Sid Meier's Civilization

Obviously, I love the Sid Meier's Civilization game franchise. I've been playing it since Civ III, and even own the Fantasy Flight board game (which I also really like). This game series has kept me up, one-more-turning, into the wee hours of the morning on many occasions. Despite my love for the games, this series can also really grind my gears sometimes.

One of my persistent frustrations with the Civilization series of games is the way that it handles difficulty levels. Granted, this seems to be a common issue in all strategy games, so Civ is certainly not unique in this frustration. Basically, the higher difficulties don't make the A.I.s play better; rather, it just gives them free stuff at the beginning of the game, and buffs their production, research, and so on. The free stuff includes (depending on the difficulty level selected): extra settlers, extra military units, free workers/builders, free technologies, extra gold, extra population in its starting city, and so forth.

There's three key problems with this design paradigm:

  • It front-loads the challenge in a game that is supposed to have very long play-sessions
  • It limits player options
  • It rushes the pace of the game

The front-loading of frustration

Giving the A.I.s extra stuff at the beginning of the game only makes the game harder by giving the A.I.s a handicap - a head start. It doesn't make the A.I.s better - or the game harder - in the long run. The A.I.s still chose crappy locations for those extra settlers to plant their cities - often putting them in un-productive locations, or (in the case of Civ VI) putting them so close together that they can't fit enough districts in. The A.I. doesn't plan ahead regarding where its districts will be, and it often places those districts in sub-optimal locations. "Sub-optimal" being an understatement.

Civilization VI - A.I. free settlers
The A.I. starting with extra settlers on high difficulties doesn't make the game harder in the long run.

Those free extra units aren't used more effectively either. Even with a few extra warriors, the A.I. still can't plan or execute a city siege, as it's generally inept at handling the one-unit-per-tile, hex-based combat, and they rarely bother to escort their civilian units. The developers can't be completely blamed for this, as A.I. for tactical combat is a very difficult problem to solve. Most games that have A.I.-driven tactical combat either don't have any grand strategy at all (as in Panzer General), or the grand strategy is separated into a completely different layer of gameplay (as in Total War).

Once the human player can get his or her cities up and running, get a sizable military built, and start conquering the A.I., all these free starting units become moot. These extra units can even backfire. A.I. cities can usually easily be captured by the human player. Since the A.I. gets buffs towards population growth, production, and other yields, those cities tend to grow faster than the player's cities anyway. So if they're conquered, then the human player gets better cities than they could have founded on their own, and gets them sooner than if they had spent the time to build their own settlers.

Civilization VI - capturing A.I. cities
It's not hard to capture A.I. cities, which are often larger and more developed
than any city the player could have founded within the same amount of time.

These early hurdles aren't that difficult to overcome, and once the A.I.'s starting advantages have been neutralized, they don't pose much of an increased threat long-term...

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Civilization V

Following up on my previous post about the Top 10 good ideas in Civilization V, here is a list of the opposite: the flaws and annoyances in the game's design that really grind my gears and make me nostalgic for the older games and wishing for dramatic changes in future sequels.

And since I'm always eager to provide constructive criticism where I can, I will propose ideas for addressing some of the problems with these features where relevant. The hope is that future games in the series will be able to learn from Civ V failures and successes and be better games.

Of course, any list of "good ideas" or "bad ideas" is going to be subjective. You may not agree with my opinions, and that's OK. If there's any features, mechanics, or design decisions that you really hate in Civilization V, its DLC, or its two expansions, please feel free to leave a comment!

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Civilization V

With Starships released, an expansion for Beyond Earth announced, and support for Civ V apparently done, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the game. I'm going to spend a few posts to discuss what Civ V did right, and what it did wrong, so that future games can learn lessons from this iteration's successes and failures.

Here I will present a Top 10 list of my favorite new features, mechanics, and design philosophies in Sid Meier's Civilization V (and its two expansion). These are the elements of the game that stood out the most to me as contributing to the fun and addictiveness of the game, and which push the series in positive directions. Most of these features are things that I would probably like to see return in future sequels.

But even though my intent here is to shine glowing praise on Civ V, I'm not going to ignore the faults of even my favorite features. Some of these mechanics are great ideas, but still suffered from problems in execution. So I won't shy away from constructive criticism where applicable, and I'll make recommendations to improve these great features in the future.

In a future post, I will also look at the things that Civ V got wrong.

Of course, any list of "good ideas" or "bad ideas" is going to be subjective. You may not agree with my opinions, and that's OK. If there's any features, mechanics, or design decisions that you really love in Civilization V, its DLC, or its two expansions, please feel free to leave a comment!

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Bloodborne title

A couple weeks ago, I published some basic tips for playing Bloodborne. That post focuses mostly on the major mechanical differences between Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and how your strategies and tactics should be adjusted to compensate.

In this post, I'm going to go a little bit more in-depth into some of the game's features in order to provide some more advanced strategies and tips that will become useful for players as they progress deeper into the game. As before, these will be general tips. I will not focus on tactics for defeating specific enemies, bosses, or levels. I invite you to view any number of walkthroughs, strategy guides, and let's plays scattered around the internet if you're interested in how to beat a certain part of the game.

But if you know any general tips that I missed, feel free to post a comment!

Trying to find your blood echoes after dying can be annoying in Bloodborne. This is because it isn't in a predictable location every time. Sometimes it will be held by a specific enemy that you have to kill in order to retrieve the blood echoes. Other times it will just be dropped on the ground near where you died. This does make the game a bit more challenging, since you usually have to defeat an enemy in order to regain you echoes, rather than just sprinting through the level to pick them up like you could in Dark Souls.

Bloodborne - echo retrieval
Look for the enemy with the glowy, purple eyes. It won't necessarily be the same enemy that killed you.

If the blood echoes are held by an enemy, that enemy's eyes will glow with a bright purple-ish energy. But the enemy that holds the blood echoes is not necessarily the same enemy that killed you. The echoes could be given to the closest enemy. When attempting to retrieve your echoes, try to do some recon of an area to find out which enemy has your blood echoes. If you're lucky, it may be an enemy that is easier to get to ...

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Civilization V: Brave New World - banner

In my review of the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V, I expressed some disappointment that some of the legacy civilizations didn't receive significant updates. I also complained about a few mechanical issues such as how the "warmonger" mechanic works and the value of trade routes. Well, Firaxis has released a major update to the game earlier this fall that addresses some of these complaints.

Civilization V: Brave New World - German Hanse bank

Several of the vanilla civilizations received a major overhaul. As I mentioned in my review, Germany and America seem to have been completely one-upped by the Zulu and Shoshone. Well, Germany has been given a major update, and America has received a small tweak in order to better differentiate them from the BNW successors. In addition, Japan has received a small (but significant) buff.

Germany was probably the civ that was in the most dire need of a facelift, since the Zulu leave them completely in the dust. Both civs had a huge military flavor, discounts for unit maintenance, and a unique Pikeman replacement, and the Zulu had Germany beat on all accounts. In order to differentiate the two, The Landsknechts unique unit was replaced with a new unique building, the "Hanse".

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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