Video game veteran gets overhaul

Armchair tyrants will get another chance to test their plans for world domination when Civilization V goes on sale in late 2010.

The game is due for release in the US on 21 September and three days later in the rest of the world.

The fifth incarnation of the nation simulator features some big changes over earlier outings.

Developer Firaxis has overhauled warfare in the game and the influence of technology has been beefed up.

Fighting fair

Created by gaming legend Sid Meier and first released in 1991, Civilization gives players the task of leading their fledgling nation to a position of world domination or being the first to reach distant stars.

The game defined the way strategy games were developed and played and spawned numerous sequels and spin-off editions.

Civilization V continues in the same theme, although the developers says it had made some radical changes to the way the game plays.

The basic premise of the game is simple. Users pick one of 16 different nations, choose a ruler and then, starting off with a single settler in the year 4000BC, build a settlement and then expand across the globe.

The complexity of the game emerges as players balance expansion and exploration against scientific development and military power.

At the E3 show in Los Angeles, developer Firaxis, gave a tour of its latest build of Civ V.

Image caption Civilisation has come a long way since the blocky graphics of the first game

Speaking to BBC News, the games lead producer, Dennis Shirk, said the game had been heavily influenced by an old strategy title, Panzer General, as well as more recent strategy games, such as the Total War Series.

"We've radically changed the way a player fights a battle," he said.

"Artillery units now have a ranged attack, units can now automatically transport across water and the space race has been given an overhaul.

"We've also removed the ability to stack units," he added.

The issue of stacking units has been controversial in previous editions. Stacking allows a user to place units on top of each other in the same terrain tile. This means a single space could be occupied by many different types of units.

This caused problems because it allowed numerous, experienced but obsolete military units to defend against and defeat attacks from very modern units. Critics often cite the case of a town being held by bronze-age spearmen against a tank assault.

Mr Shirk said that particular problem would go away in Civ V.

"Units have different strengths and weaknesses," he said, "but ultimately a more technologically advanced unit will win the day."

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