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Farmville for gamers: Facebook gets Civilized

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Civilization World - Firaxis

Now entering its third decade, the Civilization series of
turn-based nation-builders ranks as one of PC gaming's most enduring. Even in
last year's Civlization V, the game's most recent and high-tech installment,
it's easy to see the core concepts the twenty-year-old original game beneath
the pretty graphics. Appropriately, "Civ" has built its success on rock-solid
historical foundations.

Which is one reason why the latest in the series is going to
come as a bit of a shock to the franchise's legion of fans. Civilization is
coming to Facebook in a new, free version dubbed "Civilization World" -- and in
the words of its creator Sid Meier, it's the most dramatic stretch the series
has ever made.

Civ World has a far tighter focus than the expansive,
time-consuming computer games. Rather than managing a sprawling nation for the
15-20 hours it can take to wrap up a Civ match, the Facebook game plays out in
a week or two of short, real-time bursts, and dishes out just one city per
player. It's essential to join together with other players -- yes, often random
Facebook strangers -- to form nations, pooling your efforts and collaborating
to improve your collective situation.

Much like the classic Civ games, your city is home to
workers who'll produce resources like food, gold, and science. But you can help
them out, and this is another of the places where Civ World diverges
drastically from the traditional Civ playbook.

Want to earn a little more science? Play the maze mini-game;
complete it, and you'll earn a hefty bonus to your research. Likewise, there's
a set of puzzles based on classic works of art that'll boost your culture, and
a connect-the-dots game to improve your trade income. More time-consuming than
difficult, they're likely to rankle Civ purists.

Meanwhile, your fellow players are doing the same thing,
both in your civilization and in opposing ones. Each nation is racing to be the
first to hit a set of goals: gather so much gold, achieve a particular
scientific breakthrough, or accumulate enough resources to build one of the
Wonders that have been stalwarts of the Civ games for decades. Achieve one of
these goals, and, amid much backslapping for the victors, the game will
progress to the next historical age.

That's the plan, at least. Don't expect it to be quite that
simple. The military of numerous opposing nations -- not to mention the
occasional barbarian horde -- stand in your way. Civilizations attack and
defend en masse, enjoying the pleasure of victory (and the pain of defeat) as
groups, so there's considerable incentive for players to commit their personal
resources and troops to the common good. They'll have time to think it over,
too -- the planning phase for a fight takes hours.

When it finally comes down to fisticuffs, Civ World takes
another unexpected direction. Although you can watch the battle play out in
card-game style, ordering your troops to attack, fortify for defensive bonuses
or retreat, you -- and potentially others from your civilization -- have to be
online, playing the game at the time the battle happens. It's a high-stakes
match, too: the winning players learn all the technologies researched by the
losers, and can steal their all-important Wonders.

Factor in the game's complex system of stats and bonuses,
covering everything from the variety of forces to the ever-changing weather,
and you're left with an intricate balancing act that'll take most players a
number of costly losses to master -- or possibly have them fleeing back to the
farms, frontiers and fishtanks of simpler Facebook games.

Still, like many other social networking games, if you feel
like your opponents are getting the upper hand you can always put yours into
your pocket. Fork over some real money and you earn "CivBucks" to spend on
anything from faster resource harvesting to extra moves in Civ World's
minigames. Unfair? Yes, probably -- but there's a $4-5 cap on daily spending
that should limit the potential for abuse.

No doubt 2K is hoping that'll add up if the game catches on -- and there's a wealth of Civ devotees waiting to try it out. Question is, can they adjust to the pace, the player-politics, the real-money premium system, and the mini-games, or will they turn up their noses and go back to their tried-and-true Civ classics? Is Facebook really ready for such an
intricate strategy game? Check out the game's open beta, which launches
today
, and you can find out for yourself.

Try our free webgame, Staries:

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