Civilization V review - On Linux, looking good

Updated: July 7, 2014

A few days ago, a lad or a lass named Floris emailed me, telling me that Civilization V was available for Linux, as a native game, and at a lovely jubbly 75% discount on Steam. Sounds great. But I already had the game installed way back since 2011 or so when I first bought it, ha ha. Which meant just powering a Linux box and redownloading the content for this review.

The test box that I chose is no other than my Asus VivoBook, which recently got upgraded into a splendid dual-boot setup with Ubuntu Trusty, despite its complex UEFI, Secure Boot, GPT thingie. With the HD 4000 graphics inside the third-generation i5 processor, it ought to be good enough for the exercise. Plus, there's all the buzz of getting the dual-boot system set up and working and all that. But here, let's focus on the game, right.


Civilization V setup

Trivial. Just install the game, let the system churn a few GB worth of network packets, and Bob's your uncle. You really have to appreciate the work that Valve has been doing, making the gaming thingie finally so easy, effortless and fun for the Linux folks.


Install game

Begin download

Game action

If you didn't know what operating system you chose to run the game, you wouldn't know if it's Windows or Linux. Civilization 5 works fine and without any glitches. The only limiting power is your graphics card. In my case, the internal GPU was good enough for low and medium details on a 1366x768px resolution. It was still playable on maximum detail level, but some of the action was a little sluggish. Moreover, as the game progresses, there's more GPU and CPU activity needed to calculate all the actions by all the AI, but still, quite doable.

Graphics options

Begin civilization

The game works fine. The quality of graphics and animation is stunning, and the landscape is quite beautiful. The big problem is what I call the social media approach to icons and text, because they are all rendered all too big, making you feel as if the game is simpler and smaller than it is. Which it is compared to past incarnations of this franchise, but more about that later. Still, taste and opinion about Civilization V aside, it was running great on a Linux box, with decent detail and performance on Intel i5 plus HD 4000, third generation.



Now, to give you a taste of what this game can do, here's a bunch of screenshots from my older campaign as Rome, on HD and maximum video settings. Looks pretty neat, but then, it took me a mere 9 hours to complete my mission of sending a rocket to Alpha Centauri. Not as engaging as it used to be.

Screenshot 1

Screenshot 2

Screenshot 3

Screenshot 4

The real deal

Indeed, thinking back, the only Civilization game, and I've played them all, that really really made me excited was the ancient and legendary Civilization II. It was a revolution in every sense, including the ability to run from within Windows 3.11, without having to go back to a DOS prompt, the windowed mode, and all that.

Sid Meier really gave it all when he conceived this game, and it shows. For example, there's this guy who's been playing a single game for more than a decade! The futuristic scenario comes down to totalitarian regimes, lots of mutual nuking, and still more despair. Sounds awesome and realistic, and probably, no surely, hints at the incredible genius and vision of the person behind the title.

Civilization II, 10 year game

Note: A partial screenshot of the game, credits Lycerius on Reddit.

If you're really fascinated about this concept, then you might like these few images showing you the future, as well as some extra commentary and scientific genius and madness from a colorful variety of sites out there, giving their own spin to this marvelous achievement. Yup, once upon a time, games took serious time. Bloody amazing.

Totally unrelated, for example, it took me three years - THREE bloody years - to complete a single Simcity 4 region properly. In the end, the region had some sixty interconnected cities, some four million people, and it tolled three years of careful work and planning from my soul, intelligence and fingers. Compare that to a mere nine hours to get my spaceship out there, in Civilization V. Not as it used to be, for sure.

Urban hotspot


Civilization V is an okay game, with stunning visual detail and a mediocre engagement level, which pales in comparison to the ancient Civilization II. However, regardless of how you feel about the title and whether nostalgia plays any part in your perceptions, the game runs just fine on Linux.

A few years back, this was a dream and science fiction combined, and now it's a smooth, flawless reality. Furthermore, at the moment, Steam offers, and may continue to offer the game for a lovely 75% off. Well, the deal might be gone by the time you read this, but still. Kudos to Valve and Firaxis for their efforts. All in all, it's a great deal, and an awesome tech demonstrator that proves there's nothing inherently missing in Linux that prevents you from playing real, deep, complex games on your favorite distro. Over the years, I've always complained that Linux lacks proper RTS, and this is it. No more whining. Welcome to the revolution.