Civilization 6 Review (PC)

This review copy was purchased via Steam.

I have been a massive fan of the Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise for a long time and have been chomping at the bit to get at the latest iteration, simply titled Civilization 6, especially since it was named “Best PC Game” at E3 2016, as people seemed to have high hopes for the game.

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With the weekend now withered away behind the rise and fall of various empires under my hand, I finally feel like I can lay down the good, the bad, and the ugly for Civilization 6 but, I must warn you, there are a lot of changes so there is a lot to talk about.

Although I gave Civilization: Beyond Earth a good review at the time, it quickly became apparent after some time with the game that it just didn’t feel fleshed out as well as the previous games, and was just lacking that something special that made the Civilization games unique.

Luckily, with Civilization 6, Firaxis has gone back to its roots and provided us one of the most in-depth base-games yet with almost all of the Civilization V’s expansion content and ideas in the base game. They have also gone the lengths to rework some of the systems so that it makes more sense and feels more intuitive to Civilization building.

There are plenty of nitpicks, bugs and changes that can be made to further improve the game but, for the most part, what you are getting with Civilization 6 is a thoroughly enjoyable “Four X” experience. Anyone that has played previous Civilization games will fit in quite snugly with the game and quickly become familiar with the way things work.

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Probably the biggest problem I have with the game is it’s actual conveyance of information to the user itself. If you’ve never played a Civilization game, the starting experience can be simply overwhelming and although there are recommended paths you can follow with your counsellors, who recommend what buildings you should build, there is not much else help when it comes to what’s new and different in the game.

An example of this is the fact that, in the later portion of the game, your units can form corps by combining them which gives you a more powerful version of that single unit. This is great for when you have extremely large armies, as you can condense them into tighter squads of more powerful units. It’s also great to combine fresh units with experienced ones, as it will always take the higher ranking unit’s experience.

This, however, is never really explained in the game – I actually found out about it by watching someone else’s video about Civilization 6 after playing about 15 hours of the game already, as a friend said it was something you could do.

Its small hindrances like this that may frustrate new users to the game but, in-time, you generally figure these things out, and there is always the argument of the massive in-game “Civilopedia” which will tell you absolutely everything you need to know about the game (if you’re willing to read the 180 pages or so of its content).

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As for the game itself, possibly the biggest change is to the cities themselves, which no longer hide all of its buildings inside the city bounds. Instead the hexagons around the city will fill up with your wonders and various buildings as you expand your city and setting up your city correctly plays an important part of the process of building a successful civilization.

All of the various buildings will now also get placed in their respective districts;  zones that have to be built such as the commerce district or science district which will then unlock further buildings in that tree.

In this way, you can specialise what your city wants to achieve with a combination of wonder building and districts, and also gets rid of the mundane “check-list” like way of building structures in the past, as the structure your city and empire as a whole plays an important part throughout the entire game.

Workers have also been changed into builders, which are now expended after three charges, which means you have to change the way you think about building cities compared to previous games, as you will need to be constantly creating Builders in order to upgrade your tiles.

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The creation of roads has also been lifted from the builders and now sits with the traders, who will now create roads as they go on new missions to find trade routes. This feels like a much more organic way of road creation as this is how roads and routes were created in history for the most part.

Then there are the various progress trees you can unlock as you journey through the ages, the biggest change of which has to be to culture which has now been given its own research tree which resembles the standard Civilization’s tech tree. Progressing through your culture tree unlocks new units, buildings wonders and abilities, such as the science tree, as well as adding new policy cards, which we will get to in a moment.

The tech tree, as mentioned, has remained mostly the same although they no longer give you recommendations on what to research, which can prove quite comical (my friend researched destroyer’s before being able to harvest oil, for example). This can also be mildly annoying, but with repeated play you quickly learn what paths you must tread. In addition, doing various things in the game can bring about “Eureka” moments, which greatly quickens a certain research (50 percent to be exact), and can prove instrumental in gaining the scientific edge on your opponents.

The government system has also been tweaked for the better but, as a result, provides another big annoyance in the game. After the initial Chiefdom phase, you will be able to choose from three tiers of government types (unlocked through the culture tree), each providing different and improving combinations of military, economic , diplomatic and wildcard policies.

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The happiness system has been scrapped and instead cities will now want amenities which, again, feels much more organic. Your capital, bedecked with wonders, spoils and great works, will not be affected by you waging war or creating new cities on a different continent, so this system makes much more sense. You gain amenities through some wonders but mostly through the entertainment district, where you build places such as the Zoo and Theatre.

Lack amenities and your cities will rebel against you, which creates ‘barbarian units’ outside of whatever city is rebelling. These units are also affected by what tech you have, which can be quite frightening . I, for example, had barbarian Artillery outside my rebellious city, which is never a good thing to see.

The Great Person system has stayed much the same, although there is now just one great person of each type per age. Expending these great people (now in their respective districts) will grant you benefits, units or even great pieces of art or history depending on the person, and is a decent system for the most part, although the religious Great Persons are almost impossible to get a hold of.

This is partly because, along with Total Destruction, Culture and Science, Religion has also been added as a way to win the game. Religious units can also engage in religious combat, but since there are only three unit types, this can become boring very quickly.

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Unlike Civiliation V, your capital city can also be purged of its main faith religion meaning that your empire can forgo its religion entirely if there happen to be religious zealots tromping on your grounds.

This is one of the things I would like to see fixed, as it seems a bit broken to completely annihilate an entire religion, which you can do literally the turn after the religion is founded.

Espionage also works slight differently in that they are actual units that you send on missions. Depending on the success rate, the spies will also have to execute daring getaways, which could well result in their demise. Having them as an actual unit that must be built is a nice change, as their upkeep is not to be scoffed at, so if spying is something you want to do it has to be a fairly significant investment in order to do so.

The interaction with city-states has also undergone a change in that you can now send envoys to the city states you meet to improve your relations with them. Having the most envoys in a particular city state gives you a huge advantage from that stage, as you become their suzerain. Jerusalem, for example, can become a second holy city for your religion if you have the most envoys within their walls, which can be a huge advantage when pushing for a religious victory.

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Combat for the most part has remained the same although, as mentioned previously, the addition of corps is a nice touch to the late game to keep things a bit tidier. There is one change however that comes from other “four X” games, which is the Cassus Belli, which means you have to have a reason to go to war with whatever nation you are about to attack. With Cassus Belli you will receive massive penalties to your nation as a whole for a duration, which can turn you off randomly causing war, unlike previous games.

The unit pathing can definitely be a bit dumb at times and, unlike Civilization V, you can end your turn without your city attacking units within range of it, which I personally found mildly annoying though especially when a random barbarian attacks a random city while you are in the middle of a huge war with someone else, so you can easily forget about it.

The AI is also still a bit lack-lustre, and can be less than intelligent at times and, although it has improved, it still has a long way to go before being perfect. One of the ways Firaxis may be able to get around this is thanks to the fact that Civilization 6 is fully mod-capable from launch, which may soon see some AI improvements crop up on the Steam Workshop in near future.

The art-style for the game has taken a more colourful and comic approach which, honestly, has greatly improved the ever so slightly dreary aesthetic of the previous games, and is fun to look at and easy on the eyes.

The big thing for me as a musician is the soundtrack, and Civilization 6 does not disappoint. Composer Christopher Tin did an outstanding job on the title theme for the game, and each race once again has its own music, which changes as you progress through the ages with that particular race as well, which is great flavour.

The hours pass by with the serene music and expansion of Civilization 6, and the music fits as the perfect pairing to what is happening on the screen, and is one of the few games that I never turn the music off – it’s just that good.

Civilization 6 as a base game is possibly the best one to date, and a game I will be investing significant time to over the coming years, as the replayability and the addition of mod-content to the game will make sure that the game itself is long-running. There are still some things missing from Civilization V as well, such as corporations, so the room to grow with expansions is definitely still there.

On the whole, the new systems put in place only refresh the game and make it more exciting than ever, and despite some niggles and some bugs that can easily be fixed in a patch or two, Civilization 6 has quickly become the must-buy game for “Four X” fans in 2016.