After approximately 8 hours of time played since Civilization V’s launch two days ago, here are some initial impressions.

While there are a huge number of differences between Civilization IV and V, the most obvious one is the completely revamped interface.  You are still presented with nearly the same amount of information, but in a much more readable way.  The “city” screen is less cluttered, and keeps the main map visible (the interface pops up on the right and left sides of the screen, instead of completely shifting).  Also, the “next turn” and alert systems have been VASTLY improved.  Admittedly, there is some charm lost from Civilization IV’s more “technical” presentation, but I think the streamlining of the entire interface will come in handy as you approach end game.  The influence from Civilization Revolution is a positive one, overall…it loses the technical, complex edge that Civilization is known for, but it results in an easier game to deal with as your civilization grows.  Side note: food is now represented with apples rather than bread.  I miss the bread :(

Another major change is combat.  Since you can no longer stack units, each unit is actually a collection of individual soldiers (similar to Dawn of War and other squad-based RTS games).  Throwing your units at a city willy nilly is no longer viable; battle planning and strategy is absolutely essential to success.  In previous Civ games, I generally stuck with only cultural or technological victories, but I get the feeling that there are many military victories (and defeats) in my future.  Assaulting a city is truly an exercise in patience and planning…running and gunning by the seat of your pants will grant you nothing more than wasted units and lost time.  If you enjoy the militaristic type of play in Civ games, you’re going to have a lot of fun with Civilization V.

The non-military changes are also, for the most part, well done.  The diplomatic changes provide a more robust and realistic sense of dealing with foreign nations, and the addition of city-states can really complicate things once the game gets going.  I feel like most of the various leaders function much closer to how they really would have acted than in previous entries of the series, although they still make nonsensical decisions at times.  Religion and civics are gone, but the RPG-influenced social policy trees are interesting additions.  By themselves, each “skill” you invest in provides a minimal buff to your civilization or units.  When their effects are combined, however, they can make or break your empire.  Although the social policy system is interesting, I still miss religion and all the nuances it brought to the game (I never played multiplayer against random people online, and I’ve heard that in that instance, the absence of religion is a positive thing.  YMMV.)  Given the game’s extensive mod support, here’s to hoping a group of capable people find a way to get it back into the game.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with Civilization V.  It took some time to get its claws in me, since I spent so much time with Civilization IV.  However, now that the “getting to know you” period is ending and the “I know you” period is starting, I can see myself getting just as engrossed with this one as I did with previous entries in the series.   Look for our full Civilization V review  sometime next week.  I’ll also post a follow-up to our Civilization V soundtrack article, to let you know what music I found to match with the game.

Just one more turn…