Civilization 6 is the brand new turn-based 4X strategy title from developer Firaxis Games. The game follows in the footsteps of some of the best games of the genre, so hopes were certainly high when initially loading the game. Thankfully those expectations were more than met. As a result, Civilization 6 is a game where players around the world will be trading, negotiating, fighting and even praying together for a long time.
Straight away we have to talk about the art style of Civilization 6. The unexplored sections of the map are displayed as blank parchment, with watercolour depictions of mythical animals, such as a colorful kraken, dotted across its surface. Even when locations have been scouted the fog of war again utilizes this watercolour parchment style to paint over what the player last saw in that location. It’s a nice step based system that keeps flowing across the screen: Vivid colors of the areas currently visible, surrounded by faded parchment like colours on blank parchment of areas still to be mapped. The map even grows as you start to venture out and discover the extent of the land masses and the enemies you face.
Watercolour aside, the city and district models have seen a big increase in quality. Countless times I have been thankful that Civilization 6 is turn-based. This is due to the tiny details, such as a jousting match taking place, drawing my attention away from the gameplay completely. If this was a real-time game, I would be at a serious disadvantage due to the eye-candy distractions.
Alongside the visuals another advancement in presentation can be heard. The tracks seamlessly roll on in the background and this helps advance the overall feel of the title. A central evolving theme, that runs throughout each game, includes layers which build up as the player advances through the eras: Coming together to make something which is a pleasant, non-obtrusive, soundtrack.
While Civilization 5 unstacked units, Civilization 6 goes one step forward and unstacks entire cities. Instead of cramming everything in, cities have burst and overflowed into nearby tiles. These districts in turn offer bonuses when on certain terrain types. This makes it a slightly deeper system, with placement occasionally becoming a trade-off. Do you go for the safety of having an important district adjacent to the walled city or sprawled further away on a more beneficial terrain type? On top of this, some districts offer bonuses based upon what they are connected to and certain wonders must be placed adjacent to specific districts or to the city walls.
The land type system works well with this district style. As well as limiting unit movement, as they venture across various terrain types, it also encourages players to pick the location that they settle more wisely by making them think about the surrounding hexagons. One tip that has come apparent is, if it is possible build your initial city within 3 hexagons distance from a coast tile. This unlocks another avenue for you to gain resources early on and makes the journey to other land masses later in the game a lot easier.
There has always been a depth to Civilization titles however a new wave of complexity has been added in this installment. This isn’t to say the game is harder as a result. Instead it unlocks a greater potential for players to tweak and customize elements such as governments and research technologies. This can allow completely differing experiences and styles from individual leaders. Buildings and districts are also tied into technologies, meaning players will have to choose to aim for short term or long term goals, in turn effecting the outcome of the game.
Even the changes to the governance system allows for a greater level of micromanagement than before. Thankfully, players don’t have to constantly play around with this to win. I found it almost as easy leaving them for long periods at a time, but they can help driving your culture or economy to get the maximum out of every city. This allows you to, at only a small cost, change direction on the fly: switching from giving gold bonuses for trade routes to speeding up troop build times. It is another way the game will make the player question their choices.
Other changes are more simplistic in mechanics. The attention to detail has definitely been stepped up with the builder unit being a prime example. Now, when a builder spawns the unit is made of three builders, representing the three charges that the unit can be used. Repairing excluded, when a builder is used a charge is spent and one of the builders in the unit disappears. It is a visual representation that helps the player to instantly recognize how much more they can do with that unit. This small tweak alone saves the player game time, as they don’t have to keep checking uses left between rounds.
The AI has been changed up in this iteration of the series to offer driven rival leaders. Each leader comes with distinctive likes and dislikes, which players can attempt to work around. Players can also strive to build exactly what will get them denounced, something which is often more fun to do. This doesn’t seem to add to the difficulty, if anything it might subtract from it, but it does add another dimension to the gameplay that feels more human than robotic.
As a relatively bad Civilization player one thing I massively appreciate is the way that Civilization 6 steps you into the game. The tutorial is extremely informative and with the chances to many of the games systems could even be helpful for veterans of the franchise. At each stage the tutorial lets the player decide whether to be hand held through or just to do it themselves, a nice feature for those just wanting a quick recap.
The title is also full of text to read despite not instantly covering the screen. Hovering over research, tiles, units and more will allow you to read about what they do and what they can be used for. Again for those whom are not brilliant at the game this is a great help towards fully understanding all the games intricate features. At the same time, this system allows veteran players a non-intrusive gameplay experience.
When it comes to multiplayer there is a special Online game speed which allows the years per turn to advance more rapidly than in the normal gameplay, effectively speeding the game up. It took a bit of time to get used to the different speed; however, it was more weekday evening friendly when it came to time taken to play a full game. This will also be the certain choice for those playing in the Hotseat mode, one which comes as standard this time around.
The biggest disappointment with multiplayer is the missing cooperative mode. I say missing… it is in the game, as players can enable it via tweaking some of the games files. Alas, early reports suggest the mode is buggy, probably the reason why it was not officially included at launch. Hopefully this will be fixed and patched into the game soon, as it could be a great addition to the title if done correctly.
Aside from this absent multiplayer mode Civilization does feel a lot more feature complete than its predecessor, at least at launch. Fans of religion in particular rejoice. Religion is in from the start this time around. While it does add to the gameplay in a similar way to Civilization 5, I would not be surprised to see this system further expanded by downloadable content at some point. Players can currently select from a list of real world religions, each giving a set of bonuses, or players can set up their own faith and slowly spread it around the world. It is a solid system but I feel more options could be available; in terms of the buffs and even to the extent of providing debuffs for non-believers.
Civilization 6 is a great step for the franchise, which is why it quite possibly the best Civilization game to date. The unstacking made in Civilization 5 now seems like a noncommittal stepping stone onto bigger and better things. The resultant is a game wide consistency, and this move even enables Civilization 6 to be a much prettier game. The attention to detail extends from this throughout the title, creating a game which not only feels feature complete but one that offers an enjoyable complex gameplay experience with plenty of depth.
[Editor’s Note: Civilization 6 was reviewed on PC. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Civilization 6 Review,