Sid Meier’s Civilization series is one of the most well known gaming franchises, and also one of the most addictive ones. It coined the meme of “Just one more turn…”, and with good reason. It is arguably the worlds most prominent member of the turn-based and 4X game franchises, having spawned a massive number of games on multiple platforms. And the sixth entry in the main series, is definitely not one to sit behind its prequels. It is immense, looking great, and addictive as always.
Colorful to look at.
For those who haven’t played Civilization before, there’s a slight learning curve, but the built-in advisors will help you get the basics down quickly. Similar to previous entries, you select one of the major civilizations of Earth’s history along with a leader to represent you, with each having unique benefits and a special unit and building. Coupled with each game map being generated randomly, it opens up for an almost endless number of outcomes, and two games never play out the same. After having picked your civilization of choice, you start on the map with only a settler and a warrior to protect it. You find a good spot with plenty of food in the vicinity, hopefully with some bonus or luxury resources nearby, and found your tiny village. You then proceed to build various troops, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, and buildings, and more settlers. In the mean time your warrior sets out to explore the area for opportunities for your sprawling empire. You will meet other factions, friendly or not, city states which may be able to help you out, and barbarians who roam the map looking to steal your settlers and kill your troops. Over time, you’ll have a complex interwoven net of cities, connected by trade routes, and hopefully guarded by the eras strongest soldiers! At the same time you have to make sure you don’t fall behind in science development, which will give you even more options, nor culture development and religion. As mentioned before - Not two games play out the same.
At the dawn of civilization around 4000BC, you only have a single settler and a warrior to start with. Oh, and the game also has sea horses!
The game has shed its more life-like look from Civilization V, and has adopted a more cartoonish and colorful visual design, which suits it very well, and personally I think this is the best looking Civilization game so far. Some people will likely prefer the looks of its predecessor, but personally I don’t mind the colorful look at all. Everything in the game world is still presented in vivid 3D, and in this generation of the game, everything happens directly in the world. Seeing wonders being build on site where your cities are, can be quite captivating, again lending to its great looks. Especially if it happens to be situated close to a natural wonder that you have discovered.. Pyramids being built a stones throw from Yosemite Valley? No problem!
The Colossus wonder being built just outside a city.
Warfare is of course a major part of the game, and while Civilization IV and earlier allowed you to stack virtually unlimited number of units in an army, creating entirely unrealistic combat situations. Civilization V changed this to individual units taking up a single space, and Civilization VI continues this trend. In addition, the game map is divided into hexagonal spaces, making movement more flexible. It makes for more strategic decisions, which adds another layer to the game, but also one that will lead to plenty of frustrating moments (But in a good way). Units gain experience as they fight, meaning some units will be stronger than their counterparts. Over time, you can also upgrade them to more modern units, so building lots of archers doesn’t mean you are wasting precious resources when you enter the modern era.
The french people have run out of local frogs and are getting ready to wage war to get more.
City building has also been revamped, with most core buildings being moved into certain districts. The size (Essentially population number) of your individual cities limit how many districts they can make, and therefore the number of buildings they can create. This also adds another layer of strategy to the game, since you have to carefully determine if your coastal city should be a ship manufacturing powerhouse, or a trading focused node, or a little bit of both. This also means that there’s a great focus on optimizing local resource gathering, so your cities can grow to the optimal size quickly, and take advantage of bonuses which might be required to build certain units.
Montezuma thinks that I have broken a promise to him. He's of course lying, as I would neeeever do such a thing!
I have been playing this game on a low end 2016 Macbook, and a high end 2011 iMac. Both of them did much better than I had anticipated, and I did not have to dial down the visuals too much. This is quite surprising, as both of them actually doesn’t meet Aspyr’s minimum requirements! Late game both of them got quite slow, the Macbook more than the iMac, but that is not uncommon for Civilization games, as there are many things going on on the screen, and with a full array of opposing civilizations, there are quite a number of things for the computer to calculate. But still, very much playable on my machines, and modern computers should have no problems running the game with most of its graphical bells and whistles. I have run into a single minor bug, where the map would keep scrolling despite my cursor not being at the edge of the screen, but other than that, practically no issues at all. All of this speaks of an excellent port from Aspyr! I did experience a single game where it would crash every couple of turns, no matter how often I restarted, but since it was only one out of a *lot*, I also consider that minor. One thing they did leave out though, which I sorely miss, is Mac specific hotkeys, such as those you would expect for saving or loading games..
But while there are many areas of the game which I think works very well and provides a fresh breath into a long series, there are also some short comings which takes some enjoyment out. These things doesn’t ruin the game, but it does give you the impression that certain parts were rushed during development, and I hope the expansions that are now out fixes some of these aspects, although I don’t have my hopes up, as some of these things are central to the game and would require a major overhaul.
First and foremost, most of the menus in game are not thought out in a very good way. Sure, you’ll get used to them, and learn where everything is, but when it isn’t clear from the start what are buttons and what is not, it makes you have to fight the game to do everything you want. Sliders can be very small and hard to hit with the mouse arrow, and that is after you’ve first realized they are there, because they don’t always stand out visually to indicate their presence. And be aware, they are different graphics for sliders throughout the game, so you have to go look carefully for them! And don’t expect all sliders to support scroll wheels, which I find very annoying.
The civilopedia is extremely basic for actual game info, and short of not useful at all, so most of the time you’ll end up searching the Internet to find the information you need, which is a real pity. And for some reason the civilopedia is often split into multiple short articles on the same topic, for no apparent reason, making finding the little information that is there, even harder. There was even an article on religion which stated I had to look up the benefits it gave in other articles, but also that I had to find these articles on my own! In the same vain, if you’ve played even as much as an hour of a previous Civilization game, you can skip the tutorial. It is made for complete Civilization illiterates, and is not at all helpful if you just want to learn about the new features in the game.
There are keyboard shortcuts for some unit actions, but not for all, and there’s shortcuts for other unit actions of which there are no buttons! It is quite strange some times, again emphasizing the lack of polish. The worst part is that there are no popups upon hovering over the action buttons, so you have to go several levels into the settings, and then hope you can guess which buttons match which shortcut options.
Most popups are severely lacking in information, and you often just get a very vague description of what it is about. This is especially needed when picking your civilization at the beginning of the game, because you only get a vague description of what they do, without clear information on the specifics. This is also seen with the overview of what have happened the last turn, available on the right side of the screen. You get some information, but not all you need. Some important information is also nowhere to be seen, so I would really have loved a turn log of some sort.
During opponents turns, which is a good part of the late game, you can’t actually do anything in your empire. Units won’t take actions, you can’t assign building commands to cities, change science research direction, etc., which is really, REALLY, annoying. Even though those commands won’t change a single bit in the outcome of the following turn, the game won’t allow it for some reason. Why the game was designed like this, is beyond me. But fortunately I can tab out of the game, and do something else, while the opponents take their turns. But be warned, even though you’ve pressed the ‘next turn’ button, the game may actually halt because you still had units to move, so you may tab back to the game, to find it waiting for you do something. ..After which you can tab back out to do the actual waiting. Again.
My tank ended up stranded next to a neutral city state, and couldn't get out until I invaded the city state city.
In the end, I really think it is a great game worthy of the brand, but also a game that could have been a bit more than it is. But as with the recent Civilization entries, the ‘vanilla’ version is often good, but the games first really shine after an expansion or two, and I assume this is also the case for Civilization VI. There are at present two major expansions, and several new civilizations and pre-created scenarios as DLCs, so gameplay wise you won’t put Civilization VI back on the shelf for a looong time. I’m a hardcore Civilization series player with a couple of thousand hours of gameplay behind me, so I know sort of what to expect of the game, but also what I should look out for, and thus I might be too hard of a critic. There is still plenty of room to exploit the computer opponents for me, but I also haven’t played on the highest difficulty settings yet, which is bound to affect things. I now have more than 200 hours of Civilization VI behind me, and only now I am I starting to look into buying additional content for the game - And I haven’t even played all the civilizations and leaders available in the core game, simply because they didn’t suit my particular playstyle!
But in the end, if you like turn based strategy games, warfare, city building, and complex games in general that requires thinking, then this is for you. And if not, then this is still for you, because it really is an excellent game!
And I have to end this review now… Because, just.. One more turn…
I won Civilization VI in an Aspyr contest on Facebook.
IMG limits the number of images in a post, so you'll have to click the later links!