Ah, the Civilization series. Where else will you find Abraham Lincoln building the Pyramids and Gandhi as a treaty-breaking warlord? Here’s a tip: don’t use this game to study up for your history final, because Civilization breaks all the rules when it comes to our understanding of human history. While this iPhone version of a recent console reboot is far livelier than a textbook, a few glaring bugs keep it short of Must Have status.
In Civilization Revolution, you choose a society to bring up from primitive settlements, starting at a time when both the alphabet and the wheel were novel ideas, and people never would have imagined “texting while driving”. As their glorious leader, you’ll take the army to war, commission Wonders, and manage the growth and production of your cities.
Welcome to our humble burg.
Civilization, the series, has evolved just as dramatically as the human history it portrays, and in Revolution, the game is about as streamlined as it’s ever been. Navigating through menus and keeping track of your progress is a snap with the touch screen, and unit movements (unthinkable without a keyboard just a few years ago) is done through context-sensitive commands that pop up when you select a unit.
While most of the time the game hums along at a nice clip, taking you through the eras like a stroll through an interactive museum exhibit, a few snags can slow or halt your progress. The “go to” command, which gets used a lot, is highly ineffective, because you can’t scroll the screen as you’re selecting a final destination. Instead, you have to tap your way along the map, which defeats the purpose of using a single button for long-distance movement.
Also, the game begins to chug a bit on a 3G handset as you approach the endgame, when the entire map is revealed and your enemies move their armies. Sometimes this actually kills your game, as we encountered more game-ending crashes when things get slow. Fortunately, you can save anywhere in multiple save slots, so thoughtful players shouldn’t lose too much progress from these crashes.
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If you’ve never played Civilization before, Revolution on the iPhone is a good place to start. You can play through an entire game in about two hours, and the five difficulty levels provide a nice, steady challenge curve. There are also multiple bonus scenarios, but they’re not too interesting’” they mostly involve preset tech bonuses and all have the same graphics (even, disappointingly, the “Beta Centauri” scenario, set in 2026 on what is supposed to be another planet).
Another oversight is that you can’t pick your map size or style in the main campaign. No “large water” map or “small land” map here’” just one size fits all. And while multiplayer would be a mind-blowing addition, Civ Rev on the iPhone is a single-player game only.
The snags and slowdown are disappointing, but Civilization Revolution, even in its current state, kept us stricken with “one more turn” disease. No other game lets you use fighter jets to blast spearmen, or hands the A-Bomb to Genghis Khan. With a few bug fixes and updates, Civilization Revolution could be one of the best strategy games on the iPhone’” one for the ages.