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Best Games - Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution DS

Sometimes constraints can drive the best designs. Necessity being the mother of invention or whatever. I am here today to argue that not only is Civ Rev on the Nintendo DS a good port of the game, I’m going to say that it is one of the best Civ games in the series. 
Ridiculous? Blasphemous? Not a real Gamer™? Maybe, but just hear me out. If you can get ahold of Civ Rev for DS, just play it. You’ll thank me in a day or two when you finally blink.

I’ll admit, I haven’t played every game in the Civ series, but I have put in the hours with a lot of them to know how the games tick. More than that, a few years ago I tried to examine what made the core loop of the Civilizations games so addictive. In other words, what made them good. 

You might think that the magnetic effect of the Civilization series is the simulation of a world spanning fanciful take on human history. A ludic examination of everything that it took to get us to where we are.  That ain’t it. Civ games are slot machines that payout tiny rewards continuously for five hours. Microscopic prizes at a metronomic pace. Everytime you press a button in a Civ game something happens, and often it is something you knew would happen, but you didn’t know when. You press a button and a city spawns a new settler. You press a button and discover a friendly village. You press a button and a wonder you had forgotten you were building springs into existence. You press a button and you conquer France.

Of course you are rewarded for planning ahead and strategically micromanaging your many towns and peoples. There is an element of skill to the game. You can make too many poor choices and end up with revolts and invasions decimating everything you have spent centuries building. But that isn’t what makes anyone play one more turn at 3:45 in the morning. It’s that casino game ‘Ka-ching’ of pressing a button and having a brand new rifleman appear in one of your cities. 

Since every Civ game works this way, you might be wondering what makes the DS version so special. What would elevate that particular version to the rank of best games. Typically, as a game marches down the technological ladder they get worse not better.

Civ games are packed right full of all sorts of stuff. There is a technology tree spanning millennia,  there is a civilopedia that includes actual historical information along with what amounts to the games manual. There are a variety of units, both military and civilian, you can use to explore, settle, defend, and conquer the world. All cool, but none of that makes the game a better game.

When they crunched all of Civilization down into Civ Rev for the DS they condensed everything. The pace, the scope, the complexity, the reward cycle. There is a possible version of Civ Rev DS where the reward cycle is exploitative, where playing the game takes a backseat to flashing lights and binging alarms. That isn’t what happened at all. Civ Rev is every bit a Civ game only smaller. Tighter. Quicker. More nimble. It takes the best parts of Civ and squashes them down into a bite sized package.  

Is Civ Rev DS the best game in the series. No, probably not. But it is one of the best games on the DS platform, and it succeeds in ways no one would expect of a ‘down port’. No concessions, no exceptions, it’s just a great game.

Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution is one of the best games.

This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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