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Civilization Revolution 2 keeps it old-school in modern gaming era

The first game for the Civilization game franchise designed specifically for mobile doesn't succumb to the trend for ongoing in-app purchases.

Civilization Revolution 2 is the first Civ game designed specifically for mobile devies. 2K

Can a classic old-school game thrive in today's ruthlessly competitive mobile world? Civilization Revolution 2 aims to find out.

In an era of mobile gaming where we're constantly asked to fork over more money to progress through games faster or access new features or characters, Civilization Revolution 2 keeps it simple. The game, which 2K launched for iOS in early July in Apple's App Store, costs $15.

Civilization Revolution 2 marks the first entry in the storied strategy game franchise developed specifically for the mobile platform (the first Civilization Revolution was a port of an older console game only available for the Apple iPad, and then to Windows Phone). It also goes against the grain of a vast majority of mobile games, which follow a business model called "freemium."

A freemium game is given away for free, but certain aspects or items are closed off unless you put more money in the game through in-app purchases. Some games allow impatient players to advance quicker, skipping levels or gaining special power-ups through these purchases. Games such as Clash of Clans and Candy Crush utilize this model to great success -- Clans is the top grossing mobile game in the App Store, and Candy Crush is right behind it.

By opting for a single price -- albeit a high one -- Civilization Revolution 2 sticks to the philosophy embraced by its creator, Sid Meier, who previously said that he preferred the traditional model of a customer paying once for the entire game.

"It's about designing unhappiness," Meier said about freemium games in an interview last year. "You have to design a game so not fun that people will pay to make it fun. That kind of goes against the grain of game design."

Revolution 2 marks a test of whether the traditional business model still works when players today expect games to be free. It was off to a good start, appearing in the App Store's list of most popular paid apps in the first week. But since then, it has dropped out of that list. The game's latest version has garnered 255 ratings and an average of four out of five stars.

So how is the game? If you've already played the original Civilization Revolution, which is a simplified version of the main Civilization game, you'll be intimately familiar with the sequel. In fact, aside from the addition of a few new units, leaders, and wonders and tech, the game plays exactly the same.

I spent a few weeks with the game and found it to be a massive time suck -- and I mean that as a compliment. After jumping into the game, I got caught up in its addictive nature and hours would fly by without my noticing. Unlike the flagship Civilization V game, Revolution 2 involves shorter, more manageable sessions, but that doesn't mean it isn't a time commitment.

The game features two new leaders, although over the additions are sparse. 2K

But the game isn't perfect. There are issues with the user interface, such as the ability to choose the right military unit to move around. The game can lag at times (I tested the game on a third-generation iPad and an iPhone 5). There also isn't really a sense of a global community because the other leaders rarely ever talk with each other -- they all seem focused on you.

The bigger problem is that its positive qualities are already evident in the original Revolution. It's unclear whether this game really deserved a "2" in its title. It's more like a Revolution 1.5.

So what are the key differences? As an app designed for iOS, Revolution 2 is now available for both the iPad and iPhone. It's a universal app, so one purchase means the ability to play on both devices. Unfortunately, it doesn't allow you to save over iCloud, so you can't save a game on your iPhone and continue playing on your iPad. 2K says saves it is working on eventually adding that capability, but didn't specify when it would happen.

Civilization Revolution 2 also features a slight graphical upgrade, retaining the cartoon-like look of the original.

For now, it is only available on iOS. 2K said it is also working on an Android version, but has no plans to create one for the Windows Phone platform.

So is the game worth the investment? At $15, it's expensive for a mobile game. If you bought the original Revolution for the iPad, the minor changes don't justify a purchase. Even if you're a Civilization fan and are dying to have it on your iPhone, the price is tough to swallow.

But in an era where you could spend far more upgrading your defenses in Clash of Clans or getting a few extra turns in Candy Crush, Civilization Revolution 2 potentially holds more bang for your buck over the long term. Or you could always take a look at the original Revolution, which now sells for a far more reasonable $3.