Sid Meier’s Civilization holds a special place in my heart. Civilization IV is one of the first titles that got me into computer gaming. The complete edition of Civilization V is a hallmark of the turn-based strategy genre, and one that comes highly recommended by yours truly. With such huge shoes to fill, Firaxis Games would need to make something special happen with Civilization VI for it to stand out.
In anticipation of the release, I avoided spoilers like it was my homework. I wanted to look upon my favorite series with fresh eyes and discover the game for myself without external interpretation. With the immense depth—and length—of any Civilization game, this review will focus on my first impressions of my first playthrough and eventual loss to the Romans. Later, once I figure them out, I will discuss how the game mechanics hold up to past titles.
For the uninitiated, Civilization revolves around the player controlling a civilization, starting from “the beginning of time.” The game opens with just one settler unit to found a city and one warrior unit to defend it. From there, the city produces science, gold, buildings, and units, culminating in a civilization. The game is a little more complicated than that, but you get the picture.
The most striking feature of Civ VI is clearly the graphics. Historically, the Civilization series has been dark, with muted colors for the terrain and buildings, giving a somewhat serious overtone. In contrast, Civ VI has graphics that initially struck me as a knock-off, as in, it looked like something one might find on the App Store that requires you to pay $3.99 to play past the 10th turn. I was hesitant at first with this change, but only because I was expecting the 2016 version of Civ V graphics. Now, having played a few hours, the new style pairs well with the updated gameplay mechanisms.
Gameplay-wise, I want to focus on two major changes that help define the game as its own. In previous Civilization games, research is king. The civilization with the best technology wins, and everything else (social policies, religion) takes a backseat. From what I can tell, that changed with Civ VI. The technology tree has been paired with a culture tree, allowing both to be researched. The trees work in tandem, providing both necessary and significant bonuses to the civilization. I finally have a reason to focus on culture more than for just social policies.
Second, cities have been completely reworked, entirely for the better. Location matters even more than before. Previously, everything a city needed would be contained within its one-hex tile. Monuments, universities, banks, coliseums, were all within one tiny unit of the map. Now, districts have been added to the game. Districts can be built on tiles adjacent to the city and contain buildings related to the district and bonuses based on their locations. For example, the campus district now contains all of the science buildings, like the library, university, etc. It gets bonuses based on what it’s adjacent to, like being next to a mountain or rainforest. This adds another layer of strategy to city placement and preparing for the future, more so than just placing improvements willy-nilly. This is a mechanic that I am looking forward to exploring.
There is much, much more that I want to discuss about Civ VI, but I need to conclude. Overall, I am excited to continue exploring Civ VI. Firaxis has managed to define the game as its own, creating a unique gameplay experience without polluting the spirit of the beloved series. It’s not without its flaws, but neither was the masterpiece that Civ V is for its original release. For those who love the series and are looking for a fresh experience, I would recommend trying out Civ VI. For those new to the series and interested in joining the “one more turn oh it’s 6 am” club, Civ VI is more polished and easier to learn than its predecessors.
To conclude, I have to say this: Civ VI, your intro sequence is great, but Civ IV had the best intro of all time. Nothing will ever come close to Christopher Tin’s “Baba Yetu.” Ever.