Civilization is one of those franchises that always seems to be in the driver’s seat. You look at a turn based strategy game (TBS) like this and have to ask yourself, “what more could they possibly improve on in their sixth time around the block?” In 2010, Firaxis came out with a near-perfect game in Civilization V. The Gods and Kings expansion that followed made it one of the most well-rounded TBS titles you could get your hands on. With Civilization VI, I was expecting a graphical overhaul with minor mechanical changes, but Firaxis has somehow managed to make gargantuan strides from Civ V.
To Start Out…
With a whopping 20 civilizations to choose from (including favorites such as America, Rome, England and India), starting your first game might actually feel like a daunting task. It’s not as easy as just picking your favorite, either. Each civ comes with its own unique strengths and weaknesses that you have to take into consideration before you begin your epic quest of grand strategy. With the time I had for this first part of the review, I went with Norway under the Viking hero of Miklagard, Harald Hardrada. I also fooled around a bit with Rome and the expansionist Trajan.
As you can see, if you’re serious about winning, you’re going to need to start each game with some sort of plan. Even with just two samples, severe contrasts are pretty obvious. If you’re playing with Norway, you’d probably do well to be exceptionally aggressive and expand while your Longships and Berserkers are still relevant. The Knarr perk offers perfect synergy for early aggression, allowing your units to move to and from water tiles without a movement penalty.
Rome, on the other hand, has perks that are more suited for those who are seeking organic growth over a long period of time. Their early cultural and economic bonuses yield immediate results, so long as you can fend off barbarians and early aggression from rival civs.
The initial gameplay I’ve experienced has been absolutely amazing. Perhaps the biggest addition to Civ 6 is the implementation of districts, or “unstacking cities” as the official site says. Traditionally, improvements and additions to your cities would just be stacked on that one tile. You couldn’t really interact with them once they were built, and they were largely forgotten about in subsequent turns. By giving players the ability to add various districts to cities, Civ 6 has opened up an entirely new avenue of strategy.
Let’s say you want to start making some money. First, you need to make sure you have the available tiles to place a Commercial Hub. That alone takes several turns and yields its own rewards. From there, you can build other commercial improvements such as markets and banks inside that specific hub. It’s such an ingenious way of getting the player to consider every option before blindly ending their turns.
One cool feature of Civ 6 is that every interaction you make will probably lead to something helpful. Let’s say you fight off a number of barbarian tribes early on. If you continue to do so, you may unlock advanced knowledge of a certain type of weaponry, reducing the number of turns it takes to research said weaponry down the road. Likewise, if you meet a number of rival civilizations and confer with them regularly, you might gain advanced knowledge in some sort of diplomatic art or science.
If you have traders conducting business in a foreign city, they might share some information that they “heard” along the way. This is particularly interesting because it creates some synergy with your spies if you have any active in that region. Maybe if a trader or delegate is privy to a scientific advancement, you can have a spy try to steal it if you don’t have it already.
City States make a return to Civ 6 and largely have the same functions as they did before. You can do certain quests for them in order to gain favor. You can just level their city outright, if you really want to. Choosing how to interact with City States could potentially be crucial to your success, especially if you’re trying for a Scientific or Religious victory.
Government has been made highly customizable in Civ 6, with each type allowing for different numbers of military, diplomatic, economic and “wildcard” policies. As you progress in the game and research different civics, more slot-able choice are made available to you. Depending on your needs and overall strategy, it’s very important to consider the long-term impact of your governmental choices. Just like in real life social organization, your needs in-game will change over time, so making the correct choices and changes on this screen are crucial to your civ’s success.
Combat has largely stayed the same, and is very straightforward. Click your unit and hover over an enemy to see what defensive or offensive buffs they have, and then determine whether or not it’s worth it to attack.
Builders have undergone a complete transformation in Civ 6. In previous Civ games, builders sometimes became a nuisance to command once every tile had been fully developed. In Civ 6, builders only last a few turns and then disappear forever. It might sound awful, but it’s a refreshing change.
Rarely do I get completely blown away by a game in the first few minutes, but Civilization 6 has done just that. The civ leader animations and in-game music are triumphant and beautiful. Most of the changes I’ve played with are incredibly welcome. I have experienced a few unwelcome crashes and some stutter once the map got a bit cluttered, but that’s to be expected. I’ll wait until I play a game through its completion to give my score, but so far, this is one of those titles that defines a genre. Civilization VI will have you feeling like a sociopolitical magician within the first hour of breathing life into your chosen civ.
Check for Part II within the next few days. Thank you.