Game Review: Civilization Revolution

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Release and Features

Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution (CivRev) was released in July 2008 for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and Windows Phone. It featured 16 playable civilizations at launch, scenarios to play on, and five different difficulties to master. It was later released onto the iOS store years after it’s initial release, while the Xbox 360 version is now playable on an Xbox One, thanks to the system’s backwards-compatibility feature.

Every mainline Civilization game has had a short video play when booting up the game, which shows the progression through history. On Civilization Revolution’s PS3 and Xbox versions, one is treated to this opening cinematic every time they play the game. However, this feature was absent in the game’s later mobile ports. This is in tradition with nearly every mainstream Civilization game. Instead, the movie’s background theme will play on both the mobile and DS versions’ main menus. 

A Journey Through Time

This cinematic is one of Civilization’s better ones. There are no speaking lines, much like Civilization 4’s opening movie. These videos are supposed to be cool, fasicnating, and motivating. Civilization Revolution certainly does not disappoint when trying to do this.

The video starts out with a caveman drawing elaborate pictures on a wall with what appears to be fire soot. Then, the camera whirls around the man to show Julius Caesar in front of a massive audience. As flowers and confetti rain down, Caesar victoriously lifts his arms up, and the crowd roars, praising the victorious return from his conquest.

Enter Alexander

Then, the image again shifts to that of a knight, presumably Alexander, pulling a blade out of a sheath. He admires it, then points it forwards as if to simulate a battle charge. As he does this, the camera follows the blade, and doors open to a fiery expanse. Warriors on horses run by as fire spread across the ground behind them. This is signifying the domination and destruction of war in Civilization, and keeps on.

The camera again transitions back to the caveman, who draws lines to form another picture. Another transition occurs, this time taking us from the cave wall to a seaport. Two men (a navigator and Christopher Columbus) stand on a dock before a massive sea. Through stormy sea gales and crashing waves, we arrive to a peaceful expanse. We fly by the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, to what appears to be a luscious green island. There is a quick flash of light, and the scene again transitions to another point in history.

JFK and Other Interesting Scenes

Schematics of a spaceship spin on a dial as a silent scientist studies it, then turns to a suited man (John F. Kennedy) and waits for a response. Kennedy thinks about the notion, then nods. A military man thrusts a finger towards something, and fire ignites the inside of a rocket engine. Smoke billows out as the rocket ascends towards the heavens.

Another transition, and the rocket flies into space, where we see another mustached man in a pod going towards an impressive-looking spaceship. Suddenly, the picture fizzles out, and returns to the cave-painting from before. The caveman admires his work, then turns to his family, who watches him. Then, the picture zooms out, showing us the small family is on a mountain. Then, it fades to black, and a final tone plays as the words “CIVILIZATION REVOLUTION” appear on screen. Those looking for all 42 Civilizations in Civilization 6 can go here.

Review of This Video

This video is supposed to show humanity’s technological progression through time. I believe it captures that feeling perfectly, encapsulating domination, culture, exploration, discovery, and imagination. In my opinion, this movie is better than Civilization 5’s opening video. The lack of voice acting is not a downgrade either; while voices could explain what is going on, they don’t need to. One can clearly see what is going on.

The music in the background is empowering during each scene, it stays appropriate to what’s going on at the moment in the video. I believe it goes down in the books as one of the better Civilization opening movies, and fits the game’s purpose perfectly.

About the Game

Civilization Revolution was released on both console and mobile systems. Naturally, cross-version differences were present. In total, the console versions of the game (PS3 and Xbox 360) have the most superior graphics. This version of the game gives a bird’s eye view onto the earth. The maps are vibrant, and feels alive. In these two versions, the cinematic is present, multiplayer is automatically available on launch, and all 16 base civilizations are present.

Also In these versions, the screen is large enough to actually show more than one unit per square on screen at a time. If the player brings three units together, they’ll form an army. In the console versions, these actually look like real armies. Warriors and Infantry Armies consist of nine units, all on one square. A “tank army” consists of three tanks on one tile.

Mobile vs. Console

In the ports to the DS, iOS, and Android, CivRev had a considerable downgrade. For one thing, the DS’s dual-screen display was fully utilized. On the bottom of the screen showed the map, unit selection, and choices for the player to make in Diplomatic situations. On the top of screen showed the unit-tile advantages, city screen-output, and (when in Diplomatic situations), items of interest.

The graphics for CivRev DS look like a board game; units on the ground have a left or right facing picture, based on the direction they’re facing at that time. Ships can face three different directions. Leaders look even more 2D in the Nintendo DS. Yes, their faces will still move, but they won’t be performing silly actions on screen, unlike in CivRev on the console.

Not Good for iOS

On the iOS version, the downgrade is even more significant. If you have a small phone screen, you’ll regret playing this game. Each display takes up an entire screen. Diplomatic situations are more face-to-face, and unit battles take place in a small square. The game has a pastel-2D feel to it.

In both mobile ports, the opening cinematic is absent. However, the music present in the movie will still play. In the DS game, victory screens are actually superior to the PS3 and Xbox versions. In this, the player actually can read an events-timeline that won’t constantly move on them. They can also see an actual “area control” screen, where they can review the ever-changing dominant sphere of their empire.

In the mobile versions, the Trophy Room is also absent. On the console versions, this is where the player can view a lot of interesting things. These include leader busts, miniaturized wonders, portraits of Great People, and even a few “gifts” from caravans collected through the game. Also absent from the mobile versions is the Civilopedia.

Other Useful Pieces of Information

The Civilopedia is where one can see and research all of the game’s mechanics, features, and items. In here, one can learn about walls, leaders, governments, and other useful pieces of information. Sadly, this important feature was absent in the DS and iOS. However, this is understandable; the iOS and DS had restrictions on the space they could store in their game files. The Civilopedia explained everything. This probably took up a fifth of the entire game file size. So, it seems smart to cut it out.

The iOS and Android versions  also utilized In-App Purchases. Yes, the consoles had these as well, but not to the extent the mobile port had. In this, the player could buy all sorts of little items that added to the game’s base. These included Lighthouses, maps, and other features. However, it is probably not a good idea to spend your money on these items-the game is not available on modern day iOS versions.

Civilization Revolution came out more than 11 years ago, on last generation consoles. Many features weren’t present in the game at the time, and it wasn’t as convoluted as newer ones. Let’s see what things aren’t in Civilization Revolution that are in newer games like Civilization VI (which came out in 2016).

What Isn’t In Civilization Revolution

There are only 16 civilizations in Civilization Revolution, while there are 42 (with the addition of both Rise And Fall and Gathering Storms, Civ 6’s two main add on packs) in Civilization 6. Taking the entirety of Civilization Revolution and comparing that to Civilization 6 without the add-on packs, one finds that Civilization 6 only features 18 civilizations at launch (19 with a free DLC pack). In the newest Civilization game, there are certain leaders missing that were in CivRev.

In order to play as Mongolia, one needs to purchase an expansion pack. This is the same situation with Shaka of the Zulu. Elizabeth I of the English does not return to Civ 6, and England is instead led by Queen Victoria. Napoleon does not return, and France is instead led by Cathrine de Macici.

More Differences

Germany is also now different, being led by king Barbarossa, instead of Bismarck. Alexander the Great is not king of Greece anymore; instead, Pericles and Gorgo take his place. Instead, our fair-haired young king is the leader of Macedonia. Tokugawa of the Japanese did not return. Japan is instead led by Hojo Tokimune, the famous anti-Mongolian Buddhist.

Rome is now led by Trajan instead of Julius Caesar. Russia will now be led by Peter the Great instead of Catherine. Isabella of the Spanish was finally replaced by Pedro the Second after being featured in at least two games. Abraham Lincoln did not make another appearance, instead being replaced by the more modern Theodore Roosevelt. Finally, Mao of the Chinese was replaced by Qin Shi Huang.

New Units

Overall, Civilization 6 offered more civilizations at launch than CivRev did. Also, Civ6 offered a variety of leaders to choose from. It also offered updated character models and improved historical relevancies. Civ 6 has better unit development as well.

Civilization Revolution had what one could consider the “Bare-bones” of unit construction. There are no “five era unit developments.” You don’t get Scouts, and you can’t “upgrade” units to modern versions of themselves. For example, if your Ironclad is in friendly territory, you can upgrade it into a Destroyer if that corresponding unit has been unlocked. This allows for more strategic usefulness in war and combat situations.

In addition, CivRev doesn’t allow the player to properly dispose of their useless units. I’ve played this game hundreds, if not thousands, of times. This is what will happen: the game will order you to “end your turn”, and you’ll  wait for six turns. When ‘the order is complete’, the city has given you 15 archers. I’m not kidding about this, either; once, I asked my city to build a Tank unit.

Suddenly I have 15 tanks, only needing 3 to make an army. In Civ 5 and 6, you can choose to basically kill off units. That Great Person just being a useless bump on a log? Off him. Don’t need that Warrior Corps because everyone else is using guys with guns? No issue; kill them both with a simple command.

No Trader Units Not an Issue

Unlike Civ 6, there are no Trader units in CivRev. However, this isn’t too much of an issue. In Civ 6, one needs to establish trade routes between cities in order to establish roads. However, in CivRev, you only need to “build roads” between cities using Gold.

However, I noticed an issue with these two methods. In Civilization Revolution, roads are unable to be built if no open territory is present between two cities. These challenges restricted city connections in the old game, and made it a frustrating aspect for me when I was in this situation.

The Downsides to More Civilizations

Adding in all of Civilization 6’s downloadable content brings it’s civilization count to 42 civilizations and leaders. However, there are some civilizations, such as the Greek, with more than one leader.  CivRev only had 16. This is a massive downgrade if one wants to play as more countries.

However, this can also be seen as a good thing for the game. In Civilization 5 and 6, things can get convoluted and confusing if there are too many playable nations. In Civilization 6, one of the civilization featured in the base game are Norway. When I say this, I’m not trying to be offensive: Who remembers Norway?

Other than those who are into Viking mythology, from that region, or have researched that civilization, who knows about Norway? Another problem with this is that some of the civilizations can blend together. When you have less Civilizations to pick from, the scope of possibilities are considerably smaller. In Civilization Revolution, none can be confused with the Mongols or Japanese.

A reason this can be is that they are unique to each other. The French and Greek civilizations are different from each other in enough ways that playing them actually feels different. Some are better at culture, and others at war. Some are more war-like, and others are more prone to peace. Everything seems to stay away from each other, and bold lines exist between everyone.

No Scenario Customization

One thing that Civilization Revolution does not have that the newer games do have is scenario customization. Yes, the game has scenarios. But these are pre-set and cannot be changed. When starting a game, the player chooses the difficulty, their civilization, and that’s it. Not much changes when playing the scenarios.

In the newer Civ games, this changes. The default for “Create Game” in Civ 6 allows the player to customize a lot of things-Victory parameters, Civilizations in the game, map type, game length, and more. One huge feature is that a player of Civ 6 can actually play on Planet Earth as their chosen civilization’s start location (America, North America. Russia, Northern Siberia, etc.).  Yes, the game is 11 years old, but the lack of actual gamer choice is quite lackluster when comparing the game to it’s modern day successors.

Final Verdict

Civilization Revolution may be absent many features when compared to it’s successors. But, the game is still an epic turn-based strategy game despite this. The game does not feature as many technologies as Civilization 5 or 6, but that is the charming part about it. The game is what one can consider a classic- If one were to look at Civilization 5 and then at Revolution, they’d still be able to call Revolution a full fledged Civilization game.

This game set out to deliver a Civilization game to the mobile platforms and console systems, and it did not disappoint. While it may lack in several areas, it still provides hours of endless gameplay for anyone willing to replay it. It wont update any time soon, so no one should expect new additions to the content. However, it’s DLC does not add game-breaking features which could split the player base, and only adds to the fun already present in the game. Yes, player choice is highly restrictive at times. But one needs to remember that this was intentional; it was stripped down in order to fit everything onto one disk.

Revolution stands the test of time. A person who picks it up in 2008 could still play it in 2019, and still have the same amount of fun. Updates were not constant to the point of being annoying. Multiplayer on all platforms were available at launch (excluding iOS), and continued the tradition of “global domination” present in all modern Civilization games. Civilization Revolution is a classic beauty. It deserves to be considered as such by those who love older games. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to return to a simpler time of Civilization, and those who want a simpler adaptation of this type of game.

Author Profile

Peter Moon
Peter Moon
Peter Moon is a writer for NRN. He is a legally blind author who has been writing all of his life. Moon originally began with The University Conservative in October of 2018.