Time flies when you're playing Civilization Revolution, in two senses. It's 4000 BC in the game and 7pm in the real world, and your toga-clad warriors are clubbing a gang of barbarians for impeding work on the world's first road. Before you know it, it's 2000 AD and you're embroiled in a nuclear race with the Egyptians, constructing Oxford University in Delhi and you have to be up for work in an hour.
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, and Sid Meier's Civilization series - of which Revolution is the first on PlayStation 3 - is built around the idea of taking a group of settlers and turning them into a global superpower, with the history of mankind and all its technological, military and political advances at your disposal.
Your first decision is to choose your nation from the 16 available, each with their own historical figure as leader, such as Ghandi or Napoleon. Each nation has a specific advantage - the Aztecs begin the game with a wealth of gold, for example - and location on the map.
You begin the game with one group of settlers, a gang of warriors and a small patch of land in a world almost entirely submerged in fog. The squares of land neighbouring your fledgling metropolis contain resources, such as construction materials or food, as represented by symbols on the City Screen that is accessed by pressing the R1 button. Food increases the population, providing more workers to harvest greater resources, and construction points allow you to build units, such as warriors and ships with which to explore the world, gradually clearing the fog.
Graphically, the game strikes a neat balance between beauty and functionality. The world is crisp and colourful and the simple character animations contain smart details that add personality, such as construction workers hacking away at trees or food gatherers lugging sacks of grain back to the village. Important information is displayed unobtrusively; Firaxis Games has done a great job in implementing a visual style and control scheme that streamline the game's many options and functions.
Growth occurs quickly, and although Civilization Revolution is a turn-based strategy game that can be played at the player's own pace, it's a faster game than its predecessors because of how quickly settlements expand. As population increases, so does the variety and sophistication of units and buildings that can be built. Technology plays a large part in this; your civilization can research one technology at any given time, and each one requires a certain number of turns to master. The study of the alphabet, for example, can lead to literacy, a more cultured populace and the opportunity to build libraries and wonders such as Shakespeare's Theatre. As time moves on, technology becomes more advanced, eventually unlocking the combustion engine, mass media, nuclear fusion and many more. Your choice of technology goes a long way in deciding whether yours is a nation renowned for its culture, wealth or military might.
Victory comes in different forms: a cultural victory is earned by building theatres, universities and world wonders, attracting great people like Leonardo da Vinci and forming the United Nations; a financial victory involves amassing a large proportion of the world's gold and forming the first World Bank; and a domination victory is gained by conquering rival civilizations through military force.
Single-mindedness can be a good thing, and while you may be aiming for a master race of philosophers and thinkers with which to govern a peaceful world, if you neglect your defences you stand to lose everything. Rival nations are ruthless and think nothing of razing your city at any opportunity. Declarations of war become increasingly commonplace as the game progresses and as you establish more cities and more advanced technology. Of course, you always have the option of invading one of your rivals; the rewards are great - the rival city will be converted to your civilization and you gain all of its resources, buildings and great people - but if your troops take a beating in the process you may leave your own turf vulnerable to attack.
There is much more that can be said about Civilization Revolution, such is its scale, and really it's a game that is unique to each player, depending on their approach and how the story of their civilization develops. Each play is unique and the fact that you begin with a tiny settlement and take it through such rapid expansion gives a sense of ownership, and its surprisingly upsetting when Julius Caesar flattens it with his tank army just because you wouldn't reveal the secrets of aluminium.