Updated by Christian Cawley on June 26, 2017.
There is a curious lack of Sid Meier titles available for Android. So just how does a Civilization junkie get his fix courtesy of the little green robot?
In 1991, I accidentally bought the original Civilization for my Amiga. I say “accidentally” because I’d intended to buy Sim City after playing it on my uncle’s PC several months earlier. Somehow, I found myself reading the box and walking, somnambulist-like, to the counter and paying. It was as if I was remotely hypnotized by Sid Meier himself.
Ever since, I’ve been addicted to the game, in all of its wonderful incarnations. Indeed, one of my pre-requisites when selecting a mobile platform was that it should carry a version of Civ.
After recently switching to Android after three years of running Windows Phone as my primary mobile device, I was surprised to find a distinct lack of any Sid Meier titles at all.
So how was I going to play Civilization?
1. Play Civilization Revolution 2 on Android
There was a time, pre-2014, when there were no Sid Meier games available for Android. Given that tabletop versions were available, this seemed slightly odd. As recently as 2012, Windows Phone and iPhone had Civilization Revolution, a game also available on Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Meanwhile, Pirates! and Colonization remain missing on Android, despite revivals on iOS.
So, how do you play Civilization on your Android device?
In mid-2014, we received Civilization Revolution 2, and this included an Android release. It’s still available, and you can purchase it from the Play Store for $9.99.
As fun to play as the desktop original, Civilization Revolution 2 has all of the elements that Civ fans love, such as the tech tree and barbarians. Rival leaders have personalities, and cities are easy to manage via your mobile display. You can only appreciate the convenience of having Civ in your pocket once you’ve experienced it for yourself. It makes waiting in line for the bus far more interesting!
Random Maps and Scenarios
If you’re familiar with the desktop versions of Civilization, you’ll probably know that maps can be random, or generated. The game also offers scenarios, and all of these features are included with Civilization Revolution 2. It even includes a scenario generator!
So, you could start from 4,000 B.C. with your civilization, or play a game set in an endless war. You could set up a colony on a new world, or one overrun by barbarians. With so many options for a unique game available, you’ll be playing Civilization Revolution 2 for a while to come!
While there is no way of transferring your current Civilization Revolution 2 game to the desktop incarnation, it remains an engaging gaming experience. You know you’re addicted when you find you’re playing it hours after you should have gone to sleep!
Fun as the game is, it may seem jarring for those looking for a more visually authentic mobile experience. In short, Civilization Revolution 2 continues the console-esque, cartoony graphics of its predecessor. So what can you do if you’re looking for a more traditional Civilization experience on your Android smartphone or tablet?
Perhaps the most accessible option for Android users is FreeCiv, an Android port of the popular Linux version.
Using an isometric view similar to that seen in Civilization II, FreeCiv offers virtually all of the game concepts and marries them with great graphics. I haven’t played this version of the game long enough to know if the Fundamentalist government type is the best to play with in the later stages. But with a choice of game rules (you can choose between rules based on Civilization or Civilization II), this is a good option.
Mindful of the size of some displays, the developers have made some of the buttons quite chunky. This can prove distracting at first, but FreeCiv for Android soon redeems itself! On balance it probably plays better on tablet than on a smartphone — try on both to see which you prefer. (If you like FreeCiv, note that you can even run this cross-platform game from a USB stick!)
3. DosBox and Emulators
If the retro-joy of FreeCiv doesn’t fulfill your Civilization pangs, you always have the option of emulation.
Perhaps the obvious option would be to install DosBox Turbo (forget the abandoned apps aDosBox and anDosBox) and then find a ROM of Civilization or Civilization II to run on your phone or tablet.
Meanwhile, if you prefer the idea of the original Civilization Revolution (you must be a purist!) forget about DOS emulation. Instead, look at the several Nintendo DS emulators for Android (such as the free nds4droid). These will enable you to play the Nintendo DS version of Civilization Revolution.
This is a good option, and the game plays as well as it does on other mobile platforms. As you can see from the screenshot, however, it lacks the polish of a standard mobile game. This is thanks to the overlaid interface and dual-screen setup.
Remember, however, that when using emulators you cannot legally use a ROM unless you own the original version on its original disk.
Civilization Revolution 2: Android’s Best Civ-Like Option
Civilization’s appeal lies in the 4X dynamic: explore, expand, exploit and exterminate. There are many other great 4X games but Civ (as the hardcore fans call it) has something else.
Back when Android had no Civilization game available, Civ-like games were the only option. Several were available in the Play Store. Initially even this selection was modest, but over the years more have released. These often tap into the social gaming dynamic.
Ultimately, however, Civ-like games for Android are simply not Civ-like enough. FreeCiv is a good option but rooted heavily in the past. Emulation is a good option — perhaps the best for some Civ fans — but comes with the risk of breaking the law. So thank goodness 2K Games finally saw the light and delivered Civilization Revolution 2 to Android!
But there is more they could still do. The legacy is assured. Civilization VI was released in 2016. All that’s left now is for 2K Games to deal with that other problem: the lack of Sid Meier’s other games on Android. It’s time for this to change.
Do these Civ games satisfy your mobile gaming cravings? Which Civ game would you like to see on mobile platforms next? Weigh in using the comments below!