Civilization VI is perfect for gamers itching to play an updated Civ V, but its focus on offensive military tactics will not appeal to everyone.
I’ve already talked about my initial impressions on Civilization VI, so go look at it if you need a primer. That should inform you on what the game is about.
Back? Good. Let’s dive into Civilization VI!
The Path To Victory
There are four victory conditions. I’m not including the score victory, as that one is more of a cop-out than an actual victory. These “real” victories depend on you completing specific objectives. Science victory has you building rockets to Mars. The Science victory is fine. In fact, I think it’s quite an improvement from Civ V. In the past, all a player had to do was research the Apollo Program, build some spaceship parts, and win. Now, Civilization VI has three separate goals for scientific excellence. First, you have to launch a satellite. Then, you have to go to the moon. After all that, you then have to build three Mars modules to prepare some brave souls for the trip of a lifetime. I particularly enjoy this multi-step and incremental build-up as it mirrors how science takes time to really change the world. It also makes it easier to track how your opponents are doing. Did England just finish their satellite? Then you better pick up the pace!
Culture victory has been brought over from Civ V, tasking you with creating or obtaining great works of art, music, and civilizations past. Along with science, culture is one of the two more passive victory conditions available, but before diving into the other two, I have a bone to pick when it comes to culture: it’s, at times, simply infuriating.
It is almost impossible to see how it works unless you are actively looking for it. The general idea is that you want to draw as many tourists as possible from your opponents. The goal is to get more foreign tourists than the highest amount of opposing domestic tourists. The problem is that this is an invisible process. Yes, you can see the Great Artists and Musicians being claimed. The actual process of cultural domination, however, cannot be seen unless you pull up the victory tracker every single turn to do the math. [Editor’s note: you can kinda track tourism via location, but it’s still a really weird process that isn’t as notable as other win conditions in the game.]
Here’s an example. I decided to play a quick 4-civ game just to see how fast I could conquer the world. Once I reached the Medieval Era, a cinematic told me that I had lost. Apparently, France beat me. It didn’t tell me how I lost, so I went back in and found that France had managed a Cultural victory. There weren’t any notifications or warnings that this was occurring. It just happened while I was busy playing wargames. As you might expect, I was a tad miffed. At least Civ V let you know if someone was about to take you over with their blue jeans and pop music. Here, you’re responsible for keeping an eye on it at all times.
Raise the Banners High
Now then, what about the other two victories? Domination is more or less the same as in Civ V; for this victory, you must capture the capital cities of each civilization. Pretty simple, right? The only bits that have changed for this one are diplomatic alterations and unit restructuring. One of the new things in Civilization VI is an expansion of the types of war one can wage. Previously, all one have to do is click “Declare War” to get things started. Doing that now will have everyone hate you really quickly and we don’t want that. Instead, you’ll want to start a war formally. Did Kongo convert one of your cities? Start a Holy War. Japan capture one of your cities in the past? Take it back in a Reconquest War. Got a friend itching for a fight? Bribe them into helping you win a Joint War. There is even a Colonization War that lets you justify taking over weaker opponents that are behind the times.
On the flip side, the units have gotten a lot stronger than in games of old. Cities can no longer attack right off the bat, so starting a war in the Ancient Era is now possible. In fact, it is encouraged, as you won’t incur any warmonger penalties until the Classical Era [Editor’s note: LEAVE ME ALONE, SUMERIA]. This lets more militaristic get an early lead without irking their neighbors. Regarding units, they will get outclassed at a slower pace. I found it better to build outdated units at a faster and cheaper pace than one modern unit. You can also build support units that don’t fight directly, instead providing buffs to surrounding units. Later on, single units will be overpowered by Corps and Armies, which are powerful units created by combining units of the same type together. Got three artillery units standing watch? Cram those suckers together, and lay waste to your enemies!
There is actually a second military victory, though this one is more of a hybrid between a Cultural victory and a Domination victory. The Religious victory is a new win condition that tasks players with spreading their chosen faith (Christianity, Buddhism, [insert meme here], Taoism, etc.) to all the nations. To do so, your religion must be the predominant one in every other civilization. Cities will follow a particular religion of 1.) More than half of its citizens are following that religion or 2.) That religion has the majority of followers in the city. Smaller maps will be relatively easy to convert, but larger maps with lots of opposing religions will require some crusading to really hold ground. [Editor’s note: GO AWAY, RUSSIA, AND TAKE YOUR RANDOM FIFTEEN MISSIONARIES WITH YOU]
Both of these “warring” victory types are balanced fairly well. In regards to religion, missionaries and apostles become more and more expensive as the game progresses. This makes it vital that you wipe out the competition quickly or risk slowing down your faith train. The support units can help make slightly outdated units on par with modern weaponry. The one-unit-per-tile rules is still here, though you can have a support/religious unit and a military unit in the same spot. Warmonger players who love managing large armies will absolutely thrive in Civilization VI between both Domination and Religion.
A Fractured World
Unfortunately, the focus on the military victories causes the other two to fall a little flat. There is also no diplomatic victory in Civ VI, something that I immensely enjoyed from Civ V. Without any diplomatic victory or some sort of UN/World Congress system, Civilization VI feels more like a bunch of players trying to overrun each other with units. Because of this, the game isn’t a true representation of the course of history, despite its intentions. In Civilization VI, I see potential reminiscent of the base version of Civilization V before its expansions. There is a good game in Civilization VI, but it needs some more polish and balance tweaking to really withstand the test of time.