It’s hard to believe that the very first game in the Civ franchise was released more than 25 years ago, and even harder to believe I was around then to actually play the game. Before I get into the review itself, I just have to come out and say it right off the bat, Civilization VI is the best Civ game to date. And although it may seem like a trivial statement, it is worth noting that there have been many, many bombs when it comes to gaming franchises and sequels…cough, cough Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Medal Of Honor: Warfighter, and Batman: Dark Tomorrow, to name but a few. In addition to this, developers, Firaxis, have a long history of producing some great games in the franchise.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t the same time, while Civilization VI is labeled as a new game, it feels a lot like a DLC, except that it includes a list of additional features so long that it simply can’t be labeled as such. At it’s most basic, though, this is still Civilization, where gamers build cities, expand your empire into the far reaches of the ‘map’, all the while growing your army and defeating enemy tribes and empires, or opt for diplomacy, religion or trading, moving through the eons from an early nomad, to the space age.
[pullquote]Where Civilization VI has grown up is build on everything that made the game great…[/pullquote]
Where Civilization VI has grown up is build on everything that made the game great, and adding a few intricacies that change a lot of the deeper dynamic of the game, while keeping it simple if you choose not to pay too much attention to these new elements. City-States make return from Civ V, with Civics and Districts making their debuts to the franchise. The Civics element forms part of a variety of non-military and non-scientific aspects of the game, and a lot more to do with culture, diplomacy and other social developments within the game. Civics also form the basis of your government, and there are over 50 civics to progress through.
One of the biggest changes to the Civ franchise is the unstacking of your cities, splitting them into different Districts, each with their own subculture. These include the City Center, Campus, Holy Site, Theater Square, Encampment, Harbor, Commercial Hub, Industrial Zone, Entertainment Complex, Aqueduct, Neighborhood, Aerodrome, and Spaceport. Each of these Districts unlock different buildings, that are a result of achieving certain goals, or a path in your research you’ve chosen. Districts also bring about the production of different resources, along with social policies and other facets of the game. Another important aspect of City, or even Empire, planning is the limited resources and land available to expand. There is almost a sense of urgency is expanding into new regions of the map either by means of the Districts expanding in the region or by introducing new cities. You’ll often be threatened by opponents, even allies, for expanding in certain areas, but given that it’s within the AIs nature to expand likewise, you’ll need some negotiating skills to appease those questioning your endeavors.
[pullquote]Builders have a slightly different role in Civ VI…[/pullquote]
There are a total of 19 different Civilization factions to play as in Civilization VI, 18 of which form part of the base game, and a 19th, the Aztecs, available to all those who pre-ordered the game, which will become available to everyone 90 days after the launch. There are also a host of new units available in Civ VI, the most notable being the change from a worker to a builder. Builders have a slightly different role in Civ VI, and one of biggest differences is that they complete their build within a single turn, allowing you to progress to another tile for further construction projects, as opposed to waiting across multiple turns for a single, or multiple, project to be completed.
While many new game releases always seem to require more powerful hardware, eking out the last bits from your existing setup. But that simply isn’t the case with Civilization VI. The minimum requirements specify your system is running on a 64-bit version of Windows 7, Intel Core i3 or greater, 4GB RAM, DirectX 11, and a 1GB graphics card (AMD 5570 or nVidia 450). That said, having tested the game using a very basic setup, even below the minimum requirement, along with Intel Integrated HD Graphics, it ran quite smoothly. Even with a game so complex, where there are a number of AI inputs at play behind the scenes, it brings a smile to my face that you don’t need the latest and greatest just because a few developers aren’t able to deliver a great game on a basic setup. That’s not to say all games aren’t very well optimised, but does raise an interesting debate as to why more developers don’t create a game that in it’s most basic form and graphics option can be played using the bare minimum, while still being able to eke out great performances if you do have the hardware to take things to the next level. But that’s neither here nor there for this review; just making a point of my gratitude to Firaxis for the option.
[pullquote]There are a total of six different conditions to achieve victory in Civ VI, which includes Science, Culture, Domination, Religion and Score.[/pullquote]
There are a total of six different conditions to achieve victory in Civ VI, which includes Science, Culture, Domination, Religion and Score. Unfortunately for those playing the safe option of using allies to avoid wars against stronger opposition, there is no Diplomatic victory. But if you’re afraid to engage in a war you’re most likely to lose, rest assured you can still win the race by any of the other five possibilities. That said, it is a little disappointing not to include this as an option of victory, especially given the game’s enhancements of elements like City-State functionality and even in the AI itself. Given that the community has already raised this issue on countless forums, it may very well be a feature in one of the planned DLCs down the line. If you really wanted to, you could take on the diplomatic role in becoming allies with all other AI empires, and simply enjoy the race to the space age, planning all the little steps that follow in between.
I’m generally not a big fan of turn-based games, but given that Civ never really feels like many of the other games in the genre, it was always one of the few I was not only able to tolerate, but enjoy. Unless the enemy units engage in some form of battle onscreen, opposition turns are completed with seconds, allowing you to continue plotting and planning your moves without too much of a wait. Another aspect of Civ that continually draws me in is the “just one more turn” obsession it possesses over many a player, myself included. Features such as warrior healing, makes chooses your options a lot more carefully. You can either advance your warrior into battle attempting to gain ground on enemies, or have that unit skip a turn to self-heal for heavier battles around the corner.
[pullquote]Another aspect of Civ that continually draws me in is the “just one more turn” obsession it possesses…[/pullquote]
To be really honest, even after 2 weeks of playing Civ on a daily basis, having invested almost a full two days of continuous gaming into it during this time, there’s still something new discover at every turn. Even knowing some of the features and tools at your disposal doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll know the optimum strategy to deploy its usefulness in different situations, and nor should there be. This gives Civ one of its great appealing factors, that you’ll never quite master it completely. In addition to this, there is no major learning curve for new players, and even after years of not having playing a Civ game since Civilization VI was still fresh, being able to carry on where I left off made it even more enjoyable.
Where the game has taken one step back is in its graphics choices. While there are some divided opinions on the more colourful and cartoonish approach of the art style, it does add a bit more character to the game. That said, there are great elements in terms of the animations, personalities and voice acting for each character, making it a more engaging experience overall. The map and its surroundings are beautifully crafted as well, with a subtle day/night cycle, and little animations you don’t often pay attention to in the background. Zooming in a little to watch each of the different tiles brings to life a new world, much like lifting a rock may reveal a whole army of ants beneath it. Each tile acts almost independently from one another, which makes it even more pleasing, while the tides of the ocean also adds to this.
All of this and I haven’t even touched on the score or narration. As part of the introduction video (below), you’ll hear the main theme for the game. Civ is well known for some of its amazing scores and theme music, and Civ VI is no different. The opening cinematic builds up an emotional journey of creating an empire and backed by the track, Sogno di Volare, composed by Christopher Tin.
Narration is also heavy in Civilization VI and has a rather familiar voice lurking as the tech narrator, that of Sean Bean. He isn’t the main voice actor for the game, however, but delivers some memorable quotes taken through history, some of which you can check out in the video below. The main role of the advisor goes to British actress, Natasha Loring, who also delivers quite a good performance.
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is a deep, highly complex game, with lots to learn and lots to love. It’s nearly impossible to go through all the dynamics in gameplay in a single review, otherwise I’ll be spending just as long writing the review as I did playing the actual game. At the same time, it’s also very linear and simple if you choose it to be, opting for all out attack as opposed to strategising like an expert general or diplomat would. And that gives Civ VI all the appeal it needs. As odd as it might be to say, there are still a few additions that would make this an even more rounded game, and a few bugs or intricacies that may need ironing out.