2016 marks the 25th anniversary of Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise, which still boasts an extremely loyal fan base to this day. The newest addition to the Civ lineup is Civilization VI, set for release on 21 October for PC, with Mac and Linux release dates planned to follow shortly afterwards. I was lucky enough to play the game and found myself immediately impressed by the balance it strikes between new and old concepts.
Before I go into gameplay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – the new Civilization VI art style. Normally I’m not one to judge a game on visual elements alone, but due to the game looking less realistic and more like a Clash of Clans mobile app, I did start off the game thinking that I wasn’t going to be given a proper Civ experience. Luckily, it didn’t take long to adjust to the new art style and I soon found myself enjoying the almost cartoonish looking cities and armies that were amassing before me. I found that whilst the art style doesn’t seem too impressive to begin with, it really does begin to shine and stand out from the previous Civ games once you have a large city. From the subtle changes in the clothing and build of different types of units, to the colourful and vibrant landscape your city and their buildings provide, Civilization VI took an artistic leap that definitely paid off.Complementing this new design is the fact that cities are now unstacked. All buildings and Wonders that used to be compressed in the city centre are now located in districts around the city, adding to the game’s new aesthetics.
Another welcome change is being able to see your Wonders built in your city right before your eyes. Unlike in previous installments which used images or pre-rendered videos, Civilization VI Wonder animations are built in-engine. This means that they are shown being constructed on the map wherever you choose to place them, making your in-game experience all the more immersive.But it isn’t just design related elements that developer Firaxis Games have changed. To help make the game more balanced, a new Civics has been introduced. The Civics tree will allow you to unlock governments and set social policies that come under Military, Economic, Diplomatic and Wildcard categories. These policies (along with your government) can be changed during the game for free whenever you complete a Civic, meaning that players have the ability to adapt and respond to new circumstances as their empire grows.
It is changes such as this that make Civ6 stand out from its predecessors. The ability to switch out policies on the fly makes for a completely customisable experience and adds a sense of realism to the game.
The game now introduces the method of active research, where your choices in each game affect your progress through both the Technology and Civics trees. For example, settling a city next to the ocean means that you will receive benefits to coastal technology, which would not occur if you had settled in the desert. With location having such a great impact on the game, the initial step of choosing where to found your first city is all the more important. Along with this, the game includes “eureka” moments or tech boosts, which again makes the Technology tree more dynamic and changes up the gameplay.The previous Civ title removed the ability to stack armies – something that many fans were upset about. Civilization VI aims to remedy this by keeping the “one unit per tile” rule, but introducing combined units. Now, certain complementary units can be linked together to form an even stronger unit, which will also move together each turn. Although this means that players will still be unable to create stacks of doom, linking units proves to be extremely helpful, especially now as there is limited space on the hex grid to place your units.As for the leaders of each empire, so far we know that there is Queen Victoria for England, Pedro II for Brazil, Cleopatra for Egypt, Theodore Roosevelt for the America, Hojo Tokimune for Japan, Catherine de Medici for France, Montezuma I for the Aztecs, and Qin Shi Huang for China.
What makes the AI for these leaders unique this time around is that each leader you encounter has both an agenda and a secret agenda, which can only be found through trade and the game’s gossip system. This mixes up any monotony found in the gameplay and ensure that each new game delivers a completely new experience.
Although there are many new changes to Civilization VI, I was surprised at how the game still managed to deliver the same sense of nostalgia I had with other Civ titles. Looks aside, there is no mistaking that this is a Civilization game, and fans of the series are sure to be impressed with this next installment.