Daily Archives: October 1, 2010

46 Minutes of Civilization V

Civilization II is probably the single player game I have spent the most time playing since I first purchased a computer.

And that is saying something, given the hours I spent, when I have many excess hour to spend, playing games like Wizardry or Ultima III back in the day.

Apple II+ and Wizardry

I played the original game Civilization and was hooked by its game play, so when Civilization II came out I was right there, day one.

Civ II was great, a huge improvement over its predecessor… so much so that I never considered and going back an playing the original game.

This is in contrast to Civilization III and Civilization IV, both of which eventually sent me back to Civ II.

There is a whole post in why I prefer Civ II.  But for the moment I’ll leave it with the simple fact that I can still play the game on my current PC, more than 14 years after it originally shipped.  It runs great and, in a move that seems genius in hindsight, it plays in a standard, re-sizable window so it even takes advantage of the fact that my monitor has gone from 800×600 to 1600×1200 in the intervening time.  There are a few games I could mention that I wish did the same.

But back at launch the game was a beast.

The Civilization franchise has never bought into the Blizzard philosophy of low system requirements.

I don’t think I was able to play the game at its full potential until I picked up a 400MHz Pentium II years later.  But by the time I had a Pentium IV, it ran smooth and fast.  But it was a long time getting there.

And was Civ II stable at launch?  Well, let’s just say that the auto-save feature was there for a good reason.  Resuming games after a crash was a common occurrence.

So when I was tempted into buying Civilization V based somewhat on SynCaine’s posts about it, I was pretty sure the game was going to live up to the Civilization tradition of being a complete beast on day on.

I bought it via Steam, as much as I dislike Valve’s service.  I’ve been screwed by Valve and their requirement that you must have an internet connection to play a single player game in the past. (Yes, that was a long time ago, but I can hold a grudge like no other when I’m in the mood.)

But since Civ V seems to be tied to the service no matter how you buy it, there didn’t seem much point in going another route.

And while I wasn’t happy about it, I certainly wasn’t expecting Steam to mock my misery.

How long have you managed to play?

Five days with the game and I’ve been able to play for 46 minutes.

And a good portion of those minutes were spent waiting while the game sat hung, driving all four cores of my Intel Core 2 Q6600 processor beyond 50% capacity.  I had to bring up Task Manager just to see if the game still had a pulse.

I was not able to play at all for the first day.

It wasn’t until I turned off the intro movie, got into the options and turned down every possible setting to its absolute minimum, picked the default minimum game (changing any game setting is like hitting the fail button), and shut down every possible process on my system that I was able to hit my peak and get 46 turns into a game before it hung.

And I consider myself lucky to have gotten that far.  Most times I just see this at launch.


And there is no recovery, no launching the game again.  It is straight to the Start menu to reboot the system after any failure.  I’ve tried.  There is no hope without a reboot.

Okay, my system is aging, and not so gracefully.  It isn’t at its most stable of late.  But this is ridiculous.

I should have the horsepower to run the game.  My quad 2.4 GHz CPU should be up to the task, being beyond the recommended system requirements, which specify a quad 1.8GHz or better.  Woe to those who have only a single or dual core system.

And running with everything off, including virus protection, but the OS and Steam the game doesn’t appear to be trying to claim memory beyond the 2GB I have installed.

But it fails every time.  Sooner or later, the carpet is yanked out from under me… and usually it is sooner.

Steam seems to have a patch for the game every night that fixes one crash or another.  I’ll give Steam that, the patching happens fast.  But each such patch only leads to disappointment as the game ab ends in the black rectangle where the intro movie should be running. (Couldn’t they put up a logo or something if you’ve turned the intro movie off?)

And all of this wouldn’t annoy me so much if the game didn’t appear to have promise, if it didn’t seem to have erased some of the sins of its two predecessors, if it didn’t feel like perhaps, maybe, it was getting back to the feel that made Civ II such a great game while keeping the bits of III and IV that actually improved the series.

I’d really like to play it and see if that was true.

But I can’t it seems, not yet.

I run Steam each evening in hopes that a new patch will make the game behave.

I wander through game sites looking for suggestions on how to tame the game.

But so far I’ve only managed 46 minutes.  Barely enough for a EuroGamer review.

I guess I’ll have to go back to Civ II if I want a Civilization fix while I wait for Civ V’s day to come.

It should play really well in about 5 years.  History repeats itself.