There’s a certain feeling one has when you play a lot of games, where you know you’re hooked. You just know when a game’s really gotten its claws into you; it’s when you get up from your desk or couch and go to do something else but find that your mind keeps getting drawn back to the game. Or when you’re at work and find yourself wishing you were back at home playing. Or when you’re heading off to bed and find yourself replaying moves in your mind before you drift off to sleep.
We’ve all got certain series that inspire this feeling; for a lot of folks, it’s Civilization, and I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of lost workplace productivity and sleep deprivation from that group thanks to Civilization VI.
You’ve played Civilization before. I know you have, don’t lie. That means you’re familiar with the basic concept: build a civilization to stand the test of time…though the tests more often come in the form of angry barbarians and other hostile civilizations. You’ll do this by exploration, expansion, conquest and research, just as you have since 1991, and you’ll probably end up doing it well into the early hours of the morning in a desperate rush to play just one more turn.
Civ 6’s changes to the formula include switching cities to a more expanded style that I found reminiscent of Endless Legend. Cities eventually end up growing to a significant size, encouraging you to settle in areas that will be ready for expansion when necessary and maximizing the value of open space. This has many effects that drip down to the rest of the game; perhaps the most significant is how the new premium on free space will lead to expansion conflicts as the game goes on, which can spice things up quite a bit compared to the relatively sedate midgame of previous Civs.
Space also ties into other changes, such as once again allowing stacked military units (via Corps and Army upgrades), while others include mini-quests that can increase your technological progress. Frankly, there’s so much going on in Civ 6 that the game can feel overwhelming, particularly if, like me, you didn’t grow up playing the series. There’s a useful and charming tutorial, but I found that most of my education came from learning while doing, and Civ 6’s difficulty seems to scale well enough for new players to get their feet wet.
Along with the myriad new touches, something must also be said for how much returning content comes with the game at launch. I’m sure we all remember how the last few Civ titles were missing seemingly basic concepts like religion and espionage that were present in previous titles; these would usually be released in the form of expansions later down the line. Hell, Civilization: Beyond Earth was updated with a full expansion that’s all about naval play, something that really feels like it should have been there from the beginning.
It ended up feeling a bit exploitative after a while, to be honest, and that’s why it’s so impressive to see all sorts of features available right at launch; in particular, I’m glad that we don’t have to wait for espionage again!
All of this and the game looks, sounds and runs well. Civ 6 has a certain animated bent when it comes to its graphics, which helps drive the game’s innocent Maxis-esque charm, and naturally the soundtrack is the same legendary stuff we’ve come to expect from these games. I had no performance issues, nor did I run into any bugs, which is always a treat given the standards of the games industry in 2016. Meanwhile, I’ve seen some complaints about the AI being a little dumb, which makes me feel a little inadequate given it can certainly keep up with me.
Frankly, Civ fans have already bought this, while newcomers might be a little intimidated by the fact it’s the sixth main-line game in a series known for its complexity. They needn’t worry: Civilization VI does a fantastic job providing plenty of interesting gameplay and content for new players and veterans alike. It’s an absolute must-buy, particularly if you’ve got some pals together to take full advantage of multiplayer.