agency becomes severely limited – or any further attempts by the player to impact the game are nothing more than futilely attempting to chase a runaway carriage.

As such, the earlier portions of the match are far more important, the middle less so, and the later stages often become a result of watching the actions and decisions of earlier moves come to fruition or failure.

Although die-hard series fans are likely to be sharpening their pitchforks with every word that they read, we at The Game’s Edge believe that any game – especially a strategic one – would benefit from being engaging at all times rather than only up until a certain point.

It seems that the dev team knows this, and they’ve done their best over the years to add additional mechanics and systems – such as spy agents and religions. But the issues remain the same.

At this point, the lauded franchise can’t afford to change much for risking alienating their player base; change up the formula too much and you’ve got to find a brand-new audience for your game.

It appears that Civ will remain what it always has been – and maybe that’s not a bad thing. There truly is no better franchise than CIV to sit back, relax, and mindlessly click “next turn” while intermittently plotting the downfall of your enemies.

Casual world domination – just how we like it.

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