Civilization Revolution Comes to the iPhone Review


A few weeks back, a big shot at Nintendo made comments on how he viewed the iPhone as serious competition for the Nintendo DS.  I really didn’t think much about it until I saw the iPhone implementation of Civilization Revolution, which had been very popular on the Nintendo DS.  He may have reason to be concerned after all.

The Civilization Franchise is one of those, that has taken off in many directions since it’s original incarnations.  There is the mainline “Civilization” application, but there is also the Civilization Revolution game, which is a somewhat simplified form of the original game.  Civilization Revolution was very popular on the Nintendo DS, which is where I got my original exposure to it.  I enjoyed the simplified game play almost as much as I enjoy the depth of the original.  The simplified version falls much more easily into the Casual gaming category, where the total game time is much shorter and can be played while waiting for your train, or at the doctors office.

So let’s take a look at this implementation of Civilization Revolution to see how it holds up!


Basic game play is in line with the Nintendo version of Civilization Revolution.  Like the original Civilization, the game is turn-based.  You decide what type of items or buildings to build and what actions to take with your military (and settler) units.  You overall goal is to attempt to defeat other civilizations by becoming the biggest, with the best culture.  You can win through a variety of techniques, military or cultural or economic – you decide!


Load time is a little long, but not too bad, and the first thing I noticed once the game starts is that the look of the game is much more attractive than the Nintendo version.  Graphics are more advanced, and overall, the game has a more polished appearance to it.


The controls have been adapted to take advantage of the way the iPhone works.  You can use the multi-touch based pinch controls to zoom the map in and out – a feature I wished the Nintendo DS version had.  Tapping and holding on any square pops up information about that square.


On the right side of the screen are the settings, information (diplomacy, cities report, who’s winning, change govt, change research), go to next active unit, and the city control (to allow you to adjust what a given city is working on.  If you hold down on one of the buttons, a tool tip pops up to tell you, in words, what the icon is for.


When you tap on a unit you select that unit and onformationabout that unit pops up in the lower left corner of your screen.  Tap again and you get a menu, spun out around that unit showing you the options and actions you can take with that unit.  This method of control is surprisingly intuitive and usable.  Even the icons are pretty straightforward about what actions will be taken should you select them.


When you choose to control whats happening in a city, you get another menu of icons up on the left side of your screen.  These icons let you choose to build a unit (military, settler, ships, etc.), build a building, build a “wonder of the world” or builds roads connecting your cities.  On the bottom of this screen you see what is currently being built (or what has just been completed), as well as a control to change the focus of your city from research to making money (or back).  On the top of this screen is the name of the city as well as arrows to toggle to other cities to modify their settings.  All very nicely implemented!


The game includes tutorials on how to operate the controls and play the game.  And, if you do well, your civilization will become the one to beat!


The application description also indiates that Twitter integration and localized versions (in French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Japanese) are coming soon.


What I Liked:The graphics are extremely nice, especially when compared to the Nintendo graphics.  Everything has a nice polished look and controls are well designed for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

What Could be Improved: Game start up time is a little slow, and the game did lag occasionally on an iPhone 3G.  Also, I couldn’t move units beyond the ende of the screen – there was no auto scroll, so I found myself zooming the screen out, moving the unit, then zooming back in.  I’d like to see unit movement improved.

Overall: Game play is smooth, lagging only occasionally, and the graphics are rendered beautifully, if a little cartoonish.  I found the game to be immensely playable on the iPhone, to the point that , even though it’s only been a few days, I haven’t had the desire to go back to play it on my Nintendo DS.


If you like the Civilization franchise then you really should take a look at this implementation.  Considering how iPhone/iPod Touch Applications have been selling lately, maybe Nintendo does have something to  be concerned about – especially if the implementations continue to be as good as Civilization Revolution !  Civilization Revolution is available at the ITMS AppStore for $9.99.

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About the Author

Christopher Gavula
Chris has been a COBOL programmer, a desktop support technician, network engineer, telecommunications manager, and even a professional musician. Currently, he is focused on deploying Voice over IP technologies in a large, corporate setting. He started working full-time at the tender age of 14, even before there were PCs, and will probably be working and trying to finish “just one more project” as he’s lowered into the grave.

2 Comments on "Civilization Revolution Comes to the iPhone Review"

  1. I love this as well, Chris, but have a couple of questions:
    – What device are you playing on? I am using an iPod Touch and found it laggy *most* of the time.
    – Have you compared directly with the DS? While the price is cheaper for the iPhone, I found the precision of the touch interface and the difficulty better done on the DS. On the iPhone I was trying to move the units and I moved the screen more than a couple of times.
    – Regarding difficulty, this is tough to quantify, but I had a game set up identically on both and used the same production-focus for St Petersburg near the British … but on the DS they were constantly near ready to defect and join the British Empire but on the iPhone I never got more than a complaint.

  2. Christopher Gavula | August 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm |

    your experiences are interesting, but they don’t match mine.

    I am playing it on an iPhone 3G, not a GS, so I don’t have the faster processor. The game has not exhibited any real lagginess at all other than the slow initial load time. Do you have sufficient free space on your iPod Touch? The OS and apps will slow down significantly if you don’t have much free space left for caching.

    I also own the DS version and it was one of the games I played most frequently on the DS. I have spent MANY hours playing this game on the DS and now the iPhone. I did not really compare difficulty – as you point out that’s difficult to ascertain, especially with differeng maps and placements of cities, but I have found other cities just as likely to “convert” as before – that doesn’t seem any different to me, but I will compare some more and possibly comment again. I will point out, however, that you can always adjust the level of difficulty up as desired.

    I actually have found that I prefer the interface on the iPhone even though I found longer-distance moving of units more difficult. I find the interface layout to make more sense and I prefer they iPhone/iPodTouch version of unit options more straightforward than the DS version. I also find icons easier to differentiate on the iPhone screen than the DS screen, but these things are often a matter of personal taste.

    Civilization Revolution is meant to be more of a “casual gaming” version of the original Civilization. It requires far less in terms of system resources and hence runs better on smaller and more mobile platforms. As a casual gamer, I find the iPhone version is better implemented. The DS version is perhaps, a little closer to the original in it’s interface.

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