Wot I Think: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

The question I’ve been trying to answer, as I spent a final few hours with Civilization VI [official site] before writing this review, is simple: is it the best game in the series, or the best game in the series bar Civ IV? After more than a hundred hours of play, I still can’t say for sure. The fourth game has had ten years to work its way into my mind and it has endured, Civ VI is still young.

What I can say is that it’s a radical redesign, true to the spirit of the series but finding new ideas in its elevation of the map from backdrop and resource-container to new plane of strategic and tactical importance. Few 4X games emphasise the importance of geography to this degree. In Civ VI, the land makes a mark on you, just as you make your mark on the land.

If this new engagement with the map had been attached to just one feature, it might come across as a gimmick, or the foundation for a concept not yet fully constructed. As it is, the genius of the game’s design isn’t in the ideas themselves, but in the careful stitching together of those ideas. This is a very busy Civ game, with lots of different cultural, technological and military plates to spin, but nothing works in isolation. If you’re chasing religious advancement, for example, that has an impact on the other cultural policies you discover and unlock, and certain relationships will be affected by your application of religion.

Government and religion are both customisable, the latter in a similar approach to Civ V, the former in an entirely new card-based system. There are still base governments to choose from, unlocked in groups of three as you move through eras, but they’re modified using cards unlocked on the cultural tech tree. That allows for a government to suit just about any scenario and makes for much more interesting choices and stages of play – you could gamble by switching to policies that boost military production before entering a war, for example, and then switch out those policies for ones that keep the folks back home happy once the armies are built.

The risk is that if your initial assault isn’t strong enough, you might be left in need of more units without the boosts used to build the initial force. I’ve deliberately begun periods of reconstruction and actual artistic renaissances or ages of scientific enlightenment, purely by altering government to suit the mood of the times. In the late stages of the game, there are so many policies to pick from, and so many slots available for cards in the modern governments, that you can push your people in just about any direction.

Religion, particularly before it is properly organised, is more intimately related to the land. As in Civ V, upon founding a religion you choose a pantheon, and many of these give boosts based on terrain and resources. Later, you’re able to define more traits, which allow for production of buildings with various properties, or affect the way your faith changes your cities and units or those of your neighbours. Broadly speaking, religions fall into one of two camps: they’re either active in the world, taking strength from conversion, or self-contained, bringing great benefits to home-grown followers but tending not to proselytise.

When an AI civ follows one of the former types, there’s a tendency to produce avalanches of apostles, sometimes long after every city within reach has been converted, and there is a recurrent problem with this kind of behaviour. As much as the new hard-coded personality traits have improved the credibility of the AI, by giving them distinct approaches to diplomacy and guiding their actions to an extent, the basic triggers that decide what should be built and when sometimes seem to get stuck in a loop. You’ll see wandering settlers quite often in the mid- to late-game, presumably produced because an AI realises it needs more cities to catch up with the competition, but left unsettled because there isn’t actually a decent location in which to build. Most of the AI stumbles seem to be a case of the left hand not talking to the right hand, leading one “need” to over-ride a more sensible alternative, and while it’s disheartening to see a nation treading water and cluttering the map while stuck in one of these apparent loops, they do break out eventually.

There are two great additions to diplomacy, and together they’re just about strong enough to make the AI issues a frustration rather than a major failing. The first is the leader traits, which I’ve already mentioned briefly. Essentially, they’re distinct enough from one another that every civ really does feel unique and on the higher difficulties particularly, dealing with them requires walking a fine line between appeasement of those traits and aggressive disobedience. Push too hard too soon and you might end up in an unwinnable, draining war; bend over backwards for too long and you’ll spend a lifetime walking on eggshells and making little progress.

It’s a smart system, encouraging competitive thinking in a way that suits the game’s overall structure. This Civ is rich with historical flavour – from the named Great People and their unique works to the gorgeous inked maps and evolving soundtrack – but behind all of those thematic flourishes, it is, quite explicitly, a game of numbers. History as a track and field event. There are multiple finish lines and various ways to reach them, but more than ever, it’s important to ensure every step takes you toward one of those lines.

One area where that can be clearly seen is the second of the changes to diplomacy: Casus Belli. These are reasons for declaring war and there are plenty of them, unlocked as you move through the eras. The most simple example is a war of liberation, used to reclaim a city that was taken and occupied by another civ. By declaring a war of that kind rather than the default “Surprise War”, you receive less of negative impact on your standing with other civs. Manipulating these rules of conflict, and discovering how they overlap with leader traits, makes the military side of the game as rewarding as it’s ever been, and the actual wars make best use of the single-unit-per-tile innovation of Civ V. Terrain matters, siege units are far more useful, and cities can be made resilient but are always at risk from a determined assault.

The two major features that elaborate on the relationship between a civilization and the land that it occupies relate to the cities themselves and the tech tree(s). Of all that has changed, it’s the cities that are convincing me that I’ll find it hard to go back to an older Civ now that I’ve spent so much time with VI. Districts are the visible aspect of the new urban management, zones that take up a tile within the city’s borders, and become home to buildings of a certain type. Universities, temples and marketplaces aren’t going to appear in every city now – they require the correct kind of district, and some places will make better use of their tiles without those specialisations.

This changes the game in all manner of ways, but most importantly it means that you rarely end up at that tedious point where you’re building every available improvement in every city you own simply because there’s nothing else to do. Even a seemingly minor building is a decision now rather than a default, and that’s integral to the flow of the game. Civ VI wants you to decide whether Boston is a university city or not, and your reasoning as to what belongs where will go a long way toward determining how effective each city is in the long-term.

Tech trees aim to make similar changes, though less elaborate. Certain actions taken in the world provide an inspiration boost to a specific tech, giving half of the research points necessary to earn it immediately. This might involve using a builder to improve a resource or getting into a scrap with a certain kind of unit. It’s another example of the interplay between systems, the tech trees now wrapped up in your actions and discoveries so that they don’t feel separated from the rest of your playstyle.

There are two trees now, one containing civic ideas and the other containing ‘scientific’ advances. Not only does that give culture more power, as the accumulation of culture points are actually used to unlock the civic tech tree now, it also means that you might meet nations that are technologically advanced but culturally inferior, and vice versa. While that doesn’t mean the Civ view of advanced societies isn’t still somewhat single-minded – some nations are more advanced and more powerful, and the details aren’t as important as the leaderboard rankings – there’s more nuance than in previous games, and more variety in the kinds of people you’ll meet along the way.

Given how busy the game is, with new features coming into play regularly as you advance, the UI is remarkably uncluttered. Most of the information you need is either in the bottom right of the screen, which guides you through the flow of a turn and highlights what you need to do before continuing, or in a bar along the top of the screen. That’s where you’ll find information about resources, envoys and your various forms of income.

Despite its overall tidiness, there are some aspects of the UI that don’t quite hang together though. To give one example, I find picking a pantheon and adding beliefs to religions more stodgy than I’d like, every option being dumped into a long scrollable list, with no way to see a read-out detailing how a choice would benefit your civ. If I’m choosing Stone Circles as a belief, I’d like to see a tooltip saying how many applicable resources are within my borders, both worked and unworked.

For every minor complaint, there are three or four improvements to celebrate. City States, one of Civ V’s most interesting but flawed features, work superbly now. Again, they tie back into other systems, with some AI having traits that define how they feel about your relationships with these smaller nations, but the big change is in how those relationships actually work. Rather than having to top up your friendship through regular attentions, you now deploy envoys and leave them in place, reaping the benefits. There’s a competitive element here as well, though, with suzerain status possible, granting a unique bonus, which adds another interesting wrinkle to the whole system. Some of those bonuses can be game-changing when married to the right kind of Civ – La Venta’s Colossal Heads plus faith-based Civ equals very happy early years – while others aren’t worth fighting for if they’re not a natural fit for your current playstyle.

There’s something similar happening in the realm of Great People, who are now drawn from a pool when civs have enough points to attract them or resources to buy them. As with Wonders and City States, everyone is competing for the same bonuses, which makes acquisition time-pressured and more cutthroat than previously. With Wonders, I don’t find quite as much need to rush for them thanks to the requirements for construction being much more complex – simply having the tech isn’t always enough, and some Wonders are locked out if you don’t have the right districts or geographical features to exploit. An educated guess, and some knowledge of your neighbours, can help you to concentrate on Wonders that the whole world isn’t mid-way through constructing already.

All of this combines to do what I thought might be impossible: Civ VI breaks all of my old habits. I’m the pacifist Civ player who now enjoys starting and finishing a fight, and I’m the culture-hungry tourist magnet who has built steaming great industrial empires. Civ VI demands flexibility of thought and function, and it rewards it handsomely with a game that responds elegantly to all kinds of different playstyles

It’s a treat to look at as well. I adore the strategic map in particular, but the expressive units and distinctive tiles are always lovely. A sountrack that moves through the time periods along with your civ is icing on a delicious cake.

Imperfect AI is the fly in the ointment, as it is for the vast majority of 4X games. It’s a shame that the flaws in that department are so apparent at times because in almost every other regard, this is an innovative and extremely thoughtful take on a series and formula that feel as old as PC gaming itself. Where Civ VI makes changes to that formula, they are improvements across the board, some bolder than others but all vital to the overall structure of a game that understands how to build compelling, overlapping strategic systems.

It is, quite simply, a thing of wonder, and a late contender for my personal game of the year.

Civilization VI is out now for Windows and is available through several digital retailers for £50/$60/€60.

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105 Comments

  1. Chalky says:

    Really looking forward to playing this when I get home from work. Previous versions of Civ have started out OK and become considerably better with expansions – I wonder how good Civ 6 can get after expansions given its strong starting point!

    • dongsweep says:

      I VPN’d last night and played about 6 hours and was having a hard time. All the previews led me to believe countries would give me warnings before they attack (like telling me how much they hate me and building a CB). However, I was attacked by America out of the blue (surprise attack even though we respected each other). I built a lot of troops and pushed him back and took one of his cities, barely. You really need troops in your city to compete as your cities are weak at the start now.

      I took Cincinnati from him and was surprise attacked by Rome and Brussels (city-state) so I made peace with America and fought back Rome (he decided to surprise attack me because I was not big enough, even though I have the same city count as him).

      Another player nearby (forget which) absolutely hates surprise wars so I was surprised to see them never step in to help.

      Then while fighting Rome and Brussels (and I know America still hates me) Scythia jumps in and attacks too. I struggled to make peace with Rome even though I took a few of their troops but now I need to get home and defend myself further. I feel like I am really falling behind with these wars because they are going on like 30 turns. Only things saving me are the damn jungle tiles and mountains that makes everyone quite shite at attacking me.

      I am happy with how difficult this is as after playing Paradox for a long time I never felt Civ was a challenge on normal difficulty (I dislike giving the computer obvious resource boosts on higher difficulties) but this is definitely challenging for me.

      Also, districts are a crazy idea to wrap the mind around after a decade and a half of Civ. It is a bit early for me to feel if this is better than other Civs plus expansions but I will say I bounced incredibly hard off Beyond Earth and Civ 6 has brought me back into Sid Meier’s warm embrace.

  2. AshEnke says:

    What’s this latest screenshot ? Is there a 2D schematic view ? Can you play the whole game like that ?

  3. ZIGS says:

    Is the AI worse then in Civ 5, specially in combat? Because that’s fucking atrocious

    • geldonyetich says:

      From my experiences last night, I would say that the Civ VI AI did a better job of defeating my units than it did in Civ V; there was more attrition than I remember, with them frequently sticking their neck out to finish off a unit, then retreating to lick their wounds and preserve their new experience points. Gaining the advantage often involved luring them into units in ambush they lay off the fog of war on their end.

      So quite possibly the combat AI has received an upgrade. I felt like I needed to have a genuine unit power advantage to pull a clean win. Although I did eventually overpower all their forces and start steamrolling, this is probably because I had whittled their economy down to the point where they were simply unable to compete with my production.

      However, in the bigger picture of the game, I probably should not have been able to get away with dragging out a long war and still become the top Civ on “Prince” difficulty, which I am playing. These AI seem easier to defeat in terms of winning a victory than in CiV V. That’s probably where the lead complain about Civ VI’s AI comes from.

      Part of that might be because the new AI traits make them easier to manipulate: you know part of what drives each AI opponent’s motivations, so if you don’t want to raise their ire than you know half of what you need to do, and maybe the other half after you get to know them a bit better.

      • ScorpioShirica says:

        Yeah, AI seems a bit better in combat. However… big picture. Story I mentioned in another Civ VI seems to sum them up. America asks for my help to fight China in a war they are struggling with, America is big and I’m a near neighbor, so I agree to help. I agree, then they turn and immediately denounce me as a warmonger for agreeing to help them. So now, I have everyone hating me. AI big picture is dumb as rocks.

  4. Cooper says:

    What’s performance like?

    Civ V had a habit of slowing down and taking ages to render the map when you clicked the minimap to move a great distance, as well as taking a while to load models for diplomacy. Even when installed to an SSD. Along with long turn times for AI, it made Civ V a bit of a slog in parts.

    Does the new drawn-map system actually work to improve performance by not having to load 3D models for the whole map?

    • TormDK says:

      I would be interested to know this as well, as I only play the Marathon mode.

    • AshEnke says:

      According to the PC Gamer review, it takes a long time to load (A minute on map start and can take a minute and a half for late games) but it doesn’t or barely slow down during play

    • badmothergamer says:

      I’ve only played for about an hour so I can’t speak to late game performance but I’ve had the same issues you described in V.

      I can say that VI definitely feels much smoother in the early game. Far less stutter and lag when I drag the map around. And I was playing it with Black Desert Online running on my second monitor so I was actually expecting some minor hiccups.

    • geldonyetich says:

      I played some 6 hours last night and didn’t notice any particular slowdown. I will say that turns certainly drag on a bit longer when I have several active military units to order around, but that’s probably not a technical slowdown, just a lot of work I created for myself.

    • Mattrock607 says:

      For me the performance is better than civ v was. It’s still a bit slow in the end-game but generally it feels a bit smoother I’m on a higher-end machine though (AMD FX8370, R9-280X, 16 GB RAM, running on a crucial M4 SSD) so I don’t know how it will perrform on a lower-quality rig.

  5. Trenchdog says:

    Maybe not a comment specifically related to CivVI, but triggered by the AI related criticism I am reading everywhere. Why is it that developers are not (yet) able to create a better AI experience? Do we simply not yet have the kind of accessible technology necessary to offer such AI in a game? Are developers simply lacking the knowledge how to create such an AI? I cannot believe it is them simply not trying hard enough, as it affects so many developers in this genre.

    Anyway, just wondering.

    • Xocrates says:

      A bit of column A, a bit of column B.

      Good AI is incredibly hard to “design” and computationally heavy – since complexity tends to grow exponentially.

      Keep in mind, we can’t program a computer to play chess flawlessly, and the best ones we do have use Supercomputers and are fed known tactics. Making one that can play a game like civ well is borderline impossible.

      Generally the trick is not to make a good AI, but one that can cheat without being caught.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        There’s another facet to it too: you don’t want to create a perfect AI. That’s not fun to play against, and it’s not a believable opponent.

        The ideal goal is to create a humanlike AI, and that means it must behave in a way similar to humans, which is often anything but perfect. It must scale in a way that makes sense, it must make mistakes in the way that a human does (rather than in the way an AI would, such as shown in this review). If it behaves contrary to a human in a game designed for humans to play, it’ll break in some way or another.

        • TillEulenspiegel says:

          Right! An AI which simply makes optimal decisions is fine in a straightforward competitive game, but what you usually want is an AI that’s going to make *interesting* decisions.

          I’ve recently been playing a lot of Hearts of Iron 4, and I think the heavy pre-scripting of decisions really helps the AI there, as do the fascist/democratic/communist personalities. It’s probably not “good” AI if you’re looking for a serious challenge, but it makes for a much richer game experience.

          • ScorpioShirica says:

            I dunno. I stopped playing HOI4 after Nazi Germany fell to three volunteer regiments sent to France. The AI doesn’t focus on areas where the player isn’t, understandably, I guess? However, I decided to send three infantry regiments to France and noticed something weird. The french were all lined up against an empty German front. I walked all the way to Berlin with French troops slowly falling in behind me. Before the Germans got back from holiday, I assume in Italy helping them fight against the French in the southern front, they surrendered. WW2 ended before I even got to join as the USA.

          • Danley says:

            Seeing this is how Germany took over that very region (when they weren’t literally gifted the countries), blitzkrieging undefended positions, that doesn’t seem that unreasonable. Given that America served as a safe harbor for Nazis after the war, if they’d been able to somehow blitzkrieg across the English Channel, it’s not hard to imagine a quick peace deal being brokered and the US never even entering the war. At the time Paris was being invaded, the US was barely a top ten military power.

            God save the English Channel.

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        WombatDeath says:

        Here’s a thought. Not necessarily a good thought, but a thought nonetheless. This is that thought:

        Granted, my desktop PC is not the ideal device for computationally expensive AI. But we have cloud-based processing now, and I imagine that Amazon or Google or whoever could calculate in a few seconds a turn that would take my PC hours. Perhaps I could subscribe to a service that farms my AI processing out to the cloud for a few pounds a month, and the cloud does the heavy lifting and pings the end result back to my PC which then displays the results to me.

        I’m not claiming that it would be trivial but I suspect that it’s possible, and perhaps the superior horsepower would enable much more human-like AI than we currently experience in 4X games. In fact, now that I think about it, this seems like a much more achievable use of cloud-based gaming than stuff like Onlive which attempts (attempted? Does it still exist) to stream real-time graphics to the client PC.

    • UncleLou says:

      Another problem is that many people love to look for AI loopholes (fair enough), and when they have found one and can’t help exploiting it, the game has “terrible AI”.

      And on a sidenote, I think it was one of the Total War games where Creative Assembly hired one of the most talented modders out there for their next game to work specifically on the AI, and it was just as good/terrible as always.

    • heyMcFly says:

      As an added note to what Xocrates – and UncleLou while I was posting this – very justly said :

      A couple years ago, I had an interview at a large video game company for a gameplay programmer position, and asked the same questions to my interviewer. He has been in charge of the AI part for almost a decade, and he answered very honestly to me : most of his job was to make compromises.
      One, with budget – of course with enough time and money his team could build a fantastic AI, learning through experience while being fed tactics of your players in realtime ! But budget was already distributed, and graphics, animation, or marketing already ate most of it. And designing an excellent AI for a game like Civilization is not a measly task.
      Two, with playability. In these dark days of instant gratification being the norm, your usual game designer will be very distressed if you make his game too hard. Predefined scenario triggers might limit your freedom, or time constraints for a certain section of the game – so you have to castrate your IA to fit in.
      Third, with hardware. AI is expensive in CPU cycles. Of course you always have shortcuts, optimizations, tricks, but in the end, you are limited by the platform your game is played on. Even on a beefy PC, you still have to share your CPU with feeding your GPU, running your OS, and handling whatever applications you have in background. And you’ll get heavily criticized if each game with 8+ AIs takes 3 minutes to compute turns after a while ! Furthermore, if your game has to be sold on console too, you will take a very large hit in your CPU budget…
      And last one, the good old one, is that humans are the best pattern-recognition machines we know of. As soon as your AI starts being previsible – which, due to software being what it is, is bound to happen – your players will start manipulating the AI back, trivializing all or part of it. Sucks, eh ?

      • Unclepauly says:

        For the last few years I thought the future of A.I. was with downloading avatars like Forza was doing on xbox. “Drivatars” I think they were called, basically a cloud based system that monitored how a human plays and then the A.I. modeled itself after that humans playstyle. I really thought more gamemakers would pick up on this as it sounds like a quick n easy fix to having A.I. that’s unpredictable and varied but alas I see nobody doing it.

      • Pheon0802 says:

        this, I never get why people arent realising what they are actually asking for in huge Strategy games like Civ or Total war when it comes to great AI. Like the Computer is stupid. IT only does what you tell it to. SO you have to program an algorithm that considers all the moving parts of the game but also keeps it entertaining and not unbeatable. (I mean you want to be challenged but still get a win out every now and then.)

        Especially in Civ6 makes a great example. To play this game well. YOu have to know unitmovement, and strategic plays as well us maintenance (when to push or pullback to scout tiles out gain visability ect. ) Thats just moving. On top of that It has to manage the cities. Which tiles to work. Where do I put the districts. Which Pantheon would synergize well in this position, Rushing for religioN? Keepin that lost. DO I need a wonder here? What about late game bonuses. Which improvements to prioritize which resources do I farm to get a boost when needed. Ok. Than lets look at what to build? Units to go early war are the neighbors weak encrouching ecct. Early epansion were to settle and then with each city again the whole shebang from before. As well as how does this city synergises with the empire? Is it worth specializing or IS it very well worth it as a Strategic military or ressource locked down point.

        Ok now that out of the way: Governments.
        Oh boy.
        These ones now are customizeable. Each having its own TWO inate bonuses one gaining a legacy bonus to last troughout the game. Which do I choose first? Lategame policies to use the legacy for that so I change more often government types or always the one best suited for the right now strategy? ANd then the policy slots. SOme of these cards are game changing.

        AS an example: I played a multiplayer game as Egypt. Started near desert/floodplains. Found early relic got up first pantheon (desertfolklore.) As well as found the dead sea just south my capital for a second settle. Boosted Astrology rushed it and that holysite in my cap giving me +6 faith adjacency bonus. Also found a military citystate whose suzerane bonus was: purchase citycenterdistrict and encampment buildings with faith.

        Now with the second city getting even an +7 faith holysite and rushing to The tech to get +100% holysite adjecency bonus I got up +50 faith per round when others were still not even close to 10.

        some reli civs a bit to 20.

        For reference Ancient walls to purchase with faith cost me 40 faith. APostels 100. Each new city I founded I could often easily buy the first 4 buildings (monument, walls, mill, granary) and in a few turns I had the faith back in.

        This plays are super situational. ANd its damn hard to get the AI to work that strategy out.

        I guess what I want to get at is Ai isnt that important to me in a 4x game. At least in terms of how they did it rn? I am happy. Make a few adjustments maybe once they have more data/feedback from the players since release to balance it a bit. But yeah when I want a cunning enemy that challenges me and also makes mistakes I can exploit without feeling stealin candy from the ai? I ask some friends to play in multiplayer.

        Civ got one. ANd they even made online speed as well as SHOrt goal scenarios (to play games that last only 1hour to 2 hours.)

        Seriously play more multiplayer, Get into some forums like No quitters community. (who dont rage quit after loosing a single settler in the beginning (its not the end). Or even go so far as to roleplay a bit/Make sure to say no early war. (though I often think that a shame cause the fight to claim territory is sometimes just as important as the big wars in the endgame.

    • Jeremy says:

      AI is just incredibly hard. The amount of processing power in a human brain greatly exceeds that of a PC(for now), and allows for incredibly complex decision trees. As a result of that, coding AI requires tricks, and as stated above, can be easily exploited. We are probably about 10 – 15 years away from a PC that has the processing power of a human brain, and then another 18 – 24 months from that doubling, and another 18 – 24 months from THAT doubling, and so on. We’re coming into a pretty exciting period of time where we’ll have more than enough processing power, we just have to figure out what to do with it all. Hopefully actually good AI in games will be on the list!

      • Jeremy says:

        Something else that I wish I had remembered within the 5 minute window is, we can see decisions that could have happened on alternate trees. So, for instance, even if we take the far left tree, and take 12 – 15 steps into it.. we can sort of speculate back before the branch, and theorize 12 – 15 steps deep into other trees. Maybe this theorizing could even inform a future decision on the tree we actually took. This is also informed by so many external things too. Emotions, previous experiences in other games, that history class we took in 4th grade(??), checkers. The complexity is, quite simply, shocking.

        • TheSkiGeek says:

          It’s certainly possible to have a computer do things like this; the problem is that the “branching factor” for a game like Civilization is enormously high. So there are an insanely large number of possible “alternate histories” to consider simulating, and going 10-20 turns deep on all of them is likely impossible in any practical amount of time.

          In games like Chess a lot of the advancement in practical AI came from finding good ways to “prune” large sets of moves — basically to look at a potential move and decide immediately that it must be terrible (or at least much, much worse than the alternatives) and you don’t have to consider anything that happens after that. Humans are really good at this, but it’s very difficult in most cases to generalize it.

      • gunny1993 says:

        I’d like to add that it might even be far more complex than we currently think; current views see the brain and computational neural networks as simular constructs that just require more power and complexity for parity.

        New evidence in the past half a decade or so could suggest a level of complexity far greater than we are used to thinking of, specifically in regards to the synaptome map.

        Basically instead of a million neurons making a billion connections it could be a million neurons making a billion connections with a trillion modifiers on each neuron (made up numbers but the point is, lots of complexity)

      • Unclepauly says:

        I feel like this is prime bait, you’re just tossing it in the wrong pond.

      • Arren says:

        We are probably about 10 – 15 years away from a PC that has the processing power of a human brain, and then another 18 – 24 months from that doubling, and another 18 – 24 months from THAT doubling, and so on.

        No offense, Jeremy, but this kind of thinking is a prime example of a little knowledge being arguably worse than none at all. The facile extrapolation of Moore’s ‘law’ is not a sound starting-point for comparative discussion of human versus artificial intelligence. (It seems to lead to the pronouncement of howlers about the “singularity”, etc.)

        Our brains are comprised of distributed systems of massively parallel processing, interdependent to a degree not yet fully understood. Human cognition is not directly analogous to the ultimately serial processing of any computer (i.e., not amenable to measurement in teraflops). Even the term ‘parallel processing’, so prevalent in this multi-core era, is distinct from the parallelism intrinsic to the human brain.

        The issues with game AI are of course separate from these considerations; other comments have touched upon this satisfactorily. In my opinion, the limitations on game AI are primarily pragmatic (mostly derived from budgetary priorities) or contextual (basically: the best AI isn’t by any means necessarily the most fun for the vast majority of players.)

        DuncUK also makes a great point that the refinement of a specific AI implementation requires the framework of a game to be nearly or fully complete. This places the (at this point purely theoretical) proper development of game AI near the end of the dev cycle, concurrent with the early phases of QA. Since even the more prosaic aspects of QA are perpetually given short shrift across the industry (pressure to hit ship-date, game already over-budget and past-deadline, etc.), the immediate future of realizing a potential evolution in game AI seems dim as hell.

    • Generico says:

      In general, it’s as simple as most developers don’t actually invest that much in the AI. Most games have AI written by one or two devs. Meanwhile, they’ll have dozens of artists and level designers. That is the single biggest reason. Yes, AI can be CPU intensive, but modern multi-core CPUs are not a real bottleneck for making passably good game AIs. Yes, AI is hard, but so is 3D rendering millions of polygons with per-pixel shaders in real time.

      The issue is mostly that AI doesn’t sell games. Or at least, most game marketing people can’t figure out how to sell AI. Selling pretty visuals and physics engines and the like is easier, so that’s where the man-power goes.

    • DuncUK says:

      In addition to all of the above, there is also another answer – though I should state right now I am a software engineer but have never been involved in AI, so take this with a pinch of salt.

      I would expect that authoring good AI really needs all the underlying game mechanics to be implemented and static. Of course they won’t be until quite late in game development as they also need tweaking an balancing. The AI is making decisions about how and when to utilise the underlying game mechanics to play the game, yet it is mostly implemented on shifting sands. The difference between good and bad AI could be as little as a small amount of tweaking and balancing of the same underlying AI constructs. Moreover, its much cheaper to test and improve AI by having play against itself and observe the result than it is against playtesters, who themselves will have a learning curve to go through and play far slower. Of course human playtesters are heavily involved but alot of the early feedback into the AI design will come from this much cheaper testing resource. Furthermore, game release will give you a far larger and richer degree of feedback from your customers than internal testing could ever manage. So the temptation will always be to spend only as much effort as is needed to get the AI good enough that it won’t adversely affect reviews and feedback, then release so that you can rush to improve it through patches while the product is out in the field.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      RPS did a great series on exactly this, I was thinking the exact same as you and found it fascinating:

      link to rockpapershotgun.com

  6. godunow says:

    3 hours in and I love it. Practically all changes are for the better. One thing that bugs me is bored voice of Sean Bean reading really ill-chosen tech quotes (he is reading them, right?)

    • LimitingFactor says:

      It’s a combination of the quotes being ill-chosen and a performance that you could be excused for thinking was done by someone who’d learned the pronunciation but none of the meanings of the words in them.

      • Jeremy says:

        Basically every speech in Spanish class that I ever gave.

      • Someoldguy says:

        I think his voice is great when delivering a phrase or speech with a bit of fire to it. Tryting to clearly enunciate really uninspiring phrases would be a tough ask for anyone. I just wish I could turn the damn things off.

    • arkhanist says:

      I think it’s at least partly due to him suppressing his native accent quite a bit so he’s more clearly understandable to Americans et al. Random example of his normal voice: link to youtube.com

      I rather like them, they’re not over-excited and thus distracting from the actual tech which is what I care about. Though the emphasis on modern-day quotes for say, classical era techs is a bit of an odd choice, I agree.

      • Premium User Badge

        AutonomyLost says:

        I think he’s quite understandable, and I’m a United Statesian; I get what you mean though.

        He has a lovely Bri’ish accent, to my ears. I think I read here, on a different thread, that it’s Yorkshire? I think the way English accents differ, depending from which region one hails, as is the case for the U.S. (and indeed most other places, but the English language I’m more in-tune with) is fascinating. I have no ear for placing specific English accents really,as it seems there’s a wide spectrum, but do find most of them pleasing.

        Doesn’t concern Civ VI; only a thought.

      • godunow says:

        After some more time with the game I think Sean Bean voice is not the problem – in game loading text (“From the first stirrings of life beneath water…”) it is fine. It’s terrible choice of tech quotes – “Those who in quarrels inperpose, must often wipe a bloody nose” (Military Training) – completely ruins it for me

        • Silverchain says:

          Wow. That *is* bad! Smells like someone trying to freely translate from another language and landing in a big old pool of bathos. Are they all like that? Maybe Total War took all the good ones.

  7. Xocrates says:

    Played a couple hours last night, but I clearly need to relearn a lot of it before being able to make my mind about it. I ended up restarting 4 or 5 times just figuring out the early game.

    The two things that screwed me the most were 1)that you’re far more vulnerable in the early game – cities are much weaker, and it’s not unlikely for a civ to be wiped out while still in the ancient era – and 2) I made the mistake of going for boosted techs too often, and I suspect this is a trap many people may fall into. I’ve eschewed techs I needed but didn’t have a boost for, for techs I didn’t but were boosted, and ultimately fell further behind because of it.

    • SadOldGuy says:

      Somehow the maps seem smaller and the barbarians are much more dangerous. I’m on turn 2 with just a warrior and the barbarian camp 2 turns away already has spearmen and horsemen? Scouts are get experience for exploring but are even weaker than before. How do I build the improvements that I need when I have to immediately crank out military unit after military unit? And this is on settler! I know that I am terrible at videogames but good grief.

  8. Blastaz says:

    Civ 3 is better than Civ 4. Civ 2 is the best. It is known.

    Will have to see if this wins me back from Paradox’s warm grand strategy embrace.

  9. Yasha says:

    I’m struggling to see how all of this “new” map involvement (cities sprawling over the geography, tiles becoming more strategic, etc.) is not just a mechanics snag from titles like Endless Legend.

    • SpaceAkers says:

      It probably was inspired by Endless Legend, but the districts are more of a strategic choice than the puzzle mini-game city building of EL. One of the main functions of them is to specialize your cities instead of simply spamming all the Tier 1 and Tier 2 resource buildings in every city, like you do in many 4Xs including Endless Legend. In practice, tho they share the name “district”, the two systems don’t have too much in common.

      I also fail to see your concern in the matter, considering there’s no Endless Legend without Civ to begin with. I’d hope developers would look to other strong efforts within the genre and iterate on those ideas for their own projects.

      • Yasha says:

        You’re absolutely right about developers borrowing from one another in order to strengthen a genre, and my comment was not intended to discourage that.

        My only irritation is that I fear Civ VI will be seen as a reinvention of the genre (which it very well may be,) without acknowledging that it is just one of several new-age 4x games, regardless of the “Civilization” history.

        • C0llic says:

          I replied below before I read this. I wouldn’t worry about Amplitude, they’ve got so much talent that between EL and the new endless space and beyond, they’ll do just fine.

          As an aside, how amazing are those guys? Every game they’ve put out has been fantastic.

      • syndrome says:

        I wanted to share with you a forum thread I started back in September 2014, addressed to Civ V modders. However the entire forum has been deleted, so I can’t.

        It’s as if Civ VI blatantly copied my design ideas word by word, and expanded from there. If you’re curious, Steam has saved the messages for me, but I’d have to copy/paste which isn’t exactly a proof, though I don’t really care, I just find it peculiar, because the messages were there 3-4 days ago.

        I’m assuming that Firaxis deleted the entire Civ V modding forum for the release. Why would anyone destroy the entire message board for Civ V modding… What’s the deal? They need more space on their hard disks? Funny.

        • C0llic says:

          No offence dude, but I doubt they deleted the board because they used the ideas of you and some other modders. Even if that’s true, why would they do that? I can honestly see no reason why at all.

          ‘Oh god! We implemented some of the ideas of our active modding community in our upcoming title! Better hit that delete key so no one finds out !’

          I’m intending this in good fun, but I’m sure you get my point :)

          • Unclepauly says:

            I’m pretty sure he was alluding to them stealing the modders ideas. Idk just a wild swing at the matter, probably a whiff.

          • C0llic says:

            I’m not sure why you would think I didn’t know he was alluding to that. I was pointing out how silly an idea them intentionally nuking a forum based on that narrative is.

      • Jeremy says:

        Warlock was, if I remember correctly, the first to introduce this style of tile built city (maybe even Elemental?). Endless Legend improved on that to a great degree, and it sounds like Civ VI has further refined this concept which is exciting. I’ve got it downloaded and ready to play at home, and this is just making it much more difficult to wait.

        • April March says:

          Yeah, Warlock is what I think of when I hear about districts. I haven’t played Endless Legend and from what I’ve heard it’s probably best, but it’s funny to see people being worried that CivVI will be seen as the creator of a feature instead of the game that actually created it, and then name a game that didn’t create it.

          • MisterFurious says:

            It happens, though. Look at Blizzard. They get all kinds of credit that they don’t deserve. People think that “WarCraft 3” was the first RTS that had heroes when “Warlords Battlecry” did it first. They think that “WarCraft” was the first RTS when it was “Dune”. They call MMO’s “WoW clones” when WoW was just an EverQuest clone. People think Blizzard created Space Marines, Zerg and Protoss when they’re really just Warhammer 40K races renamed (except Space Marines). Credit usually does not go where it’s due.

    • C0llic says:

      The new districts were likely inspired by EL (a great game everyone should play too) but the implementation is completely different in mechanics and flavour.

      To reiterate what’s been said above, designers should borrow from and iterate upon good ideas. That’s not something to be disparaged.

    • badmothergamer says:

      Not to start the whole “everything is a derivation on Pong” thread but I love when games borrow great ideas from each other. I also think it’s fair to say EL took far more from the Civ series than Civ VI will take from EL.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Scrote says:

    Shame about the imperfect AI, that’s one of the issues that’s really bugged me about the Civ games over many years. It’s so bad sometimes that it ruins the immersion.

    That said, I’m getting this game for sure, looks like fun!

    • C0llic says:

      I know what you mean but it’s an issue you have to accept with practically every 4x game. I’ve never played one that had a truly great, compelling AI. I bought VI myself and I’m really enjoying it for what it’s worth :)

  11. Konservenknilch says:

    How’s the performance? V runs fine here. (please don’t point me to the official specs)

    • C0llic says:

      Nvidia 970, SSD, 16 megs of RAM, and its nice and snappy. Turn times are fast, but the initial load of a save is long enough for Sean Bean to get through most of his narration (around a minute-and a half -ish, give or take). I have no idea what your specs are, but maybe that gives you an idea.

    • godunow says:

      On notebook i5 4th gen + intel 4400 it works great at 25fps on minimal details @1600×900 (and looks much better than Civ V).

  12. FreshHands says:

    But…it’s just…so ugly.

    I am sorry. There I said it again – and I know it’s a matter of personal taste. But, ah well, probably for the best, since Civ eats time like nothing else on this planet.

    • Zenicetus says:

      You’re not alone. I strongly dislike this new art style. It looks like they’re using cartoon art and a color palette intended for easy recognition on an iOS game, instead of something for the PC. Maybe they are, to tie together assets for the mobile versions?

      Civ V’s art direction had a “quieter” and more realistic look that was easy on the eyes, compared to this garish mess. That’s important for a strategy game where you’re staring at basically the same thing onscreen for hours at a time.

      There are enough other new strategy games out now to keep me occupied. I’ll pick it up later in a slow period, and at a lower price, in case I just can’t stand looking at it.

      • invitro says:

        Double ditto. I think Civ 5 is very pretty. But I don’t play these Civ games a hundredth as much as you guys.

      • Sic says:

        The worst part is that it’s not for “readability” of the map at all. That’s just something that was mention by Ed Beach in one of the promo videos as a response to the backlash from everyone hating the style.

        If you actually play the game, you’ll soon find out that it doesn’t help at all (it’s far worse than CIV5). It’s simply a stylistic choice.

    • Phantom_Renegade says:

      Yeah, I agree. The ‘realistic’ parts of the map look like a worse version of Civ V and the rest is cartoony nonsense. I cancelled my pre-order after the last batch of gameplay trailers.

  13. spleendamage says:

    Played this with 2 friends multiplayer last night at release. The multiplayer experience was excellent. Compared to the release code for any previous Civ games, this one is well above any others.

  14. Vandelay says:

    Very tempted by this, even though I was planning on the usual tactic of holding out until the release of an expansion or two. I am bulking at the price though. Wasn’t it only a year or two ago most of us were moaning about £40 being standard? £50 seems very steep in comparison!

    Oh well, Green Man Gaming have it for £40, so very likely to pick it up from there. This sounds fantastic.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Inflation seems to be a thing we just can’t bend to our will. My brother seems to think that leaving all his money in the bank and making 16 cents every year is a profitable venture. (He’s a moron)

      • invitro says:

        Saving money is for fools. Be a loyal consumer and spend every dollar the second you get it.

        Sincerly, John Q. Capitalist

  15. Scelous says:

    I’ll state right off the bat that I’m a latecomer to the Civ series. I’ve been gaming for a long time, and I was gaming when Civ 1 came out, but I always found the Civ series to be kind of tedious and not very interesting. One of the biggest things I disliked was how it was always better, 100% of the time, to have more cities. The Civ series just felt like a game about spamming as many cities as possible, no matter which victory path you go.

    Civ 5 changed things with the whole culture and science getting more expensive for more cities, and Civ 5 is the first Civ I enjoyed. And I really enjoyed it – I sunk a lot of hours into the game. Civ 5 felt like there was more than one way to win besides just having the most cities, and I really liked that. Oh, and not to sound shallow, but Civ 5 was also the first time I liked the Civ graphics.

    I’ve been playing Civ 6, and so far, I’m not really liking it at all. I’m not a big fan of the cartoonish graphics, but whatever, that isn’t a deal-breaker. However, the formula seems to have gone back to “spam as many cities as possible to win,” which I find incredibly boring. I’m pretty disappointed.

    Mind you, I’m not a Civilization aficionado, so I’m not speaking with the voice of authority, here. I’m just stating my own personal impressions of the Civ series and this latest one.

    • Unclepauly says:

      I hardly know much Civ myself but what little I know is build path and tactics outweigh too many cities. Spreading too thin seems to be a way to disadvantage yourself, but like I said I’m fairly new as well.

  16. darkside says:

    No Linux support :(

    Hopefully they will add Mac and Linux support soon?

    • turkeydrumstick says:

      Huh? The humble store claims it’s available for both Mac and Linux though?

      • Premium User Badge

        johannsebastianbach says:

        You just linked to Civ V.

        But up to now all Civs were made available for Mac and at least V for Linux as well.
        It’s even better this way as you can only spend your money when you get the All-Expansions-and-DLC version for 30 bucks in a year or so.

  17. Mr.Bats says:

    It sounds good and all that but I can’t play a game that’s not historically accurate. Until they add a timeline and realistic enough maps that are not mods, I’m not touching it with a barge pole. Paradox come to me baby

    • Premium User Badge

      Captain Narol says:

      At least, they could add dynamical historical dynasties…

      Having the same leader for the whole life of a civilisation just makes no sense, and having leaders from totally different time period fight each other is just a huge no-no for me, how good can the game be…

      Back to Crusader Kings II. What else ?

      • Mr.Bats says:

        Yeah, exactly. It’s painful for me to watch. No learning value at all, also.

        Right now I’m trying to form Prussia as Brandenburg in EUIV, which is harder than I thought it would be.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I’ve managed to get around that objection by imagining that Civ games are actually about a crashed colony starship. The survivors are scattered, and each is led by an immortal AI with a personality and appearance modeled after a famous Earth leader. The AI’s compete with each other in recovering lost Earth tech and becoming the dominant civilization.

        It explains the randomized maps because it’s another planet, the immortal leaders, and it explains the linear tech tree that only recreates historical tech and nothing really new. Works for me. Although I still hate this new art style, so Civ V may be the last one I play unless I can get over it.

    • acheron says:

      Um, thanks for your opinion, I guess?

      Stupid dog. All you do is bark. You never meow.

  18. Madlax15 says:

    It’s a treat to look at as well? It looks like a freaking Wii reject! They are also forcing you to spread out your wonders between cities, thus forcing you into a certain style of gameplay?

    You are a sell out, just like the rest of this industry.

  19. mechanixis says:

    There are two trees now, one containing civic ideas and the other containing ‘scientific’ advances. Not only does that give culture more power, as the accumulation of culture points are actually used to unlock the civic tech tree now, it also means that you might meet nations that are technologically advanced but culturally inferior, and vice versa.

    Now this is something very interesting that I wasn’t aware of. Civ has always been in the uncomfortable position of directly relating how “advanced” a society is with its technological development, and suggesting that all societies develop technology in more or less the same manner as western Europe.

    This sounds like a huge step towards a more nuanced, less primitivist way of representing cultures like the Aztecs or the Zulu in a way that respects their complexity and cultural development without pretending they also invented muskets and tallships.

  20. Premium User Badge

    Big Dunc says:

    Looks and sounds very good, but I feel I should give Civ V another go before getting this. I bought it when it came out but kind of bounced off it after a couple of short campaigns and haven’t touched it since. I was a big fan of the previous games, so I don’t know what I didn’t like it, but I understand that the expansions made some big improvements, so maybe it’s time to more it to the top of my “play next” list.

  21. wondermoth says:

    Another review (mostly) praising the hideous UI. What the hell? The thing looks like it was knocked up in an afternoon by an intern. The tool tips remind me of something you’d see on Windows 95. Overall, it’s substantially less attractive than Civ IV, never mind the beautiful Civ V. It’s lazy, fiddly, ugly (SO brown), indistinct, the icons are poor, which is exacerbated by the lack of UI scaling; its objectively bad design, a halfarsed attempt at a “heritage” style, and – as far as the look and feel is concerned – a MASSIVE retrograde step from Civ V. And that’s the overall impression – there are certain bits of it that look like they could be from Civ I. The leader selection dropdown, in particular, is so ugly and basic you have to wonder if they were doing a throwback for the 25th anniversary.

    10 hours in, and I’ve really struggled to enjoy the game, with three attempts to start a campaign, all aborted on or before 0AD, largely out of boredom, and a desire to play games that don’t hate my eyes so much. I’m sure I’ll fall in love with it *eventually*, but right now, my experience is bouncing off of countless irritations, of the UI being the main offender (but far from the only one: omfg, the quotes).

    Glad you’re all having fun with it. I’m playing it out of duty.

    *edit* Holy moly, you have an edit function now? This is exciting! Been reading other comments, I just want to be clear that I am fine with the cartoonish graphics. The game screen itself looks great (only gripe: they could distinguish more clearly between fog of war and uncharted territory). It’s the menus that are the issue.

    • AngoraFish says:

      I must say that after 8 hours in or so, I have to agree.

      The world map is really messy, visually indistinct and hard to use, and the strategic map is pretty amateurish.

      Fog of war is poorly implemented and it’s hard to tell the difference between explored but not currently visible and completely unexplored.

      Buttons are all over the place, often don’t work intuitively and are sometimes inconsistent.

      So much useful information seems impossible to find, for example, I am literally unable to find out what some of the wonders I have actually do without looking at the Civilipedia, and sometimes not event then.

      I’m also finding it hard to keep going.

      • Someoldguy says:

        I’m persevering with it, but I’ve had to turn tile resource view on to tell the difference at a glance between fogged grassland, plains, desert and undiscovered. Hills are practically invisible once you zoom out to a more strategic viewpoint and you need the overhead unit icons to tell the difference between the infantry types. Not good.

        One more minor aspect that I think is unforgivable is the finale. You have an awesome opening/marketing video. You have pretty decent wonder videos (although they don’t bother telling you what the wonder actually does) but no victory video for the different types. Just bam, you win. Would you like to play another turn? Talk about a total anticlimax. Even the opportunity to review the map scroll through history seems to be gone, although maybe it’s just buried in some dusty corner of the baffling UI.

  22. Raoul Duke says:

    So does Civ VI force you to embrace religion in order to succeed? That would be disappointing.

  23. AndreGDG says:

    Nice review, I’m yet to try this new civ.

    I have made a gallery with 22 Civilization wallpapers if anyone else wants to customize their desktop with the game :)

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