Despite what they say, you can have too much of a good thing. I mean, how many times can you shoot explosive purple needles at scurrying little aliens before you realize that you’ve been playing the same game for three generations of video game consoles? Without anything of substance to add other than greatly improved graphics, a lot of games depend on a compelling story line to keep you coming back for more.
Civilization VI doesn’t have the benefit of having an ongoing narrative featuring a beloved soldier and his sidekick AI, so do the new gameplay features stack up enough to justify a return to turn-based world domination?
After my first playthrough, I’m happy to say yes, yes it does!
My favorite part of the new gameplay is the redone AI of your rivals. The barbarians are now much more of a threat, with better tactics like scouting and using better army compositions to take you down. And if you don’t destroy their settlements, they will keep harassing you and your traders/builders.
But what I like the best is the new rivals. In the past, most of the rival leaders felt like they were all the same but with different faces. In Civ VI your rivals all have agendas, so it adds a deeper element to diplomacy when you understand your rivals better. Germany for example hates civilizations that associate with city-states. America doesn’t like warmongers.
It makes them feel more alive and adds a new element to diplomacy that really feels more like those scenes where world leaders negotiate in movies like Sum of All Fears and every other episode of The West Wing.
The cities in the game are now larger and your districts and world wonders will now exist outside your city’s initial hex. On top of giving your city a sprawling and more impressive look, it makes city planning deeper. Districts will all draw bonuses from being adjacent to terrain like mountains or rivers, or even each other.
Thus, it’s not just a matter of picking a single hex that’s near resources. You really have to scout your terrain and plan ahead for the future when you’ll have more districts unlocked.
But really it’s about size. It feels great to have the most physically imposing city on a continent acting as the top dog of the world.
Plus, optimizing your city is easier now. No more shifting your population around trying to get the sweet spot of maximum food or production: you can now just click on icons to specify if you want a city to concentrate on or ignore certain areas like culture, science or income and it’ll auto arrange it for you.
All in all, these changes add up to a more fulfilling and engrossing experience. In my first playthrough I was Japan. Early on I met my two neighbors German and America and we had a nice relationship in our continent.
Later on, a scout from England told us that there was another continent across the sea. England, led by Queen Victoria, doesn’t like civilizations that don’t have a city on their home continent so that meant she was unhappy with all three of us.
I usually try to win Civ by means other than military because I do enough killing in games like StarCraft. I opted for a religious win and I founded a religion called Affleckology, and it was spreading quickly through the land.
Germany wasn’t so happy with that though, and even unhappier that I was friendly with the nearby city-states. They denounced me, and eventually declared a surprise war on me. Luckily, I had enough troops to crush their ambush. Just to be certain, I chased down their troops and eventually took one of their cities. One city led to another, and suddenly the German capital was mine.
There’s this quote from an 80s movie that goes “A weapon unused is a useless weapon.” I might have started with good intentions, but power corrupts and soon I realized that having the most powerful military in the world has other perks. America was upset that I had become a warmonger, so I quelled that dissent and marched right into Washington.
Remember how England had issues with any civilization that didn’t have a city in its home continent? Well I solved that problem too by launching a greeting party into their shores. I didn’t have a single settler in that armada though, but my catapults and samurai were enough to ensure that there was a piece of Japan in that continent too… where England used to be.
Civ is definitely more engrossing than ever, and the struggle to not play another turn is real.