Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Civilization 5 Combat System

Civilization 5 is scheduled for later this year and already significant changes have been announced. Aside from the fact the game is now hex based, the biggest changes seem to be related to how the combat will function in this game. Crucially, you are only allowed one unit per hex, demolishing the standard Civ strategy of "stacks of doom" where you put all your troops in one big pile and advance them towards cities. Further, you are not allowed to leave troops in cities; instead, cities will require long and drawn out sieges. The idea behind this is to reduce the city centric wars that exist in Civilization 4.

The single unit per hex rule combined with the ability for ranged units to fire over hexes implies a much more zoomed in game. This would appear to be a move to make combat more tactical and less about numbers of units. If you can set up an effective choke point, it doesn't matter how many troops your opponent has, you just have your best unit block the way with archers behind them.

Also, there is talk of things like flanking bonuses for bringing your troops round enemies (though quite how this will work is unclear: will you have to point your troops in a specific direction?). All of this tactical layer sounds neat in principal. Wars have never held much attraction for me as they are too much of a slog towards the end of the game and I am not good at rushing. Hopefully the changes will make the wars more engaging.

If they are hoping to move the battles away from the cities the key thing they need to work on is making battles outside of a city beneficial. In Civilization 4, war was a serious thing. It wasn't permanent, but it had lasting diplomatic consequences with the AI and human players would rarely back down after a quick fight. Therefore, if you went to war, you could expect to be at it for quite a long time. The only thing that would justify the costs would be taking enemy cities. I think the early game could be more exciting if armies frequently clashed to capture resource points or territory. It would even fit with the time line, I can't imagine cave men had peace treaties with neighbouring tribes? As it stands, to capture enemy territory you have to capture the city that is creating the border, which seems a bit drastic for a small territory gain. And if Civ 5 make capturing cities harder, wars could just become and rare but final element of the game, no skirmishes, just total war.

My other concern is that it will be too much micro managing. Civilization is not a war game. War is a required part of the game play, but it is not the only part. By keeping it simple (as they have done up till now) it was assumed that your generals on the ground were managing your archers etc. and you just explained to them what you wanted to capture while you managed the economy, diplomacy and politics. How is having to position your archers behind your axe men going to fit with the pacing of the game? Will it heavily favour people who are prepared to do all this micromanaging?

The game is going to bring back advisor who will help you manage your cities, but I have never liked trusting the computer with tasks, particularly when it is optional and particularly when I enjoy managing my cities. Besides, that just means that those with the most patience will just manage it all and get an advantage at the cost of the pacing of the game.

Obviously, details are thin on the ground at the moment and I don't really know how any of this stuff is going to work.

"All your base are belong to us"