After six long years, the next entry in Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise released early last Friday. Here are a few of my thoughts on Civilization VI so far.
A review of Civilization VI is going to take a while. Often, one has to finish the game to come to a conclusion since most games play out like books. You play through it, you beat it, and you talk about what you liked and disliked once you’re done. That’s not the case with strategy games like Civilization VI.
A better comparison, one the game makes itself, is a board game. In order to really get a grasp on how well the game is put together and how the mechanics new and old hold up, you’ll have to play round after round after round. Even ten rounds would not quite be enough. With so many different map types, twenty civilizations, and five victory conditions, I’ve got my hands full! I did play through the tutorial and two full games, so I can at least give you an idea as to what you’re getting into.
The culture victory has been revamped yet again. This time, Culture acts a lot like Research. Generating Culture through buildings and other things will allow you to learn new Civics. These Civics, like Technologies, unlock new buildings and units, but they also unlock new forms of Government and Policies. Those who played Civ V might recall the Social Policy system, which required one to think ahead and map out their victory from turn one. Policies in Civ VI work more like a hand of cards. Each Policy card has a different effect (ex. Double EXP for Recon units, +1 Gold, +1 Faith per turn in Capital), and you can change your policies for free every time you research a new Civic. Otherwise, you have to pay a fine.
As you progress through the Civic tree, players will gain access to new forms of Government. There are nine types of Government divided across three tiers. Each one gives different slots for the four different types of Policy cards. Military, Economic, and Diplomatic Policies say what they are right off the bat, and the Wildcard Policies provide bonus Great Person points (more on that in a moment). The Wildcard Policy slots, however, can be filled with any policy. This emphasizes the most drastic change between Civilization V and Civilization VI: flexibility. The name of the game isn’t just to brute force a plan from the get-go and quit if it doesn’t work. Civilization VI gives you plenty of chances to shift your course. If a Domination victory doesn’t work, try shifting towards a Culture victory with a different Government. Now, this isn’t saying that sticking to your guns is bad. Legacy bonuses are earned through keeping a type of Government for multiple turns. While you WILL be shifting through the different tiers of government (which provide an increasing number of policy slots), changing strats early for war or peace can give you a nice, though small bonus in the long run.
The Civs of Civilization VI
The biggest problem with the Civs in Civilization V (the previous entry from 2010) was that there were Civs that just plain sucked. No one and I mean NO ONE played Spain for its ability, and England was practically useless until later expansions gave her quite the buff. In Civ VI, this has been corrected by giving each Civ two abilities. One is the Civ’s ability while the other is the Leader’s ability. This is best shown through the Greek Civ, which is currently the only one with multiple leaders. You can play as Gorgo, the Spartan warrior who gives you culture through combat, or as Pericles, the Athenian diplomat. Either way, you’re getting a bonus Wildcard Policy slot. This opens up Civ VI for later DLC/expansions, four of which will be given to those who bought the Digital Deluxe edition.
The multiple abilities also have multiple steps within themselves. Theodore Roosevelt, the leader of Civ V, gives a bonus to units fighting on his home continent, a bonus to National Parks, and access to an additional Cavalry unit called Rough Riders. All of that is separate from America’s ability that lets players earn Government Legacy bonuses faster. If, say, Abraham Lincoln is added to the America Civ, that latter ability will remain while Teddy’s perks stick with him.
Diplomacy and Espionage
Unfortunately, there is no Diplomatic Victory (yet). I have heard talks of adding it in later on after players have gotten used to the game, but so far there is no elected leader in Civ VI. There is, though, a delightful diplomacy system that is tied to espionage and tactics. Each AI-controlled Civ is given two agendas. The first is unique to the leader. Ol’ Teddy Roosevelt, for example, has the Big Stick Policy, which makes him more hostile to Civs on his continent and friendlier to those who stay off of it. The second agenda is randomly assigned, but it follows a similar route. One game Teddy will dislike Civs with small armies while another game could find a more cultured Teddy who praises you for how well you develop your Culture.
You’ll also gain intel on what other Civs are doing across the globe, which can be enhanced through spies. You can pick up info on what wonders your neighbors are building, who’s preparing for a sneak attack, and what Civs are trading with one another. Speaking of spies, the espionage system got a overhaul, though I’m still working on finding out the details and tricks to it.
Cities and Districts
Every Civilization game does something radical to shake things up. Civ V changed the map to hexes and unstacked the armies. Civ VI now unstacks the cities into multiple districts. In order to build all the buildings, players will have to build all the districts. This task is… well, it’s practically impossible! Unless the game goes into a massive stalemate, the game will end before a player is capable of getting a large enough city that can handle all the different districts. There are some districts like the Aqueduct and the Neighborhood that do not require population, but players will have to choose if or when to build the science-based Campus, the culture-based Theater District, and the militaristic Encampment among many more.
I’m still working through everything in Civilization VI, so I can’t give a definite “Yeah, go get ’em!” I still need to win the Religious and Domination victories, test the harder AI difficulties, and play a few more Civs before I make that judgement. In the meantime, let me know what you think. I’d like to hear what you all have to say, so let me know in the comments below.