After five years away, the daddy of strategy gaming is back where it belongs.
Civilization is as synonymous with PC gaming as noob-bashing and the onset of RSI - and has navigated its way through the changing market more or less intact since the original appeared on floppy disk back in 1991.
The ethos and application of Civilization V is essentially the same as that 20-year-old Microprose board game conversion. Players are tasked with no less than creating an empire that goes on to dominate the world - militarily, culturally, or by being the first nation to conquer space and send a rocket to colonise Alpha Centuri.
You start from scratch, beginning the game with a single settler unit in the year 4000 BC, on a randomly generated untouched virgin landscape. After a quick scout around the immediate area, you set up shop somewhere nice and hospitable and your first city is founded.
From here, your empire will spread. Cities build military units for defence against barbarians or other civilisations, and produce civilian units like the worker (which builds roads, mines and farms across the landscape to grow and improve your infrastructure) and additional settler units to found more cities.
While you're slowly building up your fledgling nation with primitive agricultural methods and sending crude warrior units out to quell barbarian invasions, your scientists are busy researching technologies that further your empire's cause.
Early technologies such as the wheel allow roads to be constructed between cities, speeding up unit movement and providing trade bonuses. Pottery allows the creation of granaries, which can help boosts a city's population. This may seem a little twee - don't worry; this is very much scratching the surface.
Later you'll be hurrying your scientists to discover the secrets of particle physics and nuclear fission, whilst rubbing your palms together in anticipation of going nuclear on the French.
While you're busy empire building, other nations are doing the same. Upon making contact, some you'll trade with, form alliances with and generally get along like a house on fire. Others will actually set your house on fire, and you'll subsequently get into scraps or full-scale wars - and through the ages you'll wield archers, swordsman, musketmen, tanks, and eventually giant death robots to march to battle.
This is the Civilization concept boiled down. The sheer complexities of the game - through alliances, diplomatic feints, economic strategies and grand campaigns - are extremely deep, and give a level of freedom and expression which has given the series its astonishing longevity.
SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
The new aspects Civ V brings to the table are both cosmetic and intrinsic in the gameplay. Though the mechanics will be familiar to veterans, this represents the biggest departure any of the sequels have made.
Superficially, the game is now played on a hexagonal board rather than the square set of previous games. It won't be obvious how this affects anything until you get embroiled into a large battle with the new combat system (more on that later).
As you'd expect, this is the best-looking Civ game yet. Graphics are secondary to gameplay in a title like this, but that doesn't mean they're irrelevant.
The landscapes are beautiful, with the sea glistening in the sun, minute animals jumping about on the terrain, and the detail of units, cities and Great Wonders all create the type of visually striking world you wouldn't readily associate with turn-based strategy. All this does come at a price, though - you'll need a reasonably hardcore rig to get the best from it.