Facebook seems to be the platform of choice for social gaming these days, and so it’s no surprise that established game franchises are looking to the social network to expand their player base. Among PC gaming franchises, Sid Meier’s Civilization series is by far one of the most successful and popular strategy games of all time with a die-hard fan following. The series is well known for its massive scope, historical precedence, and addictive gameplay as players march through time managing resources, military, technology, and diplomacy to order to create the greatest civilization in the world. Now, 20 years after the first Civilization title hit in 1991, CivWorld has launched in open beta on Facebook, allowing you to create civilizations with and even conquer the most important people in your life: your friends and family.
As its title implies, CivWorld is about building a civilization. However, unlike its earlier incarnations that involved building and managing multiple cities at a time, players have only one city throughout the game. You build your city by growing the population and managing resources through various actions of your citizens, which include farmers, workers, scientists, merchants, and artists. Resources help you build buildings, acquire military units, and purchase various items in the market.
While running your own city can be fun, it takes an empire to rule the world. You can join a civilization and collaborate with other players to wage war, contribute to technological advances and wonders of the world, and pass civic resolutions, such as universal suffrage. Additionally, there are three minigames that allow you to collect science, gold, or culture resources: a classic maze game, a swapping tile game of artistic masterpieces, and a pathfinding game for caravans.
Through various actions, you acquire fame points, which are tracked on the leader board. Points are also earned through winning medals for achievements, certain auctions and contests. These points can help you earn ministerial posts to make decisions for the civilization to vote on, even moving your way up to being the king. Fame points ultimately determine who the winner of the game is.
Though CivWorld can be described as a casual strategy game, this latest incarnation of Civilization is as addictive as its predecessors, even for the hardcore player. After all, no one just gets handed power…it is something that has to be earned with keen judgment, impeccable timing, and a sense of how the system works. Each game can have up to 200 players, providing a group large enough to know one another by name but not as overwhelming as other massively multiplayer games. This number of players also helps keep the market economy in check, something that tends to ruin many online games. Furthermore, the game has an end, though it may take a number of weeks to reach it. This avoids the pitfall of many online games that once you fall behind, you can never catch up to the leaders or a sense that you are competing with everyone on Facebook.
The increasing social elements of the web are killing games that are not connected online, like many PC games with minimal social functions or limited numbers of players. CivWorld does an excellent job of making a challenging yet fun strategy game against cunning opponents that goes deeper than some other games that are all about the clicks. And while its free to play, it uses the popular business model of selling premium game currency aptly named, CivBucks, that can be used to buy anything that you can earn in game.
Unfortunately, there has been a downside to all this strategy game goodness. The launch of CivWorld was met with a slew of server issues, some of which continue even after weeks of the game being live. A slew of disappointed posts can be found around the web as many bloggers could not get on the server and continue to experience accessibility problems. For a game that was in development for 18 months, which is much longer than a typical Facebook game, expectations of stability were much higher. However, the early kinks seem to have been mostly ironed out and only short downtimes are experienced.
It’s pretty clear that the social side of the web has been dominating the discussion about the future of online life for years. CivWorld is another instance in an increasing trend among game companies to get their IPs into this social arena. Another reincarnation of a classic PC game is Age of Empires Online, now also in open beta, but because it is a Microsoft game, uses the Windows Live network, which itself has 500 million Hotmail and Messenger users. But it’s hard to argue against Facebook as a platform with its 750 million active users, half of which log on daily. And interest in CivWorld seems high with its 200,000+ likes on its Facebook page.
But Facebook is still not the ideal platform for games simply because of another force that is shaping online life: mobile phones and tablets. Unfortunately, many of the Facebook games, including CivWorld, are Flash-based, which is not supported on Apple iPhones or iPads. This is a problem, considering that 20 million iPhones and 9 million iPads sold in the last three months, so even accessing Facebook in Safari will not let you play. Though Facebook has an unwieldy iPhone app, it is getting ready to launch an optimized app for the iPad, which will continue to marry the social network with mobile access. Let’s hope that as Facebook matures as a gaming platform, games like CivWorld will find a way to either move away from Flash or create their own app for devices. Either way, expect to see more gaming classics move into the social space.
Overall, CivWorld is a fun and deeper gaming experience than many games on Facebook, and finally integrates social life into the Civilization series. Now it’s time to go play it for yourself so you can dominate your Facebook friends, that is, if you can get them to stop playing Farmville long enough. You can also check out a GameSpot review below:
[Media: 2kgames, YouTube]