- Related Games:
- Sid Meier's Civilization VI
This isn't the first time I've played a Civilization game at launch. I was there for Civilization 2's debut on PlayStation 1, as well as Civilization IV and V on PC. As much as I've always been captivated by Civilization games no matter how young or old they are, each has had a glaring weakness early on.
For example, for several years Civilization V had problems with mid-game tempo. The excitement and intensity of early and late game would sandwich a huge lull during the Renaissance and Industrial Eras. This would require multiple expansion packs to rectify, leading to some hardcore fans heading back to Civilization IV for their well-rounded strategy fix.
I was never one to abandon a new release, but would get into discussion about how the games would need to improve moving forward to be considered an equal partner of prior releases. Some of this is a direct result of the high standards we hold Civilization to. This is the 4X king, and anything less than perfection is borderline unacceptable.
I've managed to spend several hours playing Civilization VI at this point. Unlike prior games, not only do I love what I'm playing, but I can't find any glaring weaknesses. I'm willing to go as far as to say that this is the most complete Civilization game we've ever seen.
Civilization VI's success is derived from several qualities, perhaps most important of which is how it has taken a lot of feedback over the years into consideration. At the surface level, this is accomplished with how cities represent their buildings on the map. You are able to see your markets, libraries, military installations, and more appear on the map as they complete production, expanding their size outward beyond the confines of a single unit of space. This goes a long way toward not only making each city feel distinct, and rewarding your successful growth with eye candy, but it contributes to the gameplay.
When you enter another civilization's territory, there's a great sense of scale you'll find. You don't just see small blobs of production peppered around the map, there's a web of infrastructure that feels real and alive in a way that is much more similar to SimCity than Civilization.
The number of choices you make on a turn-by-turn basis has benefited tremendously from Active Research. It's no longer about statically progressing through simplistic trees, you are constantly in the position to make big decisions that can accelerate your civilization through the Technology and Culture trees. Though, you'll be making a compromise with each decision you make. Early on it's easy to second guess yourself, but over time you'll learn to trust your instincts and prioritize your actions.
I've always been a fan of Domination Victories, so the redesign of stacking units is a big win for me. In Civilization IV the feature was too easily exploitable, and in Civilization V it was nowhere to be found. What's here makes sense: you can stack specific support units on others, enhancing them in meaningful ways. This provides an option for you in terms of how you want to build your army. If you're going to be heading into a tight area with low opportunity for movement, building several support units is wise. Otherwise, you may only want to bring one or two for their neat benefits.
Diplomacy has seen major improvement as well. Seemingly inspired by Civilization: Beyond Earth's Rising Tide Expansion, it's dynamic and true to life. You'll find yourself routinely speaking to other civilizations and engaging in beneficial negotiations. Opportunity exists that is unlike anything the mainline Civilization series has seen before, making it more than just a battle of securing luxury resources and maintaining relationships. And if you're a history buff, then you'll be pleased to see the real-life inspired civilizations behave in a way that is realistic.
But Civilization VI isn't just about iterating on the formula. Some of what it does right isn't necessarily through iteration, but how it presents itself. Screenshots might not show it, but Civilization is an absolutely beautiful game. Undiscovered areas are presented like an atlas on papyrus, and as you reveal new territory, the papyrus peels back revealing colorful terrain. Cities appear lively, and change in tone through the course of the day/night cycle. Units have great animations, making battles between you and the enemy worth inspecting. This attention to detail extends to the user interface, which is by far and away the best the series has ever seen.
All this comes together in an experience that is one of the most compelling of 2016. This is a game that hooks you and doesn't let go, consumes your time but gives back more than you put in. Civilization VI is a truly special game that has raised the bar for 4X strategy, showing that the genre is capable of delivering epic play sessions that are delightful from beginning to end.