The world is your stage once again. Sid Meier has brought out another Civilization game for us to spend hours playing. After the poor reception Civilization: Beyond Earth got, which let’s face it was just a glorified DLC pack for the previous iteration, does the sixth full entry into the 25-year-old series breathe new life into this classic game or does it try too hard and fall flat on its face, destined to be forgotten like so many real-world civilisations? Civilization VI, and all the previous games in the series, are what’s known as 4x games, whereby the player achieves victory through four means; eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. These four words pretty much sum up how Civ works. You start your empire with their first city and a warrior armed with stone weapons, and build it up over thousands of years to end up in the modern era and to victory by dominating all of the other players.
For this review, I’ll be focusing more on what has been added and changed to this new Civilization game, and we’ve got a lot to go though. Right away when you boot the game, you’ll hear the wonderful music of Christopher Tin, the man who made Baba Yetu for Civilization IV, the first video game music to win a Grammy award. Another sound you might recognise when you load into your first game is the dulcet tones of Sean Bean, your narrator for this iteration of the series. Instead of dying at most opportunities in films, he tells you about your civilisation and quotes relevant lines regarding technologies you discover throughout the game.
Now let’s get into the core of what’s changed, beginning with cities. City building and placement is now more important than ever, due to the new feature called districts. These plots of land, which take up physical spaces around your city, are how you develop things such as science, production and gold within your cities, as each of the buildings that help these now go inside these tiles. Each of the different districts get bonuses from the environments around them, so city placement and district placement becomes super important. Especially when you consider that the amount of districts a city can have is limited by its current population! This makes city building way more interesting throughout the entire game, instead of just putting a city down and clicking through all the buildings without much thought.
The technology tree from Civilization V has been reworked too. This time it’s split into two, giving you a tech tree and a new civics tree. The technology tree is as before, use science earned each turn to research new technologies as you progress throughout the eras. Whereas the civics tree uses your culture gained per turn to progress through an entirely different tree, which researches policies and governmental options, like war justifications and the ability to form allegiances. Governments is also a new feature. As you progress down the civics tree, you unlock social policies which can be applied to your civ, like bonus production in cities or extra strength when fighting barbarians. Further down the tree you’ll find nine other governments you can pick from, each giving you different bonuses, as well as different slots for military, economic and diplomatic policies, allowing you to choose a government based on your play style and current situation.
Changes were also made to units that appear in the game. Workers are now a finite resource, only having three uses for working tiles before they vanish. The plus side is that their work is instant, so you just have to bring them in when you need them. Warring units now have the option to be stackable, during the game you’ll unlock corps and armies, which are two or three of the same unit stacked on a tile that get bonus damage. This means that your wars don’t end up with as much clutter of units across a giant area, and can be condensed down. Barbarians have also had a rework, whereby they now look for your cities with scouting units, then send in three or four units to come pillage your lands. This makes them way scarier at the start of the game, and enforces the idea of scouting yourself and killing them off before they ever become an issue.
The AI that you fight against now have their own personalities and traits based on the leaders of each civilisation, which can greatly affect how each game plays out. For example, Caesar will commend you for having a large expansive empire that covers a lot of land, but will be annoyed with you if you do not. Some leaders are pretty straightforward to handle and you can stay on their good side if you want to, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. The Aztecs do not like you if you have different luxury items in your land to them, and will actually go to war with you over this. Their wars aren’t exactly spectacular or scary either, they’ll send a couple of units to you, you fight them off and then they go away. The AI also has problems with not upgrading their units even in the late game, and generally they don’t seem to be catered towards using all of the new features in Civ VI.
Civilization VI is the most complete base game that’s been released in the series for a long time. It has all the features of the previous game with all the DLC, and makes a lot of changes to the base game allowing for more enjoyable games that keep you constantly having to think about all aspects of your civilisation, reducing the ability to just go through the motions every time you play. It does need a little bit of polish with regards to its AI, and the triggers for their actions. But it still holds up as a great entry into the series and I look forward to sinking hundreds of hours more into it!
+ Same solid foundation as Civ V
+ Districts make city planning engaging
+ AI personalities
+ Sean Bean!
– AI is a little screwy
– Cant rename cities for some reason?