Title: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
Where To Buy: Steam
In a way, Sid Meier’s Civilization series is the epitome of PC gaming. The modding community, the control scheme, the sheer scope – every new release in the series is something that all PC gamers take a look at. We’ve been excited about the newest game in the series for a while and, in almost every regard, Civilization VI is a triumph for this PC staple. It feels instantly familiar to fans of the series while introducing enough new ideas and correcting enough problems of past iterations to require new strategies and a new thinking process. It could easily overwhelm newbies to the 4X genre, but part of the joy of every new entry in the series is losing a few games until you get your sea legs under you.
One of the ways Civilization VI succeeds is in just how large the scope is as soon as you load it up. This may sound obvious for a 4X game, but Firaxis clearly learned from mistakes in the Civilization V and Beyond Earth games. Straight out of the gate, Civilization VI seems huge and complete. I’m sure the developers have ideas in mind for future DLC, but it does not feel like it is missing features, or that it will be good after the next update. Beyond Earth needed an expansion just to feel ready to go, and the fifth entry in the series also felt bare bones on its original release. Not so with Civilization VI. It has a huge number of things to explore and systems to work through, which came as a great surprise to a savvy vet like myself.
Civilization VI‘s overview screen is beautiful. Unexplored areas appear like the edges of a cartographer’s map, decorated with compasses and sea monsters, before filling itself in as you send units out into the world. The map actually plays a huge role and is the biggest strategic difference from past games of the series. Units must have their full required moves available to move to a new square (no more moving into a rainforest tile with .5 moves left). Workers have been replaced with builders, which can improve a finite number of tiles before disappearing. Worked resources provide the housing your cities need to expand. Cities take up multiple tiles, as wonders and the new “district” areas each gets a tile of their own.
In the past, cities just got filled with buildings. Whatever you needed at a given time, you could just throw it into Cairo or Moscow. Not so in Civilization VI. There are a few buildings that can be built in the city center, but besides that, you need districts. Want a barracks? You need to find a city with an encampment, or else your units will not get that bonus XP. Citizens bored or unhappy? Better hope there’s an entertainment district to give them something fun to do, otherwise you’re stuck until you have it. This means city planners will need to think extra carefully before expanding their territory, or else they will have to undo all the turns and production they put into building their given cities up. Because, of course, some of the most powerful tiles in the game do not appear until the later eras.
The sound and music of Civilization 6 are also tremendous. The music changes over each era, fitting nicely with the types of units wandering around the landscape. Since Leonard Nimoy is no longer with us, we sadly no longer have him to narrate the technology upgrades. Instead, Sean Bean reads the quotes and offers commentary on different technology. He is excellent, and it is especially fun in the early stages of the game. Hearing Ned Stark talk about the advantage of bronze armor or steel weaponry is a wonderful geek moment, just as hearing Mr. Spock discuss space was in Civilization V. It would be a disservice to not commend Natasha Loring, who is in excellent form as your adviser, and each world leader sounds excellent as well.
They may sound great, but the look of the world leaders has drawn some criticism. They are a sort of cartoonish, 3D caricature, with overblown proportions and grandiose movement. In screenshots, they do not look great, but I thought they fit the vivid coloration of the map quite well. A few look kind of goofy and off, but, for the most part, I had no issues with the character design. Units on the map animate extremely well, but if you start getting to the later stages of a bigger map, you will probably need to turn animations off. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting five minutes for your next turn to start.
If I had one criticism for Civilization VI, it would be the AI. Now, the AI of a huge strategy game like this can never be perfect, and this game does a remarkable job of faking it. Each leader has certain attributes that they like or dislike, so you will naturally be thrust into conflict with some and gravitate towards others, depending on your strategy in a given game. However, once an enemy AI starts a war with you (and they will believe me), they are not too hard to beat unless you ramp the difficulty up near the top. The AI tends to just swarm cities, which can overwhelm an unprepared or technologically behind civilization, but I found that using support units and creative, pinpoint attacks could topple even a seemingly overwhelming foe. It was unfortunate to see that the AI does not have a great sense of how to effectively tackle a player-controlled city. Either that or I am just a military genius.
As of this writing, I have played through two complete campaigns and started various others. I have yet to encounter any real issues with Civilization VI other than “the AI is not quite as good as I want it to be.” If you are hesitant to pick this one up because past games in the series have needed an expansion or two to get moving, don’t be. This is a late comer for 2016, but it has firmly inserted itself into the conversation for PC game of the year. Judging from the series’s track record, it will only improve as more is added to it (both by the community and the developers). Recommended without hesitation. Make sure your computer can handle this juggernaut, and soon you’ll be “one more turning” in no time.
- Gameplay: Classic Civilization gameplay with lots of intricacies to discover. The importance of the map adds tons of new strategy in all facets of the game.
- Graphics: Looks beautiful, animates well. Leaders are a little odd occasionally, but they fit the style of the game.
- Sound: Great music, excellent vocal work.
- Presentation: On an epic scale, very easy to get engrossed in and suddenly realize it is an hour later.
- Map looks great and plays important strategic role
- Several viable paths to victory
- Every leader plays differently
- Excellent sound and voice work
- Extremely addictive
- AI is not quite up to speed