When first starting a new 4X game, I often find myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that is presented to me all at once. Having such a steep learning curve can be off-putting; especially when there are so many other games I could just pick up and play instantly. Although Civ VI seems to be catered towards 4X veterans, it’s clear that Firaxis have gone to a lot of work to ensure that gameplay is as simple as possible to newcomers of the franchise as well. The tutorial allows for new players to understand the basic functions of a Civ game and goes into what important decisions must be made in the first few moves. With everything laid out cleanly, the UI really shines through, making an intense and information heavy game seem as simple and user-friendly as possible.
When choosing where to settle at the very beginning of my campaign, I was reminded of how enjoyable the game’s new stylised design is. Paying homage to previous Civilization titles, the hex grid remains, but this time with a twist – cities are unstacked. Buildings now belong in districts (such as a Holy Site or Commercial Hub), and each district inhabits its own tile. Having buildings separated into districts allows their detailed features and design to shine through, letting players visualise just how much they have accomplished. Whilst this move makes the game much more aesthetically pleasing, it also affects gameplay much more than I had originally anticipated.
In previous titles you could get away with creating mega cities all on the one tile, meaning that if you had the resources, there was no reason not to add more buildings to a tile. In Civ VI, districts are limited to your city’s population size, meaning that viable space for cities can disappear quickly. Because of this, the game forces you to be constantly thinking about the impact the decisions you are making might have in the future. Often times, you’ll find that you are forced to specialise your cities to perform different functions, as space no longer allows for mega cities that are capable to doing everything. These unstacked cities mean you’ll need to put extra strategy and thought into how you build your empire, resulting in Civ VI having a more realistic feel than its predecessors.
With numerous gameplay options to alter the map’s size, shape and difficulty, as well as having nineteen civilizations and twenty leaders to choose from, Civ VI guarantees players a unique playthrough every time. My first campaign, I chose to settle near the ocean, giving me bonuses towards technology that allowed me to build boats and sail to other continents early on in the game. In comparison, my second playthrough, I settled near a mountain for protection from enemies, and I was able to go through the majority of the game without ever venturing near an ocean. This makes considering the location of where to found your first city all the more important, and – as with the unstacked buildings – pushes the idea that Civ VI is a strategy game that requires thinking about the long-term consequences of your actions.
Another subtle yet impressive feature of Civ VI is its soundtrack. It may not seem important, but in a lengthy 4X strategy game, things can get tedious and repetitive, so the last thing you want to hear is the same music over and over. To combat this, Civ VI has a theme song for each civilization. A different variation of the song will be played throughout each era, beginning with one instrument in the Ancient Era and ending with a full-blown orchestra in the Information Era. The music reflects the state of the world, mirroring the evolution of your empire as you enter new eras. The CIV VI soundtrack has become one of my favourite video game soundtracks of all time (second only to The Witcher 3), and excels in making the gameplay more immersive and helping you to feel as if the world really is growing before you.
There’s no doubt that Civ VI is an extremely enjoyable game that will please both newcomers and veterans of the franchise. Civ VI gives players a fresh take on the series while still remaining true to its roots. With its sleek UI, modern stylised design and an amazing soundtrack, I have a feeling that Civ VI will be replacing the game’s highly praised fourth instalment as the new fan-favourite.