Civilization V is a throwback to the days when gamers could sit back, survey their situation, and take a goddamn moment to make a decision. The slick, turn-based strategy game gives players a God’s-eye view of an empire being built step-by-step from the seed of a single city. The process can take ages, thanks to the game’s deliberate pace. But the respite from blink-and-you’re-dead combat is more than welcome.
Several gameplay changes in the venerable series make the game feel significantly different from prior entries. Civilization V’s global map is now segmented by a hex-shaped grid—the preferred map-style of tabletop war-gamers. And combat units (with rare exceptions) can no longer pile into massive “stacks of doom.” That means that players have to think much more about the strengths, weaknesses, and positions of their individual combat units.
On the macro level, Civilization V doesn’t seem terribly altered. The game’s interface is handsome and a pleasure to navigate. Alerts at the right of the screen make it easy to attend to battles or cities that require attention. But the overarching experience remains the same: You laboriously build your empire one city, building, and battle at a time.
The real miracle of Civilization V is how effortlessly the game delivers its take on global empire-building. Beneath its well-polished hood, Civilization V is deep and complex. But where it counts, the game feels deceptively simple. You call every shot one at a time, based on the clear information you’re given, and watch as time tells whether your moves were wise or foolish. There are few better ways to spend time hunched over your PC.