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Civilization: Revolution 2 iOS Review: Back to the Stone Age

In attempting to start fresh with this sequel Civilization: Revolution, the series has taken an inadvertent step back.

This article first appeared on USgamer, a partner publication of VG247. Some content, such as this article, has been migrated to VG247 for posterity after USgamer's closure - but it has not been edited or further vetted by the VG247 team.

Civilization: Revolution II is emblematic of some of what's wrong with mobile gaming today. Less a step forward than an attempt to reboot the six-year-old spinoff, its main addition of note is a new graphics engine. In some ways, it's actually a step back.

If it were on consoles, it would be eviscerated for failing to make any meaningful additions while dropping features of note like multiplayer. But in the world of mobile gaming, it's par for the course to reset the update list to zero and start fresh, even for a $15 game like Civilization: Revolution 2. More than anything, it comes off as less than a game and more of an attempt to refresh Civilization: Revolution's revenue stream.

Granted, much of what was good about the original is still present in the sequel. The first Civilization: Revolution was a decent attempt to streamline some of the original Civilization's principles and make it palatable for a console audience. It could be argued that it cut away a little too much of the meat and severely reducing elements like diplomacy, and the worker unit is certainly missed, but by and large audiences seemed to like it. Civilization: Revolution changes very little of the gameplay outside of adding a handful of new units and wonders, so it shares many of the originals strengths, but it also retains its weaknesses. With the first game now being six-years-old (five-years-old on mobile), it would have been nice to see the team approach the formula with fresh eyes and make some improvements. Instead, Civilization: Revolution 2 can't help coming off as a rehash, like an action sequel that hits all the same beats as the original because it worked the first time around.

Its main virtue is its totally rebuilt graphic engine, which is undeniably different from the original game. Whether its better though is a matter of taste. The graphics are fine for what they are, but the art design is questionable at best, with many of the world leaders looking strangely deformed and cartoony. Moreover, the units generally lack detail; and the more I stare at the buildings and terrain, the duller they look. If you want to know the truth, it looks a lot like a PC game circa 2001, which was another period when good, solid 2D art suffered in the face of the mania for 3D. Polygons are great, but they are nothing if the art is ugly, and Civilization: Revolution 2's art is definitely ugly.

Civilization: Revolution 2 can't help coming off as a rehash, like an action sequel that hits all the same beats as the original because it worked the first time around.

Beyond that, Civilization: Revolution 2 adds "Live Events," which are pre-built scenariors that are periodically added for free. In the world of microtransactions, "Live Events" almost count as a miracle, and they certainly should not be discouraged. But the scenarios are also somewhat outside the scope of the game's appeal, which is largely to be found in the randomly-generated maps from which Civilization derives its near infinite replayability. All told, the Live Events are a nice change of pace from the main game, but they are also a secondary feature.

What's really discouraging is that beyond those few key features, Civilization: Revolution 2 actually takes a step back in some ways. The AI is for the most part way too easy, making it a piece of cake to beat it on every level but Deity. I appreciate that Civilization: Revolution is meant to be easier than the normal Civilization experience, but part of the inherent appeal of strategy gaming is that you have to really plan our your victory. It's no fun to simply stumble into it without really trying, which is what happened to me more than once.

I should also add that I'm not a big fan of the user interface, which manages to be both more limited and more complicated than it really should be. For instance, many of the menus require a needless pinch-to-zoom to change pages, which is both cumbersome and unintuitive. Selecting a certain unit from a stacked group is also a pain, as the interface requires you to scroll through the lot to find who you want. And if you want to update an outdated unit, you're out of luck. Your warrior is a warrior forever. Oddly enough, despite being the more "complicated" game, Civilization V feels miles more streamlined than Civilization: Revolution 2.

It's kind of sad because the time was probably right for a sequel. I really am glad that they haven't gone crazy with microtransactions in the years since the original Civilization: Revolution, and five years is a long time in the mobile gaming universe. I'm just not entirely happy with the execution. Between the troublesome UI, the bad art, and the lack of existing features like multiplayer, Civilization: Revolution 2 is a step back rather than a step forward. I'm sure it'll be fine once the updates start to hit; but until then, you will probably want to wait.

VisualsThe new graphics engine is a key selling point, but the art definitely leaves something to be desired. Your mileage will vary depending on how much you like 3D graphics.

SoundMuch of the dialogue is voiced and the music is relatively unobtrusive. Little about the audio stands out in any meaningful way, but that's always been the case for the series.

InterfaceThe pinch-to-zoom menu mechanics are pretty cumbersome, and the UI is missing a lot of time saving measures from other Civilization games. Oddly enough, Civilization V is more streamlined than this.

Lasting AppealCivilization's randomly-generated scenarios keeps it fresh, but its replayability is hurt a bit by AI that is frequently too easy.

ConclusionIt's tough to recommend Civilization: Revolution 2 in its current state. It makes few meaningful improvements to the original game, and in some ways its even takes a step back. Depending on your taste for 2D art, I would actually recommend the original Civilization: Revolution over this version. This sequel that feels like a missed opportunity to improve on a good idea.

2.5 / 5.0

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