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.

21 thoughts on “46 Minutes of Civilization V

  1. PT

    Absolutely no problems with Civ 5 for me. No errors, crashes, stutters, anything. And my machine barely cost me $1000 6 months ago. It’s a fantastic game, put in about 20 hours already.


  2. Captain Braddock

    I loved civ II to death, played a lot the test of time version where you could capture a dragon to breed more. Good old days. so like you when I bought civ V I was not sure my pc would be able to play it.I gambled and was lucky the program runs (btw how do you sckip the intro it is driving me nuts )
    At first sight you get the option between directx9 or 10 & 11 conbined.Now I knew I could use the DX10 as I bought the laptop specific to run the eve online with the niffty graphix upgrade :)
    The game is fun but i’m missing some aspects of civIV : religion and espionage for on (where is my diplo from civ1 btw i want to buy settlers )
    civ V also has some idea’s changed, you can buy stuff in cities from day 1 no longer you need democracy,but at 440 for a settler its steap. havn’t found a way to buy it for less when you alread started building it. goverments have become civics like in a board game, not a bad move but thats what feeling i get for the whole civ V it has become a glorified boardgame. no unit stacking. i hate moving a army now. you also no longer need transports your units can board self made ships when you get the skill (and they upgrade when you get better ships tech)
    oh last but not least i hate the independant city states they are distracting from killing the other civ’s they cost to much gold to keep happy
    so yeah i got the sam feeling when viv IV came out when do we get the expansions with the fun stuff??
    at least it still retained the one more turn feeling ,I need one more turn :p


  3. Oxians

    That seems strange… I play Civ V a lot these past few days (AMD triple-core CPU, Radeon 4770, and 4 GB Ram) and never had a problem with it. In fact, I regularly have 2 EVE clients, World of Tanks client and Civ V running at the same time, and the alt-tabbing between them is no problem at all.
    I guess that your problem is compatibility based, hence the slow performance and crashes…
    I hope they fix it for you soon, Civ V is a lovely game – it would be a shame if you missed it.


  4. Galo

    I’m playing Civ V, picked it up over a week ago. I’ve played several of the older Civ’s as well. Civ V has changed a bit and more difficult as well which some changes but overall I really like the game and the changes make the game a bit more interesting also.

    Only problem I had with the game and I’m playing on a barely 4 month old brand new MacBook Pro laptop. Since Civ only comes in Windows format I had to run it on my partition drive with Bootcamp running Windows 7. All the tutorials run fine for me and was great to learn the new changes. But running the single game Leader mode the game kept freezing and crashing after a few turns as well as just freeze up. The problems seem all due to DirectX 10/11. Playing in Direct9 mode works well problem free but the graphics not as good as DirextX 10/11 mode.

    Anyway I spend a day on Steam website at 2kgames trying to find a way to stop my crashing problems. None was available as many seem to have crash problems due to DirextX 10/11 as well. Buy pure fluke I eventually decide to try to see if I had the latest Video Drivers from my just 4 months old PC from my Nvidia Graphics Card. Appears I didn’t have the latest drivers do i downloaded the new Video Drivers from Nvidia website for my own PC card.

    That fixed all my problems with DirextX 10/11 causing all my crash and game freeze up problems. Been playing over 5 days now problem free and the game plays awesome and quite the addictive game. As far as for me I can say the game runs fine. Just the many seem to be having issues with DirectX 10/11 and if you don’t have the most up to date Video Drivers you could have problems with playing in the recommended mode or with video graphics.


  5. SynCaine

    Well that sucks, but like you mentioned before, hopefully the hardware upgrade fixes things for you. I’ve been on the Civ boards a bit, and I don’t see many people with issues as bad as yours.

    BTW I have a dual core (although they run at 3.2 base, 3.5 no sweat OC). Do you have 2 or 4 gigs of RAM? I thought the min realistically was 4.

    All that said, the game is a few decent patches away from being really great. I mean it’s a blast for a few games, but you can’t REALLY play it like a Civ game over and over until they fix some of the stuff that creeps out later (the AI combat in particular).


  6. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    I’ve only got 2GB of RAM, but watching task manager, I’ve never gone beyond 1.7GB of memory usage while playing the game, so that *shouldn’t* be a killer.

    I’m also back in the world of Windows XP, and XP seems to be in the category of only grudgingly supported, given that it isn’t on the Recommended configuration list:

    Minimum Requirements:

    Operating System: Windows® XP SP3/ Windows® Vista SP2/ Windows® 7
    Processor: Dual Core CPU
    Memory: 2GB RAM
    Hard Disk Space: 8 GB Free
    DVD-ROM Drive: Required for disc-based installation
    Video: 256 MB ATI HD2600 XT or better, 256 MB nVidia 7900 GS or better, or Core i3 or better integrated graphics
    Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card
    DirectX®: DirectX® version 9.0c

    Recommended Requirements

    Operating System: Windows® Vista SP2/ Windows® 7
    Processor: 1.8 GHz Quad Core CPU
    Memory: 4 GB RAM
    Hard Disk Space: 8 GB Free
    DVD-ROM Drive: Required for disc-based installation
    Video: 512 MB ATI 4800 series or better, 512 MB nVidia 9800 series or better
    Sound: DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound card
    DirectX®: DirectX® version 11


  7. Aufero

    Odd. I’m playing it in Win XP on a four year old dual core system with 2GB of RAM and having almost no problem at all. I didn’t have to turn any settings down, it’s only crashed once in 20 hours of gameplay, and I generally had a browser running in the background.

    GPU or driver issue, maybe?


  8. Nelson Minar

    Ouch, I’m sorry to hear of the trouble. FWIW the game didn’t run right on my computer either until I upgraded my NVidia drivers. I’ve also heard people have various success in choosing DX9 or DX10 (oddly, it’s inconsistent which works better).

    PC games have mostly gotten a lot better in running well. Civilization V feels like a step back.


  9. PeterD

    Well that’s discouraging. I’ve been looking forward to this one and intended to pick it up sometime this year. I’m a little puzzled by the high system requirements for a turn based game. Requires a quad core? Really? Why?

    My RAM and video card are more than sufficient (6gb and gtx 260 respectively) but I only have a 2.4 ghz Dual core. Is there a demo for this game yet? I’ll want to try before I buy now.


  10. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @PeterD – There is a demo on Steam. I actually went and grabbed that at one point, just to compare. It runs about the same on my system as the real game. So, if nothing else, it should be an effective barometer of how things will work for you.

    I’ve been through most of the driver updates. I fear that there is something basic wrong with my system in general at this point, since I have swapped out every component since I was having the problem of locking up in Dalaran. Only the Motherboard, the hard drive, and the power supply are the same.

    It is probably time for some big change.


  11. Facepalm

    Can you spin up a local VM? Little overkill I know, but might give you a clean slate and a “fresh new” system to try new settings out on. Are there any free solutions for that? Just wondering…


  12. We Fly Spitfires

    Doh, really sorry to hear about your Civ 5 woes. The game seems to be getting a lot of mixed press recently. Personally I can’t decide if I want to get it or not. Like you, I’m not a fan of Steam at all.


  13. Celendus

    Have you tried playing in DirectX 9 mode? I had some performance hitches despite being above recommended spec with DX11. DX9 runs smooth as silk. I never had crashing issues, though.


  14. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Celendus – I’ve read a bit about playing in one mode or another.

    Unfortunately (or maybe not) I’m running Windows XP, so I get the DX9 version regardless of which choice I make when launching the game.


  15. parasoja

    I never really thought civ 2 had particularly high system requirements. To my recollection it played just fine on my 68040, running at a blazing 40 mhz.

    Maybe you’re just cursed.


  16. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Parasoja – Well, you must have had the miracle 040, because every time I got a faster CPU, the wait time for the AI to finish its turn went down quite noticeably up until I got that PII 400MHz. Back at launch, for me at least, most of the game was spent waiting on the AI.

    Or, to put it in your context since I also had Macs and a copy of Civ II on that side as well (I think I have 4 copies of the game), it played okay on my Quadra 800, and the AI was oddly better at pathing than on the PC, but it wasn’t until I plugged a G3 CPU upgrade into my PowerMac 8500 that waiting for the AI became minimal.

    Civ II was also less “crashy” on the Mac, to my recollection. It is too bad you cannot play it on the current generation Macs. OS X and Intel processors killed off a lot of my old gaming. I still have that 8500 in the closet though!


  17. Evrett

    Pirate Bay has various Steamless versions and steam cracks you can use on your legally purchased copy if Steam is causing you problems.


  18. David Pirtle

    On the technical side, I have had no problems playing Civ V on a dual core 2.1ghz laptop with 4gig ram. It goes slowly if I turn up the graphics, but Civ isn’t the kind of game that suffers from lower bells and whistles. I haven’t had a single crash.

    On the game side, I’m frustrated by a few changes which make the game far less fun. First, the city states. Ugh, I hate the idea of a civilization you cannot trade with, cannot use diplomacy with, you can only buy off or kill. And if you kill, say, Edinburgh and Dublin in the beginning of the game, suddenly you’ve got Budapest and Helsinki on the other side of Europe declaring permanent war on you. Permanent war. Not only is there no logic in these city states having diplomatic ties at 2200 BCE, but you can leave them alone for 2000 years and they will still attack you.

    The second enormous gripe I have is the way barbarian ‘encampments’ spawn at random in any land not owned by a player. If you’re lucky enough to knock the local competition off early and gain control of an entire continent, you’ll still spend the next 500 turns hunting and destroying camps every 5 turns or so. That’s just ridiculous.

    The combat system, with no stackable units, is different but its not something I have a problem with. In ways it makes things interesting. However, garrisoning a city with one unit MAX is silly. There’s no logical reason why a city shouldn’t house more than one unit, and what the game does instead, simply autogenerating ‘defense’, might seem handy early in the game but as it goes on I find myself pining for the day when I could have fighters, tanks, and infantry to deploy (or chariots, knights, and swordsmen, depending on the era) should an army come descending upon me.

    So I might be playing Civ II with you soon.


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