Your Fearless Leader – Me.
The games in my rotation right now are NHL 17, Mechwarrior Online and Titanfall 2.
Needless to say, I’m not a die-hard Civilization junkie who beats the game on my first try on deity level. That said, I had pumped a good number of hours into every previous Civilization game, up until Civ V, which I skipped.
Which is why I was looking forward to this release. I was excited to get back to bringing my people from the beginning of civilization, to the cusp of world domination.
If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, and haven’t played this 25-year-old series before, let me just get one thing straight – this is not some shooter you finish in 5 hours. There are probably decades of gameplay buried in Civilization VI.
I didn’t manage to get into the multiplayer, so I’ll be focusing on the single player experience for this review.
Firing it up – Getting Started.
Upon first booting up the game (did I say boot up, does that give away my age), you’re greeted immediately with a stunningly inspiring animated short that sets the stage for the emotionally-draining journey you’re about to embark on.
The beautiful visuals are paired with some of the best audio I’ve ever heard in a PC game. The music soars, lifting you to the peaks of humanity, and drags you down to its’ depths as it plummets down into our struggles. Rising above the music, the iconic voice of Sean Bean reaches into your heart and pulls it out of your eardrums.
Sean Bean usually means someone’s going to die, so it better not be you. Yes, by the time it’s time to start playing, you’re all pumped-up and ready to go.
The Stone Age – You Know Nothing.
The early stages of the game are very familiar to anyone who has played the series before. The premise is the same. It all begins by choosing your nation by way of choosing its’ leader. Choose wisely, because this choice is not just cosmetic. Each gives benefits that fit the flavour of the real-life empire they are affiliated with. For example, the Vikings give benefits to your naval units and production, and allow you to pillage from naval units. The Japanese, meanwhile, allow access to the Samurai unique unit, as well as the production of the electronics district – which is quite a boon in the mid-to-late game.
With how hotly-contested and close some of the races to domination end up being, as you move from BC to AD, this initial choice can end up making a big difference between victory and defeat at the end.
Listening to the description of each leader as narrated by Sean Bean is an awesome experience – his voice makes every description in the game fittingly epic.
Honestly though, my first playthrough was a complete blur. I chose the Vikings (because, Vikings) and was quickly making important decisions without really having a clue what to do. The tutorial tries to help but frankly, there’s no tutorial that can save you if you’re not a true series veteran. I was promptly caught in a 3-front war within 120 turns, and decided I needed to give this game another try.
After spending the next couple of hours researching for guides online, I re-started with a much more focused attempt at playing Civilization VI.
A True Renaissance – What’s Changed.
There are still the same ways to win. A military victory – gained by dominating and conquering the world with your army. A religious victory – gained by converting the entire world to your chosen religion. A score victory – gained by an all-around performance where you have the highest score after 500 turns.
It helps to decide early which sort of victory you intend to chase, although you may be able to alter your path to victory depending how the game plays out.
But once you push through the early growing pains, you’ll realise how much the path to victory in this game has evolved from its’ predecessors as I did, as I guided my second civilization, a Japanese empire, to turn 500.
The biggest revelation for me was the government system. It’s sort of like Government meets Pokemon, as you collect civics in the form of cards, which can be slotted into your government body, to create your own unique government with its’ own unique policies. Each government has a varied number of military, economic or diplomatic slots with which you can fill with such cards, which in-turn lend bonuses to your civilization.
These bonuses are pretty impactful – lending you additional rewards from envoys sent to city-states, trade routes, military, religious or cultural production, and they also impact how much your buildings and districts produce, and how much impact they have on neighbouring tiles.
Speaking of districts, the second biggest change in the game is the district system. Cities have never been so fun to build in a Civilization game. With districts ranging from commercial, entertainment, religious, these special zones are needed to take your city to the next level. They take up the tiles, or segments on the map, around your city centre, and require a certain population to develop.
As a result, each city cannot be your home for everything, and you’re forced to choose a specialisation for each. And depending on the surrounding tiles on the map, each city will be better suited to a different specialization. Combined with the change to government, this game requires so much thought and planning that it will be a challenge, and more importantly a different challenge, every time you play it.
Apart from those 2 huge changes, many refinements have also been made, from the way workers and military units work to reduce clutter on the map, to diplomacy changes that create more interaction with your fellow leaders.
The result is a gaming masterpiece.
No Empire is Perfect – Minor Gripes.
Still, a few minor things, and one not-so-minor thing, popped up during what was an otherwise incredible gaming experience.
The small things were the way the game would auto-select your next unit after you finished moving a unit, even if you had already clicked off to a new unit. So this resulted in a number of times when I would move the wrong unit accidentally.
Secondly, some of the other leaders seemed to operate almost at-random, despite their stated agendas. I quickly learned to always expect the surprise war, and not to open my borders so easily.
The big one for me was the length of CPU game turns in the late-game. The first 200 turns or so are fine, and the game chugs along quickly. But once you get into turn 300+, the CPU turns start to take significant amounts of time. At this stage, when many things are operating on their own, it can get very tedious. Especially when you’ve got the win locked-up, and you’re trying to play out the game to victory.