Game Review: Civilization V

Civilization V (2010) ★★

I think it’s by far the worst of the series. This is “Civilization for Dummies,” so to speak (as one reviewed called it). Consider:

1. The AI is primitive, as if it’s actually going backwards rather than forwards with time. Difficulty levels are determined by artificially giving the computer controlled civs more resources, not improving their intelligence. This was acceptable a decade ago. Now, it most definitely is not.

2. There are now almost as many Wonders as there are normal buildings, and the benefits they provide are seemingly random and unconnected with the actual building. The Kremlin is a modern Wonder. WTF. There is no longer that feeling of anticipation and even “wonder” when you manage to construct a Wonder.

3. I was really excited when I first learned that Civ 5 would have hexagonal tiles, being under the naively idiotic impression that it was going to inject a new operational-strategic element into military matters (e.g. attack bonuses for encirclements, etc). Instead we got a ban on unit stacking. It makes null and void one of the key elements of military theory–concentration of forces. Instead of rational responses to the well-known problems of unit stacking (e.g. making them more vulnerable to ranged and siege weapons; increasing unit costs in the Modern Age), it was eliminated altogether, with the result that the basic task of manoeuvring your units into position is now a logistical nightmare. But no matter, at least you no longer have to use your brainpower for real tasks, such as organizing an invasion fleet; everybody is now magically amphibious.

4. No control over the economy. Before you could channel revenue into science, culture, gold accumulation. I was looking forwards to further improvements, such as a national debt system, maybe. Nope. It got totally dumbed down.

5. The diplomacy system was dumbed down. The technology tree was dumbed down. Giant Death Robots–total pisstake.

6. You need a supercomputer to run the damn thing smoothly. My PC can run the latest shooters just fine, but for some reason, a turn based strategy game is too much for it once you get past about 5 civilizations on one map. In tandem with the retarded AI, this makes the experience like watching paint dry (as one reviewer put it).

7. Shit game progressively made slightly less shitty with consecutive $30 DLCs introducing elements that should have been core from the start, like religion and espionage. (Which, being an ever naive idiot, I continued buying and installing regardless, only to quit again in disgust after an evening or two of play, instead of adhering to principles and boycotting).

I dream of a Civ 6 that once again prides itself on complexity and a striving for some semblance of historical accuracy that characterized 1-4, but given the current trends towards making games accessible to console peasants, the emphasis on trinkets and graphics over AI, and the depressingly good reviews that Civ 5 has gotten, I’m not holding out on it.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.