Civilization VI Brings The Series Back To Its Best

A month ahead of its release, I’ve spent a week with Civilization VI [official site]. The build of the game is near-complete, though only ten of the twenty civs are playable and there are some limits on startup settings. When I heard that I’d be able to play so much of the game so long before release, I hoped that was evidence of 2K’s confidence in what they had to show.

Whether that’s true or not, they should be brimming with confidence. Civ VI is excellent.

There are two things I want from a Civ game: a competitive race through history and strategy that allows for an element of roleplaying. The latter is something more associated with grand strategy than a Civ-like 4X, but I do enjoy guiding nations as I choose to rather than as the specific setup of a playthrough demands. Before I spent a week with Civ VI, I hoped it’d have elements of both competitive strategy and the more free-wheeling cultural/historical simulation that I crave.

After forty-seven hours of play, using several civilizations and various map sizes, I’m not so sure this latest Civ does succeed as a strategic historical sandbox. It’s not that I necessarily expected it to, not to any great degree, but the main way in which Civ VI changes the script is by placing a greater emphasis on geography’s ability to determine the shape of a civilization. That does mean that achieving greatness is often a case of working with what you have rather than choosing a route through history. The character and course of your nation, to a greater degree than ever before in the series, is determined by in-built specialisms, the leaders that you meet along the way, and the lay of the land.

If I had to describe what defines this interpretation of the Civ concept in a single statement, I would focus on the stronger emphasis on exploiting resources for short-term benefits. It’s a game that rewards reactive play, whether that be technology choices that allow you to gain a short-term advantage over a neighbour when a vulnerability has been identified, or a decision to concentrate on a long-term objective by crafting a city of singular purpose.

The good news is that while Civ VI may not give me everything that I might want, taken on its own terms it might well be the high-point of the series. It’s a remarkably intelligent 4X game that uses history and geography as a background for cultural, technological, religious and military competition. Victory is the goal. That might seem obvious, given that Civ has always been a series with strictly designed victory conditions, but I often play strategy games simply to play with the tools and systems rather than to win. In the case of grand strategy – and Crusader Kings II remains my top pick in that category – I don’t even know what winning looks like. What appears to be failure can be the most rewarding form of play.

Here, in Civ VI, I find myself doing everything I can to gain an advantage over my opponents, from the first turn to the last. What elevates the design of the game from good to spectacular is that there are enough tools and approaches to the use of those tools that no two victories look alike. A winning strategy must be flexible, adapting to major upheavals such as the aggression of the AI as well as minor factors, such as the placement of a river or the whims of a city state.

A great deal of the game’s strength comes from the changes to cities. They’re at the heart of every civilization (upper and lower case), working not only as the engine for your armies and researchers, but as the body of the entity you play as. Without a city, you are no longer a civilization.

Firaxis have rewritten the rules for cities completely. Visually, they’re more impressive, spreading across the tiles that they control rather than simply improving and exploiting them, but that visual change is a depiction of a new approach to cities as a game system. They’re made up of districts now, the first being a city centre that occupies the tile a settler settles on. There, you can build a monument to start the first trickle of cultural gains, and a few other basic buildings become available as you move through the tech tree.

It’s through the tech tree that new districts are unlocked as well, and they are built on the tiles around the city. You might have a campus by the mountain range to the north and a military encampment out on the plains, far from the city limits. There are rules for placement, with certain geographical features providing bonuses to certain districts, so even in its earliest stages, there is an ideal form for every city. The bustling University complex at the heart of my Washington was written in the stars when I founded the place five thousand years earlier, nestled by a ring of mountains that provided wise men and scientists with opportunities to study the heavens.

The new approach to cities succeeds so handsomely because it makes every single decision meaningful. If you’ve played any Civ game before, you’ll have ended up filling all of your cities with every available building at some point because…why not? Here, the ‘why not’ is written in the land: there simply isn’t enough space to have meaningful versions of every district in every city, and while you might build a few jack-of-all-trades settlements, it’s the specialised cities that make the most impact. Expending time and space on an industrial hub in a city that has a low upper limit on its manufacturing capabilities might be a waste.

Civ VI has been designed on similar principles to its best cities – it doesn’t waste your time. The “one more turn” phrase originally used (I believe) by fans and critics to describe the attraction of the series, which can turn a half hour play session into an all-night marathon, has become a marketing slogan. I find it an interesting phrase because the compulsive nature of the games has often seen me clicking end turn repeatedly while doing very little in between those clicks. Particularly in the later stages of a playthrough, Civ can become an exercise in waiting: waiting for a wonder to be completed, waiting for a declaration of war, waiting for the victory that you saw coming hours ago.

Lead designer Ed Beach and his team appear to have declared war on waiting. There are still quiet stretches but on the whole this is a very busy game, with lots of meaningful choices to make. Admirably, it manages to be both busy and lean. When Firaxis announced that all of the features from Civ V and its expansions would carry over, particularly religion, I was pleased, but slightly concerned that some factors might feel undercooked. With cities receiving so much attention, I hoped other aspects wouldn’t feel bolted on. That’s not the case; religion, pleasingly, can be absolutely vital, becoming an important part of the world whether you choose to concentrate on it or not.

Structurally, the approach to all things theological is similar to that in the previous game’s Gods and Kings expansion: first you develop a pantheon, which provides a single bonus (often tied to geography) and then you might grow that early belief system into an organised religion with extra bonuses and abilities unlocking over time. It’s a build your own beliefs kit and it works well for two reasons. First of all, it feels like an extension of the brand new (and excellent) card-based government and civics system rather than an odd mechanic, separated off from the rest of your choices. More importantly, it’s the most obvious example of the clever new approach to Great People.

Rather than being created out of thin air whenever a civ reaches a milestone, Great People now exist in the world and must be attracted to work their magic in your nation before another leader gobbles them up. You can see who’s out there, waiting to be recruited, by clicking on a dedicated Great People tab. Shakespeare might be looking for a patron if you click that tab later in the game.

In each category, there’s always one person available at any one time, and each is more expensive than the last. Until the well runs dry. That happens with Great Prophets, who can found religions, very early in the game. If you don’t manage to get one of those prophets before they’re gone, you don’t get to form a religion. That doesn’t mean your civ won’t have a religion though, because everyone who did get a prophet is going to be working hard to spread the word, using missionaries and apostles, because the more worshippers they have, the greater the benefits they’ll reap.

Civ VI is a game of systems that overlap in unexpected and interesting ways. Religion and Great People are a perfect example of that – a religion requires a Great Person and the faith that the religion generates can be used to attract MORE great people. They’re also attracted using points generated by buildings and districts associated with their type – build more libraries to attract writers and so on – but if you’re rich in either cash or faith, you can just throw some cash or catechisms their way to bring them on board.

That’s just one example of how you’re able to approach different problems with various tools. A mercantile nation can achieve power using great reserves of cash, but that doesn’t mean its power will necessarily be in the form of lucrative goods and trading houses. The Vatican wasn’t built with faith alone, after all, and in Civ VI just as in the world, the means by which you achieve dominance do not necessarily colour the ends of that dominance.

Diplomacy is where the game disappoints slightly. It’s not that the new additions – a rumour/intelligence system and much more sharply defined behavioural traits for opposing civs – don’t work, it’s that they feel like a strong foundation rather than the finished article. You learn about the actions of other civs through traders and ambassadors, and the more contact you have (of various sorts), the more access you gain. It’s the one area of the game where the process of learning and advancing feels out of my control though. While it’s convenient to get some extra insight due to a trade route, I’ve never found it a strong enough reason to build that trade route rather than any other.

It’s testament to how much of the game does feel like a particularly fine finished article that diplomacy stands out. It’s the least attractive room in a very elegant house rather than the faulty foundation that could make the whole thing fall apart.

The traits work well. Each leader has one historic trait that is always in place and one secondary trait that is selected randomly. That is hidden and you’ll only learn what it is through observation of a civ’s behaviour or through intelligence agents. Harald Haradra, the leader of Norway, likes to raid coastal villages. He always does. That’s his thing. He looks slightly sad when he has to inform you that your coastal cities are “all too easy to raid”, as if the raiding is an instinct that he can’t control. If you’re going to build on the coast and don’t have a strong navy, Harald is going to make problems for you.

Where communication with leaders works, it’s used to inform you about the game’s rules, using flavoursome dialogue (with animated figures that are impressive though repetitive caricatures), but even in the late stages, when diplomatic options really open up, I’ve never built a civ based around those options. I’ve controlled the world using faith, firepower and finances, but never through sheer cunning and Machiavellian manipulation. There are some smart additions in the form of greater reputation hits for civs that go against the rules of war – which themselves change through the eras – but diplomacy is the one area that, after the hours I’ve spent, feels functional rather than fascinating.

The actual behaviour of the AI is fascinating though. In a way, they’re more predictable than ever, the AI leaders, because they have such distinct personalities, based around likes and dislikes. But that makes the combinations that can appear across the globe exciting to encounter. In one game, I ended up sharing a continent with Philip II of Spain and Mvemba a Nzinga of Kongo. Philip hates anyone who spreads their religion in his territory, or fails to follow whatever one true faith he’s cooked up in any given playthrough, while Mvemba looks down on any civ that doesn’t have enough faith in its faith to spread it among his own people.

The contrast led to a classical era in which I knew I was going to be the cause of a brutal religious war and I had to work very carefully to ensure whoever I didn’t piss off was going to take my side when that war happened. That’s a microcosm of how the AI works: it’s aggressive but you can read its intentions and motives, allowing you to plan. The predictability does make for a lack of surprises (though there are some moments that have left me scratching my head) but the legibility of the other civs is, on the whole, a strength.

War, when it comes, is better than it’s ever been. Civ V changed the rules by removing unit stacks and Civ VI makes intelligent tweaks to those rules, allowing some support units to travel with armies (usually to help with sieges and city bombardment) and reinforcing the importance of terrain. It really is hard to overstate how much more important the map is this time around. When I founded a city that had two rivers running around it, I was as happy as I’ve ever been when completing a wonder of the world because approaching armies would be slowed to a halt, and I could easily deploy units in strong defensive positions. Combat requires smart tactical thinking rather than force of numbers and technological superiority (those things help as well, of course), and that makes even the largest war engaging rather than a tedium of clicking.

I’m going to spend more time unpicking the specifics of each new or changed mechanic in a diary series, where I’ll play a game to completion and critique the systems while I tell the story. Right now, I’m happy to say that Civ VI is a game that respects the time you spend with it. The gaps between important decisions have been reduced and that seems to be a driving factor in the entire design. Before moving to Firaxis, Ed Beach created complex historical boardgames and here we’re seeing how someone with that background builds a game when there’s a computer available to do the heavy-lifting and to keep track of a thousand different facts and figures. It’s an intricate, thoughtful and competitive game, built on lots of complicated intertwined systems. Cleverly, it hides its complications, not just behind a colourful and attractive aesthetic (and after spending so much time with it, I’m even more convinced that this is a beautiful game; look at that fog of war map design) but by keeping the machinery hidden. You can play, and win, without spending too much time looking at the numbers, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t doing an awful lot of calculating in the background.

Almost every addition and change that has been made works to the player’s benefit. The splitting of tech into two separate trees means you’ll be making decisions much more often, and the cards that unlock and are used to build and alter your government are always there to play with. City States, the minor nations introduced in Civ V, require much less attention than previously. This is a game that respects your time, not just happy to have you take one more turn but eager to make that turn as meaningful and memorable as possible.

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86 Comments

  1. dmastri says:

    But will it have multiplayer mod support? This was one of the biggest problems with Civ5. Sure you could hack your way around it but it’s way to difficult for the layman.

    • LegendaryTeeth says:

      This so much. Combined with how diplomacy basically didn’t exist with the AI in multiplayer Civ5 just killed it for my group.

      We played so much Civ4, but Civ5 did not have the legs. I don’t even know if I have all the expansions. Certainly didn’t pick them up at launch prices.

  2. Balaks says:

    Sounds absolutely marvelous.

  3. milligna says:

    Well, there goes winter.

  4. TheAngriestHobo says:

    …the main way in which Civ VI changes the script is by placing a greater emphasis on geography’s ability to determine the shape of a civilization

    This is a smart design decision. It reflects modern theories of societal development and geopolitics, as opposed to the traditional Civ approach, which placed too much emphasis on human direction.

    I mean, it makes sense. In its modern borders, Mongolia will never be at the forefront of naval technological innovation. With it’s limited freshwater resources, Israel will always have to prioritize water conservation, recycling, and desalination technologies. Without any serious natural barriers to the west or south, Russia will always have to rely on a large and competent military for its own security. Geography is clearly a huge factor in the way a civilization develops, so it’s nice to see that reflected in a strategy title.

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      Nauallis says:

      Great point! Although I did want to say that I think Russia’s problem is not so much that they don’t have any natural geographical barriers as it is that their main population centers are on the wrong side of the Ural mountains from a landwar defense perspective… And the the sheer scale of the southern borders, despite landforms like the Khentii mountains and Gobi desert (e.g. Mongolia).

    • Joriath says:

      To be a pedant, it corresponds to late 19th and early to mid 20th Century geopolitics. More recent critical (postmodern) approaches to geopolitics have sought to challenge the deterministic approach of early geopolitical thought. Pedantry over.

      • Gormongous says:

        Correct! Jared Diamond has largely been exploded in late twentieth and early twenty-first century historiography. The late J.M. Blaut’s works are especially good for explaining the many ways that Diamond’s “environmental determinism” is more a collection of Eurocentric just-so stories.

    • Sizeable Dirk says:

      *fart noise* We stand ‘astride the world like a colossus noble leader. Send forth our legions so that we may smash every army that would rise against us!

  5. Premium User Badge

    AutonomyLost says:

    I’ve never played a Civilization game before, though this upcoming release is sounding better and better. I may give it a go.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      Pretty much where I am atm.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      As a player of mostly RPGs and Action games and strategy only secondary I might say Civilization is the most iconic PC strategy game and players of many different colors and backgrounds can enjoy it immensely though maybe one entry more than the other.
      You should definitely check them out some day.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The Civ series has become a standard reference point for this particular type of game. I’m looking forward to this one (even though I hate the new art style), because it sounds like it’s building nicely on the previous games.

      The only serious objection I’ve had to the series is that the tech tree is too linear and too predictable for every civ. Your only real decision is when to choose one tech over another because you’ll eventually get everything anyway. There aren’t enough unique or blocked techs. Not a game-breaker, I just prefer more branching and faction-unique techs in strategy games.

      Also, based on the release history of the previous version, I’d suggest waiting for initial reviews. The roll-out of version 5 was pretty rough. It took a while to iron out problems with the battle AI and a few other areas. Maybe this one will be more solid on release, but I’m not pre-ordering.

      • brucethemoose says:

        BE is a bit better in the tech tree department. You can’t research them all before someone wins, and some very interesting units are locked behind affinities.

  6. rocketman71 says:

    PBEM or bust

    • JB says:

      ^This

    • Sizeable Dirk says:

      PBM or bust!

      Nuke to E4, checkmate.
      Press end game in your next correspondence. Looking forward to victory screen in a fortnight.

  7. 2late2die says:

    That sounds great. So glad I decided to take a few days off work the week following the release – looking forward to really sink my teeth into Civ VI :)

  8. Laurentius says:

    Are any reactive systems coming back, or is it the same Civ5 “fill the bucket” type of play?

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      Each technology now has a task associated with it which, if completed, will immediately complete half of the research for that tech. If you wipe out an enemy unit with a slinger, archery will be half completed, or if you found a city on a coastal tile, sailing will be half completed.

      So, if you attempt to shore yourself up in some defensible mountain range and just pump the science resource, your ignorantly monastic scientists will be swiftly overtaken by the boffs of a civ that’s going out into the world and actually *doing* stuff.

      And that’s to say nothing, of course, of the possibility of just being quietly overrun by a foreign religion or culture that those mountain passes are powerless to protect you against if you don’t compete in those areas. The whole philosophy of the game seems to be very anti-turtle.

  9. Shabbaman says:

    Can you tell us something about performance? CPU load, end-game interturn length, that sort of info.

  10. bee says:

    For me most of those changes don’t sound good. I’ll give it a try but Civ3 and Alpha Centauri are likely to remain my favorite Civ games.

  11. Drib says:

    But will there be a Fall From Heaven III mod?

    That’s what kept me playing Civ 4 for so long. Of course there won’t be, but I can dream, right?

    • Carlos Danger says:

      Fall From Heaven was always the greatest thing to ever happen to the Civ series in my experience. I still remember the horror and amazement I felt when I sent my stack of doom of low tier units against Baron Duin Halfmorn without reading fully his abilities.

      Why this mod wasn’t fully embraced and enhanced by Fraxis always was a mystery to me.

  12. MrMetlHed says:

    How’s the UI? Does it scale for high-res devices? My biggest problem with Civ V and Beyond Earth was that on my Surface Pro I got super tiny text or a windowed screen in the middle somewhere. I don’t know if Beyond Earth ever got touch support, but it seemed like it’d be a natural fit. I always feel like Firaxis is designing for machines that are traditional desktops and not looking much beyond that.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Firaxis is one of the rare developers that bothered supporting touchscreen (and Steam Controller).
      Same for ultra-high resolutions, Civ5 and BE work surprisingly well on my Surface Pro 3 (at least, the early game).

      • MrMetlHed says:

        I THINK that it must have been patched in after the fact for Beyond Earth. Initially it seemed like it lacked all of the nice features CIV V had in that regard, and it was impossible for me to read the text. XCOM also got touch controls patched in after-the-fact as well, I believe. That said, XCOM 2 handled pretty well, and was even playable if you lowered the settings to the lowest of lows on a Surface Pro 3 (though streaming from a desktop via Steam worked.)

        I respect their efforts to put touch controls in their games, I just wish they were in there at the beginning. Hopefully CIV VI will run on a Surface, but I suspect it won’t. At least not well.

  13. 1Derby says:

    “I’m happy to say that Civ VI is a game that respects the time you spend with it.”

    Each employee at every game developer should print these words and tape them to their monitors. Seriously.

    I will log into Steam and click buy as soon as I get home this evening.

    • Vintageryan says:

      Same here game sounds as good as I hoped, but I will buy from Greenmangaming where its £38.99 not Steams baffling £49.99.

      • melnificent says:

        That’s the trick though. Steam is £50 and a discounted site brings it down to “normal” AAA PC prices. Whereas these games tended to be £40 with discount sites offering for around £30.

        In other words, PC games have become £10 more expensive despite the lack of “console tax”.

        • minijedimaster says:

          Steam charges around 30% of the sale just like console mfg’s do. How is there a lack of a “console tax”?

      • Kohlrabi says:

        So, after deciding that €=$, they now have decided £=€ =$, and everything is just 49{currency}?

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    Nauallis says:

    Can civilizations that have warlike traits use them without actually declaring war? To take from the article’s example, can Harald of Norway use his units to raid, i.e. attack for gold but not conquer, other civilizations’ cities without declaring war on those civilizations? Or does he always have to be at war to actually use his traits to their fullest extent?

    That war requirement made a bunch of leaders in Civ 5 substantially less useful for the majority of playthroughs, or forced them to play a specific way regardless and in spite of their geographical advantages.

  15. technoir says:

    They should add more non-western civs, though… I mean, there’s only one Native American civ (the Aztecs) and if you don’t pre-order they’re only available three months after launch!

    • minijedimaster says:

      So your only complaint is the locking of the Aztecs for the first 90 days if you don’t pre-order? Because there are plenty of “non-western civs”.

      Arabia, Sumeria, Kongo, India, China, Egypt, Scythia and as mentioned Aztecs.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I think it’s a legit complaint that the Aztec civ is being held back as a pre-order bonus. Not because it’s a Native American civ, but because this is one of the most iconic leaders in the series.

        Montezuma is the guy you know is going to glower and threaten in diplomacy, and be as warlike as the neighbors will allow. Holding him back as a pre-order incentive is like not including Gandhi in the initial game. Firaxis knows this, of course, which is why the Aztecs were chosen for this dubious honor.

        • Sleepy Will says:

          Wait, so if I don’t pre-order, I get to not have Firaxix’s insane Aztec AI in my games, shame it’s only for 90 days!

    • ThePuzzler says:

      Aren’t Native Americans Western civs too?

  16. 1Derby says:

    Let’s go bonk some heads!

  17. invitro says:

    I count 9 (of 18) non-Western civilizations. How many of the 18 do you think should be non-Western? Certainly Western civilization makes up at least half the history of world civilization?

    • technoir says:

      “Certainly Western civilization makes up at least half the history of world civilization?”

      Whoa… you couldn’t have more perfectly demonstrated why Civilization’s eurocentrism is harmful.

      • klops says:

        And the way we are often taught history in schools.

      • ooshp says:

        But everywhere is west of somewhere, so surely 100% of history is about Western civilisation?

      • Sizeable Dirk says:

        The text fluff included in the manuals and Civilopedia since 1991 has probably done more to expand peoples historical awareness outside the anglocentric and eurocentric world views than most history-related mainstream games and TV.

        Perhaps point a finger at history classes in school first that primarily teaches national history and the stuff involving the neighbours the ancestors waged wars with of the nation where the school is located.
        No matter if it’s a nation in left/right/up/down part of the planet, the rest of the world (the further left/right/up/down from the school you get) are those other places where some loose history happened.

        • Sizeable Dirk says:

          Post scriptum: Speaking relatively in that first part, and if people actually read the fluff. With the sheer volume of “lore” included in text-form.

    • DonRumo says:

      Eurocentrism seems to be so thoroughly inbred in even the most cultured circles.

      E.g. China is regarded as a formerly communist (=non performing) third world state wanting to become cheap labour-superpower.

      Hey! They had paper and gunpowder millenia before the North and Middle Europeans left their trees….!:_)

      • invitro says:

        “E.g. China is regarded as a formerly communist (=non performing) third world state wanting to become cheap labour-superpower.” — I don’t think anyone regards China in this way… but I’ll give you a chance to offer some examples.

        “Hey! They had paper and gunpowder millenia before the North and Middle Europeans left their trees….!:_)” — I assume you’re joking, because I can’t interpret your weird smiley thing there. Maybe it’s a Chinese smiley?

    • DonRumo says:

      When the newborn puppy dog, born in the house, enters the garden the first time, he thinks: This most be the half of the world!

      • invitro says:

        Lol, I’ll bet I’ve read more pages on non-Western history in this year alone than you’ve read in your life, little pup ;). But I’m curious… what great non-Western history books are there that you’ve (or anyone) read and would recommend?

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          cpt_freakout says:

          That obviously depends on how many non-European languages you can read, but given your arrogant tone I bet you think if it’s not translated to one of those then it’s not ‘great’.

    • Flavorfish says:

      Maybe it’s a savvy marketing choice?

    • falconne says:

      I suggest you go read the multitude of history books out there about the Middle East, India and China… ones that weren’t based off the Victorian era “common knowledge” that your entire worldview has been based on.

      But you won’t, you will be smug in your belief that all the achievements of other cultures historically are irrelevant.

      Just as, 500 years from now, there will be smug “self determined history buffs” who will scoff and say “Yeah but most of the world was stuck in the medieval era, making inconsequential advancements, until America came along and invented science and industrialism”.

  18. NephilimNexus says:

    I remain skeptical. Beyond Earth? Glorified smartphone game. Starships? Even moreso. X-COM2? Over-hyped pile of bugs & disappointment. Not to mention Sid’s little “Aces” mini-games. Firaxis hasn’t managed to hit the mark since XCOM1 back in 2013.

    I certainly hope they finally have gotten it together again for this new title, but after losing nearly $200 on games that I’ve uninstalled the same day that I bought them, I’m not about to trust them again until I see some real proof that they’ve managed to get their heads out of their sphincters.

  19. Gormongous says:

    I have no idea why the Civ series is increasingly drawn to hidden semi-randomized information in its diplomacy systems. There’s no hidden semi-randomized information in the tech tree, the resource system, or the buildings and units. It’s just the map and the leaders. Why, especially after it failed so spectacularly in the previous game?

    • Sizeable Dirk says:

      I liked the two-factor diplomacy base used in Alpha Centauri with the Might and Integrity variables.
      It was perfectly possible to be reliable friends with other factions, or enemy’s enemy if your social engineering didn’t clash and you didn’t act like an ass.

  20. DonRumo says:

    First and before all else: As usual, I really enjoyed your review, Adam.

    My “caveat” would be: Has the AI learnt how to fight?

    In over 3500 hours of Civ V on “Immortal” and “Emperor” I lost games, but never did I lose a single WAR against the AI. The Combat AI was dumb as a nut!

    I am looking forward to find out, if they managed to improve on THAT:-)

    • brucethemoose says:

      Yes, please.

      Civ AI is dumb as dirt. Not dumb as in “unable to compete with a fleshy brain without cheating” which is fine, but dumb as in “banging your head into a brick wall”.

      Why embark land units and THEN attack my city, for example. What decision could possibly drive the AI to do that?

  21. Someoldguy says:

    I’m glad that you’re highly impressed by the game, it sounds like it’s unlikely to be a disappointment and may be a genuinely great game. I have to admit though that the concept of city districts spreading across the map makes my teeth itch. It’s just so ludicrously ahistorical. Cities don’t sprawl across vast amounts of terrain until population growth forces them to. Until modern farming and transportation methods are developed they simply can’t. Most land is needed for crop production. The old Civ method was right – your city is on one tile and how many of the nearby tiles are producing food, trade goods or ores dictate what your city is good at producing. Your capital city may be a bit of a monster if you focus all your energy on supplying it, like ancient Rome at it’s peak (still only 1 million souls) or the greatest cities of ancient China but most cities should be relative flyspecks on the vast sweeping landscape. Without extensive open terrain there’s no space for armies to manoeuvre for position and engage in battles that aren’t tantamount to a siege.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      Bronze Age archers in Civ V can shoot right over a tile which, as you say, potentially represents a city the size of Rome.

      The fact is that there’s an awful lot of abstraction in Civ and the tiles don’t really represent a fixed distance or space.

      • ooshp says:

        Of course they can, they’re twice the height of and of the buildings in the city! How they fit into their homes at night is the bit that confuses me.

    • Sizeable Dirk says:

      Civ has its roots in board games (especially since they went back to that direction with V) and wierd abstractions like moving units a couple of hexes in the early game taking hundreds of years then decades, one unit per hex, cardboard counter style resources etc. is why it’s so accessible and easy to get into compared to heavier historical strategy games.

      • Someoldguy says:

        Of course there are abstractions, I have no argument with that. My regret is that most iterations of Civ seem to change something for game purposes that makes it feel less like a genuine world. Early civs had big continents and army stacks so there was a genuine feeling of space and distance. The world map in Civ 1 was vast.

        With every tile looking actively utilised even in the BC phase and army counters scattered around one per tile Civ VI just feels more claustrophobic and less real to me, despite all the newer features that make the game more interesting.

        p.s. yes, I do miss building my palace. ;)

  22. ventricule says:

    Did they finally develop AIs good enough to stand on their own, or does the AI still cheat in higher difficulty settings?

  23. zulnam says:

    No offense, but Civ5 and BE got stellar previews and gameplay videos, highlighting exciting gameplay and very good AI. Both times it was a lie (Civ5 at least at launch).

    Also that new city district thing? Endless Legend has been doing it for years.

    I will probably get C6 at some point but it will not be in the first month, it will not be at full price and it will not be until people from the industry who aren’t afraid to show fangs check it out.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Firaxis is turning into Paradox!

    • treebeard2 says:

      I feel the same way. I liked Civ5, but after playing Endless Legend both Civ5 and BE felt needlessly complex and intolerable to me. This article gives me hope for Civ6, though.

  24. Ent says:

    Ok so I’m curious, is there any game where the diplomacy is actually good?

  25. Raoul Duke says:

    “determined by in-built specialisms, the leaders that you meet along the way, and the lay of the land.”

    Ugh, sounds ghastly. The essence of Civ has always been player freedom, and now they too have been sucked into the annoying trend of everything in gaming being class-based.

    • Sleepy Will says:

      Hasn’t it been that way since Civ 3’s

      • Sizeable Dirk says:

        In Civ 4 the leader and civilization was separated and the leaders have two generic traits, like Aggressive and Charismatic.
        Each gives some bonuses like production, happiness, faster workers or ancient era wonder production etc. but since the traits are generic they aren’t bound to any leader and you can play with randomised or custom picked traits.

        I believe they also serve as a modifier to the AI playstyle (e.g. expansive spamming cities).

        Beside the leader traits every civilization each has two starting techs, a unique replacer unit and a replacer building. Some civs have more than one leader to choose.

        It’s more open to player’s choice of playstyle since every civ gets a unit and the traits aren’t end-all bonuses. In civ 5 the unique leader bonuses made playstyle more fenced in if you didn’t want to play with one arm tied behind your back, for example a peaceful game while all your bonuses are offensive military ones.

  26. connor491 says:

    The images in this article are so small and zoomed out as to be practically useless in showing their relevant information.

    • Einsammler says:

      I came here to post this comment (and got distracted by a different thread, only to find it immediately above the text entry box.)

  27. DEspresso says:

    Someone educate me please, ain’t Grand Strategy a marketing term Paradox cooked up to separate their games from normal 4x games which where perceived as old-fashioned at the time?

    Civ 1 was certainly Grand Strategy compared to its contender Empire, so whats the term supposed to mean please?

  28. jonfitt says:

    Religions seem like a must-have bonus with no downsides.

    I’d like to see a Civ game model the pros and cons of sinking time and money into religion.

    I think in Civ 5 they refrained from making any commentary and let you apply any name/logo from the available real religions to any of the traits (forest worshipping Islam for example).

    I don’t want them to try and offer commentary on the pros/cons of real religions, but I think Civ shouldn’t be afraid to say something.

    Civ 2 was not afraid to say: democracy= profitable, fundamentalism= warmongering, industrial pollution= bad, nuclear weapons= powerful but terrible.

    Civ 5 seemed to slip into an edges-sanded-off non-statement of historical behaviors.

    Civ 6’s religious bonuses sound like a similar whitewash.

  29. sfbk1 says:

    do old school gamers need to be reminded what happens when game reviewers give good reviews in exchange for cookies and pats on the head?

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    when players don’t know who to trust and get tired of getting burned they stop buying games