22 April 2011

Civilization V: Leaders

Remember me?
So Civ V obviously looks much better than its predecessors, because we all know a game's quality is directly dependent on your CPU/GPU temperatures nowadays. To be honest, I don't really mind- it does look pretty. You might mind if your system can't handle it, if so, well, sucks to be you. What can I say.

I wouldn't mind either, though, if instead of spending all that time and effort on the OMG SO PRETTAY graphics they just made the game less buggy and more polished mechanics, balance and AI-wise. I mean, when I say I don't mind the CivV graphics, that's not to say I didn't mind the CivIV graphics either. I didn't mind CivIII. I didn't mind CivII, and even the original Civ still looks charming to me at times. I mean, look at it!

Revolutionary faux-Cyrillic font rendering technology.

Of course, it's not like you can just take your artists, tell them to code AI, and magically get much better AI. That said, graphics are prioritized for many modern games and they shouldn't be, especially at this point (that is, as opposed to, say, 1997 when 3D looked godawful and detracted from the playing experience).

One thing I don't get is, I'm not sure if we can still have multiple leaders per civ. I mean, I really like liked how in CivIV you could pick Russia, and then pick from a few leaders with very different traits, while keeping the same unique units and so on. It added to the replay value.

With CivV, I think the traits are far more fundamental than in CivIV, and much more unique. You no longer get things like generic coin yield bonuses or more great persons. The Iroquois consider every forest tile a road, both for purposes of movement AND trade routes. Did I mention that each road tile costs 1 gold per turn in maintenance now? The Aztecs get culture from killing units. The Russians get double yield from certain Siberian-themed strategic resources. American units get +1 sight range, and buying land is much cheaper. These affect the mechanics in a very deep manner, and you can imagine how effective the traits are in enforcing a certain play style for each civ. I think they're fairly well designed, and in the end together with the unique units and buildings you get a game where the English really do play a lot like English. It does wonders for adding character to your game, and differentiating Medium-strength aggressive AI opponent #7 as a unique and interesting actor in the game world. And this does not require hard-coded behavior biases for the AI either- you find yourself playing in a thematically appropriate way, too, simply because you get the most bonuses that way.

What really irks me about the new leaders, though, is the voice acting. Well, that, and the lack of options for diplomacy but more on that later. It may sound like a trivial thing, but if you speak any language besides English, the leader speeches immediately become painful.

If you are exclusively an anglophone, good for you! CivV's voice acting won't trouble you one bit. In fact, the Americans and English have very good voicing, I think. Otherwise, bad news, buddy. Some examples:

The Russian Czarina sounds like some drunk airhead you bumped into while bar hopping in Moscow. Well, actually, she doesn't, she speaks with an accent too horrible for words and I have no clue where it's from. She misuses pronouns in a way 4 year old Russian toddlers wouldn't. The intonation is so off it's downright creepy.

Caesar appears to have taken a bump too many on his head, and forgotten the basic grammar of his own language. Hell, he misuses simple words in a way that any Latin 101 student learns not to do in his first month.

The Ottoman emperor sounds decades younger than he looks, and the voice actor is so hammy that he makes the worst Turkish acting in history (and believe me, there's some BAD Turkish movies out there) look Oscar-worthy. The weird accent and the creepy word choice actually makes me feel like he's hitting on me half the time. Ugh.

Some, like Egypt, Persia and so on, they've just cut corners on and had them speak Arabic. Thing is, there already IS an Arabian civ, which speaks, funnily enough, Arabic.

Pretty much any leader that doesn't speak English, sounds wrong for some reason or other. Just look up the videos on Youtube and read the comments. How hard can it be to find some native speakers to do these? It's not like there's a lot of work to do, it's only a bunch of lines. And I don't expect you to go find a perfect Aztec speaker but geez, at least find someone who actually speaks German to voice Bismarck maybe?

It bothers me so much that I simply try to defeat offending Civs as soon as possible so that I don't have to suffer their diplomacy requests. And you know there's a problem when it's gotten to that point.

And while we are on the topic, what's with the technology quotes? And who is the guy who's reading these, anyway? Is he doing VA work to pay for his lung cancer treatment from smoking a pack every day since middle school? It's just downright discouraging to hear the guy make an introduction, obviously supposed to be passionate and such, in the voice of your grandpa on his deathbed.

As for the quotes themselves, they just don't make sense. I've never been a fan of Spock's beep beep beep business myself, but I appreciate that most fans are. However, the CivIV quotes were at least loosely relevant. Now? It's freaking surreal!

Don't explain the joke fable!

I got news for you, 2k Games: That Aesop fable? It's not about archery. It's about social rivalry, and dealing with it prudently. And whatever translation that was taken from, I swear to God it must have been the most stupid Aesop fable in existence. What the hell does that even mean? Feathers aren't a rare resource. Eagle feathers aren't particularly good for arrow making. It's not like it would matter if the dude didn't have an eagle feather- any feather would work just as well. You don't even need a feather, just anything that's vaguely fin-shaped. Come on now, this isn't difficult! Five millenia of writing, and you couldn't find one interesting thing said about archery? Give me a break.

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