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Sid Meier's Civilization V: Gods & Kings 3D Review

General Review
Nvidia 3D Vision
DDD TriDef Ignition


The gaming concept of building things from scratch probably originated with Simcity. With the will of mind and some imaginary cash, the world was your oyster, and your modest village can grow to be a giant metropolis.

Sid Meier's Civilization series takes it up a notch by not only letting you tame a get to shape a world! Today, we review Civilization V: Gods/Kings (Civ5) on DDD TriDef Ignition and Nvidia 3D Vision solutions.

General Review

I haven't done that many RTS game reviews on MTBS because, well...I just don't have the patience to play them. They often feel like work, and when they are live action versus turn based, it's a grey line between being fun and just plain stressful. Civ5 definitely broke from this tradition, and the hours (and evolutionary years) just flew by.

There are different styles of play, but you will likely start with a single capitol city in an unexplored part of the world. Each nation is planted with a famous leader, and each leader "civilization" has unique traits and competitive advantages. This could be as simple as being a sharp mouthed diplomat or vicious warrior, to having units that offer unique benefits on the playing field.

Once you establish your first city, there are several measures that will define the viability of your civilization. First is productivity. Productivity refers to how much of anything your civilization can churn out. This includes how many turns it takes to build a building, replenish soldiers and units, or even find food and resources for your people.

Research is equally important. You could have the biggest army in the world, but your army of spears, chariots, and crossbows is no match for a nuclear attack or even a medieval catapult. It's not just weapons. Figuratively speaking, breakthroughs in farming, religious wonder, education, and social policy will determine whether you are written down as a well respected king, a fool, or an apostrophe.

There is an expression that "it's good to be the king", but this is only true if your people are happy. With each building that you create, there is a drop in your people's "happiness". You have to keep them happy or your productivity will fall like a rock and suddenly become vulnerable to your competitors either through attack, or by falling behind. You can overcome this by building city structures that add happiness (e.g. stadiums), and you can make sure your people are well fed by developing the lands and sea ports. If you can do this for long enough periods, you will get "Golden Ages" that add productivity bonuses.

There are several ways to win the game. The most obvious is by defeating your enemies through brute force and taking over the map. It's fun, but it's also melancholy when these world leaders shun you for not being a leader to be proud of. Still, if Ghandi can use nukes, who are they to lecture?

The next option is through science. As you research new technologies, you will eventually learn to travel to space. Be the first to get a rocket launched, and you win the game! However, don't take too long. Once the game hits the year 2050, it won't let you build the rocket and you will get stuck. Why?

If your civilization lives beyond 2050, that's another type of victory. You can play beyond this if you choose, but the research victory will no longer work for some reason.

The next option is a double edged sword: the diplomatic victory. When a player is advanced enough, they will have the option to create The United Nations. As a founder, you have a bonus vote. Unfortunately, this will open the door for other nations: enemies and friends alike, to determine who is the world leader of choice. It's not just the other civilizations that vote, it's the "city states" which are smaller computer players that don't have an interest in expanding on the map, just existing, getting along, and trading.

So you could have the biggest army and have the world under your thumb, but if you've ticked off enough people, you're as vulnerable to losing as everyone else is. The question is do you build the UN and expose yourself to this vulnerability? Or do you let someone else build it, and miss out on the bonus vote?

There is also a "cultural victory" where you establish enough social policies and social policy trees. I think this is supposed to be the hardest one.

This is a simplified explanation of the game, as there are additional complexities that appear as you progress. For example, you can pick a religion and try to convert the world to get benefits and special attributes. You can discover and build wonders of the world. There are also Great Scientists, Engineers, Merchants, and more that will appear throughout the game.

So running a civilization sounds cool enough...but how is it in 3D? Time to find out!

Nvidia 3D Vision

Maingear X-Cube
Intel Core I7 Processor 2.66GHZ
GTX 580, GTX 275 (PhysX)
Windows 7 64 Bit
NVIDIA 310.54 Stereo Driver
ASUS VG278 27" 3D Display

Before I talk about the stereoscopic 3D support with Nvidia's drivers, I need to share a gripe. A highly respected colleague of mine forwarded a panel discussion featuring Daniel Baker, the Graphics Lead for Civilization 5: Gods & Kings. When the topic of stereoscopic 3D came up, Daniel opened his remarks with the statement "3D is a gimmick", credited Firaxis Games for doing special work to get the game running in 3D, and that 3D added very little to Civilization V. More precisely, he said that stereoscopic 3D only benefits games where the objects are literally in your hand, and not great distances away.

In this case, Civilization V: Gods & Kings was custom developed for Nvidia's 3D Vision, and having reviewed their work, I think it was inappropriate for him to blame 3D for his game's ills. Whatever expertise Firaxis added to the game only resulted in mediocrity that could have been avoided.

On the positive side, the DirectX 10 and 11 implementations are by far the best option for Nvidia 3D Vision users because the images look a lot smoother with the antialiasing, the mouse cursor dynamically adjusts itself in stereoscopic 3D so its aim is correct, and the nametags are rendered at proper 3D depth for easy picking and choosing.

The stereoscopic 3D support is reasonable, but it's not a worthy showpiece to stake claim on what 3D is and isn't capable of. Despite Firaxis' early 3D efforts, Civilization V on Nvidia has shot itself in the foot by locking out the convergence controls. Even when you save your out of screen convergence settings, the game resets the 3D experience the moment you move the map around. Even when planes are flying overhead, Civilization V makes an extra effort to dull up the experience by forcing them inside the screen.

There is also a problem of inconsistent camera angles when speaking to foreign diplomats which occasionally creates uncomfortable viewing angles with way too much separation. There are some scenes that are really well optimized, but they obviously missed a few segments that throws off the whole balance. The game is very playable and worthy of trying in 3D; it's just far from perfect.

The DirectX 9 results are worse. There are squiggly anomalies that appear on the water, the mouse cursor is no longer dynamic so it's hard to pick and choose objects in 3D, and the camera angles are again inconsistent – just more so. Steer clear if your GPU is DX9 limited with an Nvidia solution.

DDD TriDef Ignition

AMD 1090T 3.2Ghz
Patriot DDR3 1333Ghz RAM
Windows 7 64 Bit
Samsung S23A750D 23" Monitor
Catalyst 12.7 Beta
TriDef 3.6.9

While I was unable to get Civilization 5: Gods & Kings to run in DirectX 10 or 11 because of a crash to desktop, it ran almost flawlessly in DirectX 9. There was no need for any auto-convergence features, and it was possible to get combined depth and pop-out effects.

The stereoscopic 3D benefits were stifled because Civilization V's graphics aren't all that detailed compared to other RTS games I've played. For example, in other games, if I built a skyscraper in a forest, I could zoom in, and see the skyscraper and trees pierce my screen and look very interesting. With Civilization 5, the objects are too small and simple looking to begin with, so it doesn't give the 3D enough material to improve on.

In this case, DDD's convergence flexibility saves the game, and with the right settings and zoom level, you can see the 3D topography and object detail. It's not lush with detailed trees and bushes, but it's a start. The 3D really shows its stuff much later when airplanes are flying overhead and outside the screen, but this only starts to happen during the last 30% to 40% of the game.

The only caveat with the DDD drivers is that nametags are rendered at screen depth, which also throws off the mouse cursor in the user interface. The solution is to use DDD's dominant eye mechanism so your mouse's aim is always true, and the nametags are tolerable.

The graphics are a bit shaggier in DirectX 9 versus DX 10 and 11, and this is largely because of the missing antialiasing features. This isn't a deduction though because AA is forced off by the game, not the DDD drivers.


As a standalone product, Civilization V: Gods & Kings is both memorable and enjoyable. I invested countless waking hours building my first city into a worldwide civilization, and the time just flew by. For these reasons, I strongly recommend it for RTS fans that like the excitement and strategy, without the pressures of real-time decision making.

For stereoscopic 3D gamers, your best bet is the DDD drivers in DX 9 mode. DX 10 and 11 would definitely smooth the graphics out more, but this 3D experience is better than none at all.

Nvidia's results have the smoother look thanks to the improved antialiasing features and better 3D interface. It's very playable, though somewhat lackluster thanks to the locked out convergence controls. GameGrade3D doesn't deduct for this because it's an artistic choice, but this is one of those games where convergence would have made a big difference.

On a final note, it really gets my goat when developers like Firaxis make negative blanket statements about 3D when they only have feigned experience to back it up. Had they put out a really good 3D game, their words would have carried more weight. Their remarks just stunk of blame-game potshots in place of taking responsibility for mediocre QA testing and 3D imagination.

Maybe a gamer out there will buy Civilization V: Gods & Kings, and start a new religion of Stereoscopers that promote exciting 3D and good will toward men (and women)!

Game Play



Immersive Nature

How Memorable Is This Game

Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA (link to actual GG3D Score)
9/10 (NOTE: This only applies to the DirectX 10/11 implementation)

Stereoscopic Effectiveness DDD (link to actual GG3D Score)
9.5/10 (NOTE: This only applies to the DirectX 9 implementation)

Nvidia Overall Rating

DDD Overall Rating