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Steam Version of Civilization V PC Game Review

by: Finn Orfano ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 5/2/2012 • Leave a comment

A review of the new Civilization V game for Windows. It covers what's new in Civ 5, such as the graphics and combat system, and how well it holds up to previous versions of the game.

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    Civilization 5 Steam Review

    Civilization V Box   Civilization V is here and it’s as addictive as ever. It features great new graphics, new features, and a new combat system while still maintaining the same core game mechanics that has made this series popular for so many years. If you enjoy playing the Civilization games then you should pick this game up, but make sure your computer can run it first. This Civilization 5 review will answer a lot of your questions about what to expect from this new game. This review addresses the Steam related elements and features of Civilization 5 along with general gameplay. Visit this linke for another Civilization 5 Review that does not go into the Steam issues.

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    Civilization 5 Steam Installation

    There has been some controversy over the install process of this game, and that needs to be addressed up front. Civilization V requires you to install via Steam. You have to create a Steam account (if you don’t already have one) and register the game’s unlock code through Steam. This means you can never resell or trade in the game. Steam also automatically updates the game for you, which some people like and some don’t.

    I bought the packaged version of Civ V and all it comes with is a fold-out flowchart of the progression through the research upgrades you earn in the game. Otherwise, there is no manual to teach you how to play. Since you already have to register through Steam, you might as well buy it through their service unless you want a big fold-out chart to hang on the wall beside your computer. Having the DVD only saves you the time of having to download it from Steam.

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    What’s New in Civilization 5 on Steam

    Civilization V introduces several new features as well as changes from the previous games. While the core gameplay mechanics are basically the same, these new features work to make the game a little easier to learn for beginners while also providing more detailed combat for veterans of the game who have always thought the combat system to be a little generic.


    Civ V Combat   The new combat system is a major overhaul from previous versions. First, you can’t stack units any more. There will be no more of the old tactic of putting a half dozen armies on top of each other in one square. Not being able to stack units means you will have to place different armies carefully depending on their power. Units that have ranged weapons, such as archers or riflemen, can fire from afar or even over their own troops. This means you need to learn how to position your melee fighters up front while backing them up with ranged attackers.

    You will find that there won’t be quite as much need to produce hordes of soldiers, so it is important to create tactical advantage by attacking with a balanced army. This gives the combat system more of a board game type feel, and it adds a new level of strategy to the game. At the same time, it’s fairly simple to grasp how battles should work, so it doesn’t overly complicate the gameplay.

    City States

    Another new addition to the Civ world are City States which surround the maps. These are independent single cities that provide missions and alliances with other civilizations in the game. You can also fight and take them over, or get them to fight for you against common enemies. I think the addition of the City States is nice because they help give you a little something more to do in the game. Often times, you can go long periods without doing much but waiting for stuff to build or research to complete, so the City States help to increase your involvement in the game.

    Other Changes

    I noticed a bunch of tweaks to the interface that are actually pretty helpful. You can simply select a purchase button and buy things to rush construction. You can also click from a menu to choose the resource focus for a particular city, such as focusing more on earning gold or food. Diplomacy is a little different than it was in Civilization IV. All in all, this is a whole new game with new features that will encourage you to keep playing and exploring as you build your civilization up in the world.

    (Image credit:

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    Civilization V Steam Gameplay

    Civilization 5   Everything that you love about Civilization is still here. I’ve been playing this game series since the very first Civilization came out for DOS-based computers back in the day. Despite numerous graphics changes, added features, and general complexities to enrich the experience, the core gameplay still remains the same. It’s still turn-based, barbarians are still a pain, and the citizens will always have a love/hate relationship with you based on your decisions.

    The purpose of this game is to build a civilization from scratch. You start out with some settlers where you establish a town, and from there you develop things like the wheel and pottery, learn how to mine and farm, and eventually this will lead into more advanced technology like gunpowder, steel, and more. By the end of the game, you could build and launch a spaceship or get in the middle of a global thermonuclear war with competing civilizations. The game employs several different ‘victory conditions’ so you can play the way you want, and each new game randomly generates a new map so you never get the same thing twice.

    Because you have so many options and ways to win, Civilization V is the type of game that you play over and over again with different results each time. This diversity is what has made this series so popular for so many years.

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    Civilization V Steam Graphics and Sound

    Civilization 5   The new graphics are the highlight of this game. Every aspect of the game has been fleshed out in more detail than ever before. Previous versions of Civilization have always been a little sparse when it comes to graphics, and that’s really because this type of game doesn’t need full 3D graphics. That being said, this is a visually busy game with lots of eye candy and animations.

    One major change from previous versions is that Civ V uses a hexagonal movement system, whereas before it has always used squares. This changes the amount of access that different areas have to each other, and is important for establishing tactical approaches during combat.

    Your units are now depicted as groups of individual soldiers instead of just one unit. That way you can look and see how many survived from battles and it’s easier to tell who needs to step back and heal. When battle takes place, each of the little soldiers fights it out with the enemy and the animation is different depending on their weapons. Archers fire volleys of arrows, catapults hurl stones, swordsman cut down barbarians, and so on. It gets even better once you’ve advanced enough to have gunpowder-based weaponry.

    Cities are depicted on the main map even more like how they look up close, so you can better tell what it is a city just from looking at it. In previous versions of Civ, graphical limitations made it to where you couldn’t quite tell what another city had until you looked inside of it. This attention to detail makes the game look a lot better and adds something more to the landscape.

    The sound effects and music are nice because it’s all quite ambient and flows together nicely. It’s not a noisy game and the background music is actually very nice. I tend to play with the sound kept very low since any important alerts include a visual component to go along with a sound effect.

    (Image credit:

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    Overall Civ 5 Steam Review Rating

    Civilization V Box   In conclusion, I really like Civilization V, but I am very disappointed with the way it forces me to register the game through Steam. It’s not like I planned on ever selling or trading in this game, but the Steam registration guarantees that I can’t do that. The principle of software as a service is something I don’t agree with, especially when it comes to computer games. This is why I have been opting for the PS3 version of most games that come out, simply because I can sell them when I am done with them. With most PC games these days, you can’t do that.

    Despite my frustration with the state of the PC game industry, I must say that Civilization V is a worthy member of this great series and I am looking forward to playing it for just as long as I have all the previous versions.

    Civilization V Pros:

    • Great new graphics.
    • More tactical combat system.
    • Easier resource management inside cities.
    • Endless replayability.

    Civilization V Cons:

    • Forced Steam registration.
    • Steep system requirements.
    • Once you start playing, you can kiss your productivity goodbye.
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    Civ 5 Steam System Requirements

    My computer can run Civilization V just fine, but the cooling fans all run full blast while I am playing. I try to play in 1-2 hour sessions and then give the computer a rest so it doesn’t overheat. If your computer is more than 2-3 years old, you may have trouble running this game, but then again you'd have trouble running most any new PC game.

    • My system: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5000+ processor with 3 gigs of RAM and an nVidia GeForce GTS 250 video card with 1 Gig of video memory. I am also running Windows 7 from a fresh install on a new hard drive. My video card takes up a lot of slack for the rest of my system.
    • Minimum system requirements: Windows 7/Vista/XP, Intel Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz or AMD x2 64 2.0 GHz, 2 gigs RAM, 8 GB hard drive space, and at least 256 MB video memory in an ATI HD2600 XT or nVidia 7900 GS or Core i3 integrated graphics.
    • Recommended system requirements: 1.8 GHz Quad Core CPU, 4 gigs RAM, 512 MB ATI 4800 series or better or a 512 MB nVidia 9800 series of better video card. This game does support DirectX 11.

    If you're worried that your computer can't handle Civilization V, you may consider picking up Civilization: Revolution for your PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 game console.

Playing Civilization V on Steam

A review of playing Civilization V on Steam and a guide on how to avoid it.
  1. Steam Version of Civilization V PC Game Review
  2. Do You Want to Play Civilization V Without Steam?