Game: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
Price: £49.99 on Steam (at time of review)
One third traditional, one third improved and a third brand new, that’s been how new civilization games and their expansions have been for a while now. Jumping from square tiles to hexes was almost a shock too far. Civilization VI doesn’t do anything quite that drastic, but still tries to mix things significantly while retaining the same charm it always has.
Right from the start things seem familiar, you start with a settler and a warrior. Found your city and get your production and tech queues going. A few turns later the gameplay changes start trickling in with civics. It’s a secondary tech tree that unlocks cards and government types directly, removing the need for the fixed social policy trees. In practice it works well, new cards are added as you unlock civics and can be used straight away, so you can tailor your government to your immediate needs, whether that is faster production or something else.
Feeding into the civic and tech trees are Inspiration and Eureka moments, essentially they are 50% research boosts tied to certain conditions. Defeat 3 barbarians, discover a continent, etc. I ignored them completely in my first game and went my own way, it did not go well. They are important, but balancing the boost vs fulfilling the requirement is an art in itself. For example shipbuilding requires 2 harbours to fulfill the boost requirement, but the time it would take to build those harbours then research would be the same as just researching the tech fully. So I combined both, researching half the tech while building the harbours, switching my research to an older tech I’d missed to wait the last couple of turns.
Barbarians have changed to become more of a threat, instead of roving randomly they will scout out areas and report back to their encampments. If that happens they’ll field increasingly overwhelming forces until they capture cities they’ve discovered, let’s not discuss how I learnt that. But if you see a barbarian scout, kill it quickly.
City building in previous games has always been a case of build everything in every city just to have something to occupy the build queue. Civilization VI changes that by unstacking most technologies into their own tiles called districts. Build a campus to increase your scientific output, a commercial hub for increased gold, etc. It takes a few games to get used to, especially when you are replacing previously upgraded tiles with a district that initially won’t provide anything until it has been improved further. District tiles, not the improvements on them, are also the only thing besides wonders that you cannot buy outright.
Districts are by far the biggest change in Civilization VI and takes some getting used to. Building the initial district stops that city from building anything useful until it’s complete. This removes them from being built until you have enough cities to provided other needed things like miltary units to fight barbarians.
The graphics having undergone a significant revision away from realism towards the cartoonish. It’s different, and does grow on you after a while. Combined with the new approach to cities it’s possible to tell what has been built just by looking at the tiles around a city. This even affects the fog of war which has two distinct styles. Areas that haven’t been explored are styled to look like the unexplored regions on an old map, previously visited areas show details but are done in a similar style.
Leaders have been given a lot of attention too, They are fully animated, but audio seems to be reserved for a few select phrases. Usually introductions and defeat screens. They are in the same cartoonish style as the rest of the game and it’s pretty easy from looking at their posture and faces how they are feeling. Diplomacy generally seems a lot easier to understand, even if AI players tend to denounce you out of the blue.
I’ve spent a fair few hours enjoying single and multiplayer, and in it’s freshly released state there are a few problems that still need to be ironed out. Spelling mistakes in the most obvious things, from things being “Decalred” to tooltips it’s frustrating that these things weren’t spotted before release. No matter the difficulty the barbarian spawn rate is incredibly fast, I tried every difficulty from settler to deity and they all seem to have the same rate. The only choice is off or on, no sliding scale.
Multiplayer has a neat little feature to deal with bad connections. If a player desyncs it no longer forces a reload for everyone, instead the problem player has to reload and all other players get a little tooltip that says who desynced, and when they have reloaded. It’s a minor thing but means you can isolate the problem quicker instead of Civilization V where it was always guesswork who had the issue. It’s not me, it’s never me, the only thing I am in multiplayer is the target of players ganging up against my mighty empire.