Analyzing the “Civilization” series: Victory conditions

Analyzing the “Civilization” series: Victory conditions


Now that Sid Meier’s Civilization is more
than 25 years old, it’s a good time to look back at the different installments of the
series, and the vision of history they gave us. In this video, we will talk about the victory
conditions. When the first game was launched, Sid Meier’s
Civilization was viewed by many as a history simulator. But of course, a game should give the player
a way to win. So a question arises: how do you “win”
history? The first answer came as an obvious one, directly
conditioned by the game’s mechanics: you win history through war. The game allowed players to conquer the cities
of rival nations. When all enemy cities have been conquered
there are no rivals left, and the game must therefore reach an end. But it must have seem obvious to the game
developers that allowing the player to win only through war gave the game a rather bleak
tone. So an alternative was created: winning history
through science. As a civilization progresses through time,
the game allowed players to discover new technologies that made new buildings, world wonders and
military units available. This system of technological discoveries was
made to reach an end, at the time when scientific development allowed a civilization to build
a spaceship, and send it to colonize the closest star sytem: Alpha Centauri. This seems to create a duality between scienctific
development and warmongering, but the game makes it very clear that scienctific research
is directly linked to the improvement of human capacity for destruction. Apart from this, the amount of scientific
research a civilizaiton can produce is directly linked to the total amount of commerce its
cities create. A civilization with more cities can create
more commerce, and therefore research faster. So even if the player goes for the allegedly
“peaceful” victory, the game strongly motivates us to get as many cities as possible,
which will always lead to at least a few wars. Sid Meier’s Civilziation gives us, therefore,
a strongly imperialistic view of what “winning” history means, and fails to provide an alternative
to war. Civilization 2 doesn’t change much in this
aspect, but the third installment of the series brought a huge revamping of the victory conditions. Winning through war not only meant elminating
all rivals, but it could also be achieved by conquering two thirds of the world and
having two thirds of the total population. While theoretically this could be achieved
through peaceful expansion, I’ll consider this condition as just another way of winning
through war, since in practice one would normally be forced to conquer a large amount of enemy
land in order to achieve it. The scientific victory remained the same,
but 2 completely new ways of wining the game appeared: winning through culture, and winning
through diplomacy. Culture was the new mechanic of Civilization
3. It was produced with world wonders and religious
buildings, and it could be used to expand borders, convince enemy cities to join our
civilization, and even win the game. There were two options for this: developing
one city to more than 20 thousand culture points, or having more than 100 thousand culture
points in total with no other civilization reaching more than half ot that score. This second condition was obviously hard to
achieve without reducing the capacity of other civilizations to produce culture, which was
normally achieved through war. But the first option could be achieved peacefully
with just one extremely cultured city. World wonders could be not only impressive
buildings, but also impressive projects that advanced humanity as a whole. This victory condition, therefore, is achieved
through improving the world rather than destroying it, and it was a refreshing change. Diplomatic victory was an interesting attempt,
since the most effective strategy for it involved building the United Nations and getting the
other civilizations in the world to like players enough to vote for them. Unfortunately, in practice it really didn’t
always involve winning through peace. An easy way to get other civilizations to
vote for us was to give them gifts through diplomacy, such as gold, technologies or resources. This means that the higher your amount of
gold the higher your chances of winning the vote. And gold depends on commerce, which again
depends on the amount of cities you have. So once again, the game encouraged players
to apply an imperialistic expansion in order to win. An option to win through the overall score
in the game was also added. But since score depended partially on the
amount of cities and population, this was again a motivation to try to expand as much
as possible. Civilization 4 followed a similar path, but
made some slight modifications to the cultural victory. Now the game wanted the player to have 3 cities
with legendary culture, which came through religious buildings and wonders, but also
mostly through the assignment of commerce to cultural development, as well as the creation
of great artists. This provided some interesting alternatives
for peaceful games, motivating players to try to win by creating art instead of destruction. However, the cultural victory in Civilization
4 had a negative side effect. The only way to stop a rival from winning
a cultural victory, was through attacking at least one of their three most cultured
cities. From a defensive point of view, therefore,
the cultural victory condition could also be just another motivation for the player
to go to war. The “warlords” expansion to Civilization
4 introduced the concept of vassal states, which strongly modified the diplomatic victory
condition. Now the player could force a rival to become
a vassal, and the vassal would always vote for the player in the United Nations. Since the most effective way of forcing a
rival to become a vassal was through war, this new mechanic effectively turned the diplomatic
victory into just antoher victory type adecquate for players who prefer military expansion. Beyond The Sword was the last expansion for
Civilization 4, and it included a completely new way of winning. The game introduced the Apostolic Palace,
which could generate a voting for the world leader, in a similar way to the United Nations,
only the Apostolic Palace appeared much earlier in the game. While the mechanic for this vote was the same
as the one for the UN, in practice there were some very relevant differences, so players
started to call it a “religious” victory. Every civilization in the game would need
at least one city following the religion of the Apostolic Palace for this victory to be
possible. And this religion would be the one followed
by the civilization that built the Apostolic Palace at the moment the building was completed. The amount of votes each player had would
depend on how much population was following the religion of the Apostolic Palace, which
created the paradox that winning the religious victory could be achieved by expanding the
player’s religion only in a very limited way. Since the building came too early in the game
for the player to have many vassals, this religious victory would normally be achieved
in a peaceful way. With the religiuos and cultural victories,
Civilization 4 opened a path to winning the game without going to war that wouldn’t be
taken to its ultimate potential until the next installment. Civilization 5 included many ways of limiting
the player’s expansion, and made it much easier for the game to be won with a small empire
of, usually, no more than 4 cities. The scientific victory was, for the first
time, easier to obtain with a small empire, since each new city increased the cost of
discovering new technologies. This was, in practice, the first time that
the strategy for the scientific victory was completely separated from the warmongering
ways. The diplomatic victory suffered an even bigger
change, with the votes for the UN now depending on the allegiance of City States. Unfortunately this allegiance was easily secured
through bribes, so the diplomatic victory became basically an economic victory. This is, of course, an extremely limited view
of world politics, that didn’t get a very positive reception by the fans of the series.We
must remember that the game only created an actual economic victory in the console spin
offs, which are usually considered too simple when compared to their PC counterparts. The creation of culture in Civilization 5
is used to get social policies. Just like technologies, social policies also
become more expensive as the empire grows, motivating players once again to keep a small
empire. When players get to complete a total of 5
social policy trees, their civilization can create the “Utopia” project, which effectively
wins the game. Achieving victory by accumulating culture
was therefore very similar to what we had seen in previous games, but with the Brave
New World expansion everything changed. Cultural works now generated tourism, which
could attract citizens from other civilizations. Having trade routes or open borders with them
would give us a bonus to our tourism generation, effectively making war negative for our porpuses. In order to stop someone else from winning
a cultural victory, we were no longer forced to attack them. We could instead generate cultural works of
our own, to convince our citizens to stay home and not visit their civilization, therefore
limiting their influence. While considering that tourism is the main
creator of cultural influence is an idea that most people would probably disagree with,
as a game mechanic it was refreshing, and a fun motivation to play in a peaceful way. The concept of invation, however, makes now
its way into the cultural victory, since our goal is to get influential with other civilizations
so that they replace their native culture with our own. Therefore, the imperialistic view of winning
history once again makes its way into the victory conditions. While the tourism mechanic was well received,
other game mechanics that limited expansion were considered arbitrary and didn’t really
make for a fun and balanced gameplay. There wasn’t a fun motivation to keep a small
empire, and instead players felt like many times they were almost being forced to not
expand their land, by mechanics that didn’t necesarilly make a lot of sense. Civilization 6 decided to change most of these
mechanics, in order to allow players to have a large empire once again. Tourism remained and was developed, with seaside
resorts and natural parks as new elements that motivate players to not damage the environment
in their land. The scientific victory went back to being
strongly related to military conquest, since getting a large empire is once again an efficient
way to produce more scientific research. The diplomatic victory that had been clumsily
turned into an economic victory in the previous game was completely removed, while the religious
option that hadn’t appeared in Civilization 5 made a very promoted comeback, this time
properly labeled as religious victory by the game developers. Unlike the Civilization 4 system, there is
no paradox in the way the religious victory works in Civilization 6. Players must found a religion and then turn
it into the most popular religion in every other civilization in the game. Effectively, this feels a lot like a military
victory, only that instead of seeing military units killing each other, we see religious
apostles fighting through theological debates. If the way the game sees tourism implies invading
foreign culture and replacing it with our own, the religious debates are just another
expression of the same idea. Overall, while the Civilization series succeeded
in giving players different options to win in a fun way, it failed to provide a positive
or optimistic view of what it means to win history. The imperialistic invasion of other civilizations,
be it via military conquest, cultural influence or religious conversion, has been one of the
main ways of winning the game throughout the series. Failure to turn the diplomatic victory into
a real succes of diplomacy, such as promoting peace or securing the prosperity of the world
through efficient cooperation, has been one of the constant elements in the games. With very few exceptions, the Civilization
games have generally not been able to make victories fun when they did not imply, in
some way, destroying others. This gives us a very bleak view of what human
civilization can achieve.

6 thoughts on “Analyzing the “Civilization” series: Victory conditions

  1. Great outline. You really put a lot of work into that segment and you seem to have a great deal of Civ knowledge, impressive.

  2. Humans have had 15,000 conflicts, where at least 10,000 deaths. The Civ Series got it right. Different Humans cultures cannot peacefully co-exist. It always comes down to might makes right

  3. Great look at the evolution of the Civ series. A useful piece to look at going forward with the series, which needs freshness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *