I have taken over the world many times. Thanks to Civilization games, I have spread my religion to every city in the world, I have taken over foreign capitals, I have launched expeditions to space and become the dominant culture. It’s the joy of the franchise to step into a famous leader’s shoes and find a unique path to conquest. Each iteration has also had the capacity to serve as a ridiculous time sink, stealing hundreds of hours of my life. Civilization VI is poised to do the same, with a much improved and more logical and intuitive experience.
The biggest three changes that I’ve experienced have been regarding diplomacy, city building and the development of science and policies. Each of these aspects have always been a part of the gameplay, but they have been reimagined and expanded in new ways in Civilization VI that makes the whole experience make a lot more sense.
There were always various leaders with different traits who would declare war on you randomly (here’s looking at you, Gandhi) or would seek trade or whatever else. But your relationship never really seemed to make sense. They seemed to get furious with you for no reason, or suddenly become you friend again after a war and be totally happy. It just didn’t add up. In Civilization VI, there’s now a thorough breakdown of what has happened that makes the leader like you or not. Did you have a positive greeting? Do you have troops near their borders? Have you settled cities too close? Do you follow a similar region or political system? There are so many factors that can play into it, and it’s now much more transparent.
Along those lines, there’s also a lot more that you can do in the diplomatic screen. It’s not just a matter of declaring war or trying to trade for resources. You can now establish embassies, build towards friendships, share gossip and forge alliances. It makes diplomacy much more useful, and something that I would check on fairly regularly throughout my play throughs.
There are still some quirks, though – some civilizations would taunt me for not investing enough in science, only to be impressed with my scientific achievements within a couple turns (without any changes in my approach). Other times, I’d have one ship and get complimented on my impressive Navy, or be perceived as a warmonger because I still had a couple of military units. And some leaders are simply more temperamental than others, with certain civilizations seeming to declare war on me no matter what I did.
Civilization VI made a huge change by unstacking the cities, and it’s mostly for the better. Now, you need to optimize your city based on your surroundings and goals. But this makes for much more interesting gameplay. In my capital, I still end up with pretty much all of the districts, but other cities can be oriented more towards science or production or military might. By not sharing happiness and health across your civilization, players don’t need to stress as much about adding cities to their civilization that might have cause big problems in the past. Sure, one city might stagnate due to a lack of housing, but that isn’t going to bring the rest of your cities down.
Most intriguing is that you can’t just build a ton of wonders in a particular city, or even in your entire civilization. In the past, players could build a city near a mountain, with a desert tile and a river and maybe even access to the ocean, and pretty much be able to build all the wonders by meeting all the requirements. Now, you actually have to place a wonder on that desert tile, or build that wonder next to a river, using up a tile you might otherwise need for a farm, a lumber mill, or a specialized district. This means that city building is much more strategic, and has the knock on effect that peaceful gameplay is much more tactical than it used to be – you don’t need to go to war to need careful consideration.
My only frustration with building districts and neighborhoods is that it takes a series of turns to do so without any buildings included. So once your religious district is built, you then still need to build a shrine or whatever else. Once your campus is built, you then still need to build a library. And then some districts are just their own thing, like neighborhoods that only provide housing and can’t be upgraded by adding a high-rise or whatever other form of building to make it even better. Also, if your districts or buildings are plundered during a war or by barbarians, you will need to use city production to fix them, you can’t simply send your builder to repair.
The change to builders, though, is fantastic. Instead of having a worker, wandering your civilization building improvements, builders only have a finite number of improvements that they can build, but they can do it in one turn and also work on water (no more work boats!). In previous franchise iterations, I would set my workers to “auto upgrade” and just let them roam my civilization building things. Now, I’m much more aware of what I want my builders to do, where my priorities lie and which resources are most important. It’s a strategic awareness that makes the game much more interesting.
Additionally, roads are now established through traders. As traders move between cities, they make roads. This makes me much more likely to send a plethora of routes between cities, just so that I can connect them. Plus, as you engage in trade with other city-states and civilizations, you can get other added benefits, which all result in a more nuanced way of interacting with your environment and surrounding cities.
Science and Civics
Science and cultural policies have been a part of Civilization for a long time now. However, they’ve been totally overhauled in Civilization VI and make so much more sense now. Both of them, and the way you manage your civ, can impact each other. Settle a city near an ocean, your research of sailing will be boosted. Found a religion? Your development of the mysticism policy will get a boost. By interlinking so many aspects, your unique playstyle and progression can feel rewarded, whether you are an avid trader and builder, or a warmongering scientist questing for ever-better weaponry.
Civics are also vastly changed. As you adopt new political systems, you can slot in research policies. For example, your starting system might only have room for one military and one economic policy, but as you progress you could end up with a government that has room for a couple of military and diplomatic policies along with a handful of economic and wildcard policies. As you research new policies, you are given the opportunity to change your equipped approaches, which means that you can chop and change often without horrible repercussions. This was great for when I’d be in a time of peace and focusing on economic growth, but then able to quickly change bonuses once war broke out so that my units didn’t cost so much or could deal extra damage.
All of these changes to diplomacy, city building and research feel intuitive, and for long time franchise veterans it still feels familiar enough to jump in quickly but new enough to feel fresh and interesting. The whole game feels much more strategic and nuanced, and is guaranteed to suck many more hours out of my free time even after I finish writing this review. However, there are a few changes I’m not quite so pleased with.
The art is much more stylized in this iteration. While there are aspects of it that I really like, I’m not a fan of the character representations. The diplomacy screen ends up looking like something out of a mobile game, which undermines the strategic and tactical depth. That said, the fog of war is handled brilliantly and I love that parts of the world you’ve explored or where you have envoys are vaguely visible, becoming clearer as you go through time and communication is easier.
The biggest drawback of Civilization VI at the moment is its excessive loading times. Opening up the game, it often made sense to get things started before heading off to make a drink or get a snack – there was enough time for the narrator to read the entire character description before loading up the world. Sometimes, the game even crashes upon quitting or winning and exiting to desktop. I’m confident that this will be fixed over time, but for now the loading times are pretty frustrating.
Last Updated: October 26, 2016