The RPS Verdict: Civilization 6

Though Adam was the first to settle in the brave new world of Civilization 6 [official site], Alec and Pip have since spent the weekend establishing their own outposts in Sidland. The three of them now form an uneasy alliance to discuss the strengths and failings of the game.

Grievances are aired at length about its new Diplomacy system, jumbled UI and opaque nature, while its vibrant look and elaborate nature are praised. And has learning to play Civ become like learning to play Dota? Let us parley.

Alec: How can it have been six years since Civ V. How can that be. How.

Adam: Click end turn just one time and years fly by, that’s just the way of it. One more turn on the road to the grave. Civ V does feel more recent than that though, mainly because the expansions felt like the real game. In my head, I tend to date it to the launch of Gods and Kings. That’s still a terrifying four years though.

But now six is here and I think it’s absolutely grand. You can read all about that in my big review, as I’m sure BOTH OF YOU ALREADY HAVE. But what say you? Are you having a good time?

Alec: A much better time than I did with Civ V pre-expansions, yeah, but more cracks are showing up as I play. Now that the early rush of charm has faded there’s stuff that’s frustrating me, but absolutely not to the point that I won’t play the thing until 2am for the next few weeks.

Pip: I’m having a more middling experience, I think, and I’m trying to work out how much of that is because I’m not steeped in 4X genre things as a matter of course, and how much is actively bad design, or failure to convey the information in an accessible way.

Adam: The two things that I’m unhappy about are tightly related – the AI and diplomacy as a whole. I don’t think the AI is terrible by any means, but I also don’t think it’s particularly good. The diplomacy on the other hand feels like a bunch of really good ideas that haven’t been fully executed – I described it earlier as being the most Civ 5 part of Civ 6.

I love the inclusion of casus belli and the driving force behind the agendas, but the former sometimes feel too arbitrary and the latter often require constant appeasement. They’re such dominant personality traits and behaviours that they don’t leave room for subtleties.

Alec: I know Civ IV and V are the obvious comparisons – the former being the other overtly cheery one and V being the one this shares the most systems with – but it’s III I’m thinking of most. That was the sort of the feature creepy one, before the soft rethink of IV, and I think that’s what’s happening here, which contributes to why e.g. Pip isn’t finding it entirely welcoming.

There are so many layers pasted on top of old layers and even I, as an old hand, haven’t found stuff like Amenities or Religion to be particularly easily-grasped or managed. Combine this with XCOM 2, which arguably was also far too opaque about its many interlinking abilities and the strategy map, and Firaxis seem to be falling into the Creative Assembly trap of becoming so heavy with features that they neglect to explain their essentials all that well.

And, in this instance, we’ve got some fairly messy Diplomacy that really should have been made fully functional instead of shoving in some brand new system. I like what they’ve tried to to do but it does feel like a half-finished experiment. Or maybe it’s just inherently imbalanced because, while the player can be reactive to an enemy Civ’s traits, the AI can’t do that to the player, whose motivation is essentially ever-changing.

Civilization 6 Diplomacy

Adam: We talked about this a little earlier, the lack of an agenda for the player, and while I don’t want to get into backseat game-designing, I think it’s a very valid point. I always prefer AI that feels as if it’s playing by the same rules as me, even if it is cutting corners, and the agenda system marks the player out as an alien. You’re not playing the same game because you don’t have a similar standard to operate and be judged by.

As far as how busy the game is, I’m all for it. Give me all the systems, as long as they work and influence one another. I think these do, on the whole, but Pip is dead on in that it can all be too opaque. I mentioned the pantheon screen in my review as an example of the scarcity of information – it tells me too much and too little all at the same time. In a perfect world, every strategy game would give me all of the necessary information to make a decision right at the point when I’m making that decision. Civ 6 doesn’t do that and it really should. BUT, I haven’t actually found any of the systems, once learned, complex enough that it bothers me too much.

Pip: I’m enjoying how right you think I am, although I think it’s in response to things I said in the RPS treehouse rather than here so I’ll outline the major problems I’ve run into so far. But let’s all remember how right I am.

Okay, so the big thing is that the AI really doesn’t seem to be creating any sense of progression. My interactions with it from turns 1-200 have been this weird mishmash of antagonism, reaction and friendliness which suddenly then tipped over into declaring a surprise war.

So, for example, The English and the Spanish are the main presences on my map right now. Victoria and Philip II were alternating between telling me I should be scared what with only having such a tiny army and that they really were impressed by someone with a standing army like mine, Victoria was also constantly asking for us to be formal friends and Spain seemed interested in trade.

Then Spain started moving troops into my hexes and suddenly declared war. England began amassing troops on my border and got cross when I put a defensive legion there, telling me not to be aggressive, but I had no way of asking England to pull back.

At one point Victoria told me she loved what I was doing with the continent we shared. Then she declared war. I feel like that’s an impossible narrative to read. It makes no sense, has no continuity on the surface, and the stuff that I guess it was affecting behind the scenes felt like it wasn’t visible to me. Not until I was trying to find out how to sue for peace, eventually discovering (after half an hour of Googling, trying to make sense of the Civilopedia, calling in my partner who has played the previous Civs and then turning to Twitter) that you can’t until ten turns into the war.

I mean, the game doesn’t even tell you that. It just said I had to click on people’s faces in the diplomacy menu and given that wasn’t an option so early in the war I thought my game had bugged.

Civilization 6 UI

Alec: Even UI issues – of which there are many, particularly in regard to diplomacy – aside, I think the key problem with diplomacy is that the game behaves as though you’re communicating with fixed personalities, but that’s not really the case. When you perform an action that affects another Civ, you’re actually affecting two different aspects of that Civ: their stated traits, and then the game as a whole’s agenda. And the game as a whole’s agenda is to stop or slow down your victory.

So I’ve also had several situations where people I’ve been super-chummy with have declared a surprise war, presumably at massive political cost to themselves, even though I have met almost every criteria to please them. However, the game makes them behave out of character.

On the one hand, that’s ridiculously frustrating because it means Johnny Spain or Sally Egypt can come screw up your campaign after you’ve put a ton of legwork into keeping everyone happy. On the other, well, isn’t that how people play IRL? We sense an opportunity or we see that someone’s on course to victory, so we start getting devious even though we would in theory be considered to be nice or generous or placid characters in other situations. It is, after all, a game.

The trouble is one of presentation: you absolutely believe that these characters behave the way the game says they do, so it’s infuriating when they all default to warmongering at certain points. I can tell myself that it’s the game making sure it gives me a challenge rather than an uncontested run, but it doesn’t entirely help. What it does mean is that I don’t trust anyone now – but perhaps that is only right. This is, after all, a race, not a co-operative.

That said, it really doesn’t help that critical information about what they really think about you and what might suddenly motivate a heel turn is tucked into sub-menus and tiny pop-ups and whatnot. The UI’s kind of a hot mess, really.

There is some stuff that flat-out seems broken also: in my current game I found out that I’d declared unprovoked war on two city states, causing the whole continent to catch fire as I was suddenly deemed to be Warmonger Supreme. Trouble was, I had not declared war on either of them. Some weird cat’s cradle of relationships and/or a bug had made that the case. Even though no-one else was at war with them. Can’t figure it out, but it set my victory back about 50 turns in the end.

Adam: Ugh, that’s rubbish. I had one bug, back with preview code, where I kept declaring war on myself. I was playing as Brazil and Pedro II would just arrive every now and then, even though I was he, and denounce me, then declare war. It didn’t actually mean anything, and I never saw it again, but it was mighty confusing and irritating.

On the subject of late-game surprise wars and all the rest of it, those kind of behaviours are one of the main things I was looking for when I started playing the game. There’s always a sense with a new Civ that it might care more about the culture that you actually decide to shape rather than the points that you’re accruing, and the more flavour the developers add, the more that seems to be the case.

And I think the gap between the animated leaders and the actual abstractions that drive them is a good microcosm of that whole issue – Civ 6 has great people and wonders and districts and religions and tourism and all the rest, but all of those things are numbers and rules by which to beat your opponents. They’re wearing fancy historical costumes, but Civ actually operates on all of these abstract rules, some of which have been in place since the very first game in the series, and they’re strongly competitive rules.

History and the development of culture is its theme more than a thing that actually informs progress through the game in a meaningful way.
That’s kind of an extreme summation of how I feel about it, but it’s more or less accurate, I think…

Pip: Is it helpful if I mention the other things that seem to be giving me grief right now?

Adam: As long as it’s not Gandhi. I think he’s surprisingly pleasant this time around, even if he does seem to have an affinity for supposedly randomly selected nuke-happy hidden agendas.

On the next page: we get cross about Amenities and Housing

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92 Comments

  1. TheAngriestHobo says:

    This feels like a surprisingly negative verdict. Or rather, it feels like the small negative aspects of your experiences got far more attention in this article than the larger (and perhaps more self-evident) positive ones.

    Pip: I might give that a go when I have a spare moment.

    One does not simply play CK2 in “a spare moment”. A spare decade, perhaps.

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      zinzan says:

      LOL, just a “Real World” genuine LOL.
      You win

    • klops says:

      WIT already praised the game, this verdict shows the negative sides more. I’d say I agree pretty much with both of them.

      • Someoldguy says:

        Coming back to this after a few more days playing and i have to say I’m amazed that the late game doesn’t get more criticism. You probably have a large empire by then, with significant numbers of units despite production inflation. Yet with the absence of railways it takes forever to get even your fastest units around the map. Lumbering them around turn after turn is a real chore.

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    Scrote says:

    I think the MOBA analogy is a good one. Pip likes them and the information in them is easy for her to absorb, other people find them obtuse as all hell. And – as we saw – the same holds true for Civ for some people.

    I am bummed about the long turn-resolving times, I haven’t got it yet so I was hoping that wouldn’t be an issue, silly me!

    • Danley says:

      I’d love to play Pip’s savegame actually, to see if I could pull myself out. That’s something I wish you could do in a Civ game in general — pick up a game within a randomly settled scenario.

  3. MrMetlHed says:

    Mostly agree having played about 10 hours. The UI feels like it had too many hands in it with no cohesion. The diplomacy is bonkers. I still have fun, even if I can’t figure out how to deal with city states in annoying places without declaring war and having everyone hate me.

    I just don’t know what I can hope for in terms of change. If it were a Paradox game I’d expect a lot of DLC and constant work on the systems and UI. Has Firaxis demonstrated a willingness to do anything like that? I don’t THINK they do much post-release tweaks other than larger DLC packs, but maybe I’m misremembering.

    • Morph says:

      Normally the expansions add features not in the original, and everyone thinks “this is how it should have been to start with!”. Doesn’t sound like Civ 6 is lacking in features though, and the problems are more UI related. Interesting to see how it develops then, think I’ll put off buying it for now.

    • Zenicetus says:

      As I recall, Civ 5 launched with fairly brain-dead battle AI that couldn’t handle the new one-unit-per-tile setup. It took a while, but it was finally patched up to be at least semi-competent. So they do work on glaring issues like that.

      I don’t remember if they ever changed anything about the UI in Civ 5, but it didn’t really need it, aside from maybe relying too much on the Civilopedia. It sounds like this one could use some UI work.

      • MrMetlHed says:

        Little things with the UI would go a long way. There’s just weirdness abound.

        For example, it has a decent touch interface in that you can pain and zoom the map and tap on things. But then it hides valuable information behind tooltips that you can’t really get by touch. It also forces you to scroll through lists via small scrollbars and touch doesn’t move some lists at all.

        It has a nice UI scaling option, but then even at a resolution well over the minimum for the checkbox to work, lists go beyond the end of the screen with no way to scroll.

        Information isn’t really presented consistently and it feels like certain components were worked on without taking the overall game into consideration (the envoy screen, basically.) It could just use a rethink that I don’t expect it to get.

        Basically, I find myself constantly looking for information that isn’t there or isn’t presented clearly, and it takes away from the enjoyment.

      • klops says:

        I haven’t played Civ5 but after finally playing so far that I can have big battles, the AI was really braindead on King level.

        Egypt had two cities close to each other in a north-south axis and east of them was a vassal city state of them. I approached from the South, my fellow-fighters Scythians from South-West and everything looked interesting. Looked like big forces clashing against each other, but what happened?

        Egypt moved their troops away from the southern city, sent some to protect the city state and rolled unprotected catapults back and forth to the city centre and towards the city. I slaughtered them without losing any units adn apparently killed all their forces when they sent them in small trickles from a third city.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Beyond Earth had a rough launch (much rougher that Civ VI), but they overhauled diplomacy and some other things in with an expansion, and did a pretty good job IMHO.

      It’s not quite up to Paradox levels of releasing a skeleton then finishing it a decade later, but Firaxis does do something similar.

      • Xocrates says:

        BE also had some fairly significant tweaks just on regular patches. Trade routes were significantly changed in patches for the base game, and one of the first patches of the expansion completely overhauled the peace deals (which was one of the major sticking points with the expansion on release)

  4. Bardeamu says:

    “there’s probably something to be done in terms of how modern wars work in the west – Europe and America want to be peaceful but keep getting dragged into horrible stuff ” Wow, this is the most naive stuff I’ve ever read on world affairs. Europe and America wants to keep on plundering and ruling the rest of the world while the rest of the world see things otherwise.

    • Kolbex says:

      Just want you to know that if this place had upvotes I would give you one. That’s some seriously garbage understanding on display in the quoted text.

    • dsch says:

      It’s par for the course for RPS. Filled with liberal talking points but no critical understanding.

    • skeletortoise says:

      Please define ‘Europe’ and ‘America’. Thank you.

      • Jeremy says:

        America I can safely assume means the US, but Europe is 50+ countries?

        edit: I realized this sounded like I was trying to ELI5 you, but I was agreeing that Europe is incredibly broad, with several very distinct culture groups.

        • skeletortoise says:

          Yes, but is the US a land mass, 300+ million people, or the federal government? Who is the real mustache twirling scrooge mcduck pulling the levers behind the smoke filled curtain, etc?

          Ha, no harm done.

    • Jeremy says:

      In my experience, large sweeping generalizations are bad no matter what side of an opinion you happen to find yourself. So, while I agree on some level with this statement (and maybe not even for the same reasons), treating America and Europe as single entities with a uniform opinion on policy or motive is a bit of an imperfect way to have this conversation.

      • skeletortoise says:

        My hero. I’ve always found this an amusing phenomenon. “Ha, nice cartoonishly over simplified and blindly optimistic analysis of incredibly complex global situations and problems. Don’t you know that the real explanation is actually this incredibly cynical and comically over simplified generalization?”

        • Tengil says:

          ¨The US” here obviously means the US government and foreign policy establishment, the people who are in an actual position to direct and use the US-American military, and unless you are unbelievably naive you can see that since the inception of the US Empire the military has been used to make the world safe for US capital. I’d suggest reading “War is a racket” by Smedley Butler, a short pamphlet by an ex-general covering what he sees as the actual motives behind US wars of the early 20th century for some examples, available at link to archive.org.
          The argument can easily be extended forward, and it’s not hard to see that Korea and Vietnam were both unbelievably violent and direct continuations of colonial wars.

      • Raoul Duke says:

        In the context of a game where the countries are basically single ‘characters’, it’s a perfectly reasonable way to talk about it. And the original comment is completely ridiculous.

        • Nogo says:

          I’m not even sure what the original comment was supposed to condemn, there’s so little to go on. Seems like the obvious reading in context was some variation of “even ostensibly peaceful and powerful countries are still mucking about in wars.”

          Like, the faux rage and condescension would all look a bit silly if we don’t read “dragged” so cynically.

        • skeletortoise says:

          But that’s not (at least obviously) the context of that comment. He’s speaking on how real countries and continents actually act, and how that might be interesting to incorporate into the game. It’s a somewhat absurdly optimistic over simplification, sure, but it’s clearly not intended as a comprehensive or airtight analysis. But when you condemn that viewpoint there’s an expectation you at least attempt to provide a reasonable alternative as opposed to something equally ridiculous that’s cynical instead.

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      Paraquat says:

      Thanks for making this point, I was just about to do the same.

    • SaunteringLion says:

      Right? The “modern period”, if we’re using actual historical terminology, includes all of the colonial expansion by European powers, wars waged for conquest and plunder. It also includes all the wars waged by America to promote its own ideology or its own state interests (from ‘Nam on).

      Even if we take “modern” to mean “contemporary” (which isn’t clear from the context of the article), we’ve got the Iraq War to contend with, and Russia (which is European) in Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine, etc.

    • Rednecksith says:

      His comment is spot-on if you’re familiar with actual history, and not the garbage which passes for it in schools these days. Might want to read up before making yourself look like an idiot with such ridiculous, uninformed opinions.

  5. Iaksones says:

    While I get that the point of the group review is to figure how well the game comes across to 4X gamers at different experience levels and that you had to leave Pip to her devices for that, now that the experiment is over I hope y’all offered her some more specific advice after y’all got done with this piece. That’s not a criticism for not having done that in this writeup, because it would have been weird to make it like 20% strategy guide.

    At the very core, Science, Culture, & Faith are how you win non-domination games; Growth (food, housing, amenities) and Production (gears and gold) are your foundation and how you get the first three. On your difficulty setting, try prioritizing the fundamentals plus a chosen one of the first three. By that I mean keep your growth, production, and favorite winner stat buildings 1, no more than 2 levels above that of the rest. You won’t stand out and may be behind on the win track early on, but you’re building powerful cities to pick up steam and run away later. Were I playing a MOBA, I could probably identify the interplay of the stats after one failed game but still not know the best balance to strive for without more games or some advice.

    As for balancing military, my probably conservative rule of thumb is walls, a ranged unit, and a melee unit for every city to defend. You can skimp on walls for cities not bordering anyone and put an encampment in the most likely to be invaded. Your units in “safe” cities are a reserve, but I like to keep gold in reserve too to instabuild new units if invaded.

  6. Arathain says:

    You bring up the contradictions inherent in an AI trying to give you an experience with a coherent narrative vs. just trying to win the game. I remember hearing discussions on just that subject between Soren Johnsen (lead designer of Civ IV) and John Schafer (lead designer of Civ V). Soren leans towards making the AI play more of a role in the narrative by behaving consistently. John preferred his AIs to act more like a human might and try to win the game, in order to challenge the player.

    Either approach done well works fine for its intended purpose, but it sounds like an attempt has been made to split the difference here, not entirely successfully.

    • Archonsod says:

      Actually they’ve simply been silly. Every civ has two agenda’s, one is set and one drawn from a random pool. Some of the random agenda can directly contradict the set agenda, and there seems to be nothing stopping the AI getting lumbered with two conflicting agenda’s. Thus you’ll get ‘we love you / we hate you’ alternating messages from some schizophrenic Victoria who’s been lumbered with an innate like of all nations from her home continent yet really dislikes neighbouring nations.
      Not sure if it’s necessarily a problem as such though – you can also hit the opposite where you end up with an AI who’s agendas pretty much focus it on one victory condition which as a result it ends up pushing pretty hard, so it probably averages out over games.

    • alh_p says:

      I’m struck by how the design decision on leader traits, and a few others (for example housing), are arguably drawn from the well of SMAC – received wisdom’s classic high point in 4X, but haven’t been so well received in Civ 6.

      Whether that’s because of imperfect implementation, and to what degree (i.e. whether it can be fixed), or whether this is a case of misplaced nostalgia for things that actually aren’t that great – is interesting.

      • Sic says:

        alh_p:

        That’s 100% a problem of implementation. It just doesn’t work very well in CIV6. I think the gargantuan glaring issue that the developers conflated agendas with diplomatic relationships. In other words, it’s perfectly fine to have AI’s have strong and straight forward goals; it is, however, a horrendous idea to have those goals try to steer how they feel about you.

        Right now, the AI very strongly plays after these rules: (1) it wants to win, and therefore plays reactively, (2) it absolutely must follow its open agenda, and (3) it absolutely must follow its hidden agenda. The result is an AI that doesn’t know what the hell it wants. It usually either goes ballistic on everyone, or ends up in a loop of not understanding what it wants, and therefore just muddles around doing nothing.

        It’s simply an AI system that haven’t been properly thought through. All the ideas seem fine as ideas, but they’re too complex for a game like CIV, where AI programming is hard enough to begin with, and diplomacy needs quite a bit of transparency to be fun. At the moment the AI and diplomacy isn’t really working at all, and that leads to rather dull games where interactions with other CIV’s turns into “oh, bugger off and leave me alone” instead of genuine interest in how to manipulate the AI into whatever master plan you had devised.

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      Alfy says:

      The split approach is actually the most interesting: it gives you the flavor and strong guidance during most of the game, and a challenge at the end. What seems to be missing is some sort of indication of what mode the AI is following at any one time. If the message came as: “We like you but we fear your nation is becoming too powerful/cultured/scientifically advanced”, there would be no confusion. It seems they have only partially learned their lesson from the opaque AI of vanilla Civ V…

  7. geldonyetich says:

    Great read per usual.

    One thing that bugs me about Civ VI is that it is rather difficult to figure out where I built my districts. This is important because many of the district improvements have a “boost all cities in a six hex range” bonuses, but I have to struggle with mouseover popups of a couple dozen hexes to remember where I put them!

  8. ButteringSundays says:

    Oh good, I was wondering when we’d get to hear your thoughts on Civ 6.

    link to images.akamai.steamusercontent.com

  9. sagredo1632 says:

    Pretty much on point regarding how Civ has always handled diplomacy: the player is like an alien that doesn’t play by the same rules the AI does. I wouldn’t have minded if they’d cribbed a page from Endless Legend in this regard, where declaration of war has an actual resource cost, or even had a system wherein the player could adopt a diplomatic position that mirrors one of those that the various AI players have, that would both give the player (happiness?) bonuses for holding within their position, and influence the type and penalties/bonuses for negotiations and casus belli depending on what kind of diplomatic attitude the player has adopted.

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      SuddenSight says:

      More complex positions is interesting, but I don’t think diplomatic resources actually adds that much. It certainly slows the player down and gives them more to think about, but it also adds another barrier to the AI and it doesn’t actually make diplomacy “feel” any better. I feel the same about diplomacy in EU IV – most of it was investing in bird points and waiting, there was no brilliant deal making there. Personally I think diplomacy is a silly system (see below).

  10. Ti1111121 says:

    I do understand a lot of your criticism. Still I think the major points I thought were kind of a problem were not mentioned exept for the diplomacy (+20 points in sum and following both of their agendas but constandly denouncing me) and the initial problems with the lack of information (2 science per citizen, it took me quite a while to recognize what was ment by this; what about those amenities and so forth). The first point is, the opponents appear to be a lot weaker and far less balanced among each other to me. In both of my games there was one super-power on each continent dominating the others (on my continent it was always me). The others weren´t a threat in no matter as soon as I left the medievil era behind. Furthermore the limitation for the maximum size of your empire was cut by only having local amanities making it a lot easier to dominate without military on higher difficulties due to just founding an aweful lotof cities in early and early-mid game.
    The only point I cannot quite understand in your discussion is the point about AI warmongering. I played two games yet (difficulties 4 and 6) and was only once declared war upon (ok, it was a surprise war) and well, only declared war once too. That´s typical for me and I used to do so in previous Civs as well only having approximately one unit per city from beginning untill victory. It`s usually enough, even in times of (defensive) war if your empire isn´t to wide-spread, in my experience (Unless your opponent is ahead in the technology tree and in late game you have to either be ahead or build units as soon as war is declared). What also bothered me was that there were seldomly any modernizations and districts destroyed by babarians as well as civilizations you were at war with. The wars and babarians didn`t bother my civic expansions at all, only beating up a total of maybe 3 or 4 units a game and destroying the same number of modernization (and three times a spydid it with my industry). That makes a peaceful way to play far to easy. I was dominating with spain on the 6th difficulty WITHOUT HAVING FOUNDED A RELIGION. (I recieved a cultural victory just before my secound mars project was completed, England being secound with having launched a satelite)

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    X_kot says:

    My biggest gripe so far: tendency of AI civs to encroach on your capital early on. In the two games I have played so far, it’s happened three times. A settler approaches, plops down a city four tiles away, and then has the gall to complain that I’m stationing troops along their border. I’m not saying that that this aggravating tactic shouldn’t be in the AI’s repertoire, but it should not be so prevalent because it essentially forces my hand to evict them or become a doormat to keep my neighbors satiated.

    • klops says:

      I’d also expect some fair play from them in regards of the border lines. Open borders -> AI: “Don’t come near my borders!” and they trample on your lands as they will.

      Alsoalsoalso: When does the Open borders end?! I gave my neighbours that in a deal so they’d join me in battle against another enemy. They abandoned the war pretty soon but have continued to cross my borders as they please. There seems to be no turn limit or a diplomatic option to stop the deal…

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        X_kot says:

        That’s a good question; I’ll look into that. I haven’t yet established open borders with anyone because all of my neighbors always hated me. Right now, my simplistic impression is open borders = invitation to settle in my midst and declare a surprise war.

  12. klops says:

    What do you think about the religion? For me, it’s starting to feel less and less good. It feels like a chore, one more thing to keep the turn not from turning, and the AI has no respect for the “stop converting” promises they make.

    It also seems bugged or then I’m again not understanding something. While I promised the Protestant Scythians not to convert _their_ cities to my Flipism, there came a message that I’d broken my promise after I fought with Catholics Aztec acolytes near Aztec lands.

    • Lord Byte says:

      If you win a religious battle, the cities nearby lose A LOT of religion points of the loser’s religion, and you gain a lot. Sometimes it’s better not to try to convert a city, but simple wait for the inevitable train of missionaries with a few apostles and rip them apart. I hate that these cannot heal, but to protect myself from getting them killed, after they get low I send them out to convert somewhere safe.
      And yeah, even if they attack you, and get killed, it can still flip a nearby city of theirs and make you break your promise.
      I haven’t noticed much impact from “screw you, I convert who I want”, they’re all much more influenced by their LOLRANDOM parameters (ridiculous at how beyond prince everyone hates your face from the get-go…)

      • Quizzer78 says:

        Actually apostles can heal if you leave them on one of your holy sites.

      • klops says:

        The religious battle was not between the faith whose founder got angry at me for converting her city. Also it wasn’t near her cities. I loaded the quicksave couple of times to try to see what caused the conversion it, and it was nothing my religious units did since I evaded all action with them for a few turns. The city got converted due to my religion spreading automatically to their lands (if this is even possible?) or something.

        • Archonsod says:

          You won’t get a ‘broken promise’ from faith spread. As mentioned above however a religious combat nearby will adjust the religion in the winner’s favour which *will* count as a conversion attempt as far as the AI is concerned, even if it doesn’t trigger the city to flip.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Is it viable to play without religion?

      • BatmanBaggins says:

        Very much so. It’s built into the game that not every civ on the map will be able to found their own religion, and a lot of the AI-controlled religious civs will found theirs astonishingly quickly. Depends on what civ you’re playing as, really, since some are almost entirely built around using religion as one of their biggest strengths. Others can totally ignore it and still do fine.

  13. Wulfram says:

    Costa Rica doesn’t have an army

    • ThePuzzler says:

      Quick! Let’s get them while they’re still weak!

    • Valkyr says:

      God, thank you. I was ripping my hair off to the authors’ political analysis of the world. I love your games journalism, but please stop writing about geopolitics, RPS.

    • Shietar says:

      Which is actually the best possible defense for a central American nation to have. Since the only major aggressor on the American continents are the US anyway, and while the US leadership has gotten very good at justifying to its population why Nation X is now the newest Threat to world peace and needs to be bombed into cooperation, they would have a very hard time to create this kind of story about the one nation refusing to even have an army of their own.

  14. Sin Vega says:

    I’m very disappointed to hear that the AI does that “Human is winning. DESTROY!!!” thing. It’s a genre standard, sure, but it’s also a major reason why most 4x games are the same, with exceptions like Galactic Civilisations 2 or Alpha Centauri far too scarce.

    I get that the idea is to challenge a winning player, but can’t help but think the answer isn’t to have them do something other than spark out for no reason. Say, if the game detects that you’re obviously going to win, a close ally could instead suffer a massive internal crisis and ask for your help. That way it could force you to hamstring your empire in a relief effort (intervening during a civil war, say, or sending your population, supplies, and resources/infrastructure/etc to help them recover from a Black Death level plague), challenging you and risking your lead, but doing so in a spirit that isn’t completely at odds with the state of your game so far.

    It’d also prevent that annoying moment that makes me quit most 4x games – after enjoying hours of building and exploration and wrangling, a random massive war forcing you to piss about rejigging your entire economy and tediously shunt troops about for hours just to maintain the status quo.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Good comment. I hate this too, and it’s plagued most Civ games to some degree.

      It’s just super unrealistic – e.g. at the moment America or China is probably ‘winning’ the real world game of Civ. So is Canada going to just randomly declare war on the US, or South Korea randomly going to attack China? Obviously not. In fact, in real life the trend is that the more powerful a country becomes, the less likely they are to be militarily attacked.

      Another, much more interesting, option, would be undeclared economic warfare. For example, the way the Middle East manipulates oil production, or the way China buys up US debt, or the way Russia blackmails Europe with gas supply. Also, proxy wars, like the current one in Syria or the last few decades of Afghanistan.

      • Jerkzilla says:

        There’s hardly an easy fix for that.
        Unlike in video games, just because a country manages to attain its long term, strategic goals, reality doesn’t just stop and cut to the score screen, life goes on and people deal with it. It also means nobody declares a world destroying war just because the other guy is about to achieve an arbitrary level in scientific progress, while posing no real threat to them.

        So I imagine you’d have to review how victory conditions work to get a really believable end-game.

      • ThePuzzler says:

        Civ has never been remotely realistic – it’s a history-themed strategy game where you race to get a victory before your opponents.

        It’s not meant to be a history simulator like, say, Europa Universalis.

        Any AI personality traits (“I don’t like you because of religious differences so I’ll cripple myself by refusing to trade with you”) reduce its ability to create a challenge without cheating.

    • Technotica says:

      I do wonder, if you turn off all win conditions does the AI still do that? I mean if it tries to destroy you because you get near a goal what if there are no goals?

  15. Napalm Sushi says:

    It probably says something odd about me (and something positive about the rest of the game) that my biggest gripe is that the modern, high-rise city tileset still feels like it kicks in an era too early. It felt wrong in Civ V to look out over a nation of gleaming skyscrapers guarded by musketmen and sailing ships who’re just transitioning to WWI tech, and it’s actually more noticeable now that you can advance your era via the new civic tree alone.

    I wonder if there’s a value I can change in a file somewhere to rectify it…

  16. Hyena Grin says:

    I will preface by saying that I love the new Civ; it is more or less all the good of Civ 4 and 5 with a lot of the blemishes either shaved away or passingly minimized.

    That said, I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated by Civ’s dedication to ‘victory conditions’ not just as a primary mechanic, but as a driving force in how the AI thinks.

    The chat in the article discusses this, how strange it is when other Civs seemingly throw their agendas under the bus in order to try to ‘challenge’ the player.

    They make decisions based on the player’s score or proximity to an arbitrary victory condition, and suddenly start making decisions that aren’t appropriate. They stop acting like NPCs and start acting like players with a meta-goal.

    There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with setting up a game to have AI that is ‘aware’ that it is a game with a win-state, and acts to prevent the player from reaching that win state.

    But the developer’s increasing efforts to characterize the other civs as having unique motivations is very much at odds with their goal of creating challenge through brute obstructionism.

    It feels wrong when that late-game disconnect happens, and AI start turning on you for reasons that don’t fit into the ‘narrative’ of your particular game. And it robs the player of a reliable, navigable experience with the AI.

  17. TonganJedi says:

    So far, the thing I like the most about Civ VI is playing as Kongo, because I can spend the entire game IGNORING the religion system. It’s surprising how much more enjoyable this game is when you’re not spending time wallowing in that mindless, tug-of-war drudgery.

  18. MikoSquiz says:

    The idea of a ruler repeatedly barging in on himself to denounce himself and declare war sounds like something from a David Lynch film.

  19. tkioz says:

    Personally I’m just annoyed that after six games and god only knows how many expansion packs they *still* haven’t fixed the late game turn issues.

    You get to a point where everytime you click ‘next turn’ you might as well go make a coffee because it still wont be done by the time your back.

    The more of the maps you can see the longer it takes to shuffle through.

    It’s not a computer issue either, well not totally, just part of the game, and its really annoying as all get out. I really wish they’d introduce a way for you have quick move/combat just during the AI turns. I don’t need to see all their traders/ships/etc moving each turn.

    All in all it’s an okay game. I’ve even gotten over my monumental annoyance with the non-automated builders and the buggy and annoying UI for the most part, but I’d really hoped they’d fix the time it takes to get to the next turn by now.

    • semos says:

      In fact, in Civ3, you could press “shift” to make movements faster (either for your units or during the AI turn). Sadly, it feels like shortcuts have become less and less used in next games…

  20. xfstef says:

    Here’s my list:
    – Diplomacy with the AI is pointless. If they’re ahead of you they will eventually war you, if they’re behind you they’ll get on your nerves so much that you eventually war them (they’ll convert your cities, attack your suzerains, etc.). This makes it for a pretty shallow single player experience. At no point does the AI adjust to the world around them and most often than not just opts for domination, not giving a single crap about the warmonger penalty. They are also very hard to befriend when you’re ahead. I get it that they have to be competitive but they clearly don’t think like a human and are very shortsighted in their ways.
    – UI sometimes forgets to explain things, luckily the game kind of explains itself once you play it through. This can be annoying for your first playthrough but I generally think the UI is OK.
    – Religion and Culture are too mixed up together. You basically need to start religion if you want a culture win because of the massive head start that religious artifacts give you to tourism. Because of this you can’t “switch” to a cultural / religious win mid game. It’s something that you have to go for from the start, unlike domination or scientific victories.
    – Cultural victory is very dependent on the amount of cities / culture districts that you have. Because of the mind boggling decision to limit the amount of art works per district / wonder, you end up with a standing army of hippies who can’t make art because there’s no “space”. Utterly unrealistic and a much weaker system than Civ 5 had for culture, if you ask me. The need for new museums and galleries drives you to expand more which eventually leads to you becoming a warmonger.
    – Because wonders take up a hex of your city, you’ll most likely opt not to build most of them, especially on smaller maps when you have fewer cities, because having too many wonders in one city will cripple it in the late game. I essentially had to start removing strategic resources from around my capital in order to get more farms in and have it grow larger. Also, everything becomes a farm in the endgame and I’m quite surprised that jungle and tundra tiles are pretty much worthless.
    – Speaking about worthless tiles, coastal / ocean tiles take the cake. I basically never settle coastal now. Why would I? All of the coastal cities that either I settled or the AI did were completely underpowered in the late game. If you want sea access just settle 2 tiles away from the coast and make a harbor there. You could argue for a coastal city only when there’s a natural wonder nearby or a whole lot of sea resources (3 would be an absolute minimum for me).
    – Some maps seem to have a lot more mountains than others and while mountains are good for some reasons, they are still worthless in the long run and I would have loved to see a ski resort district to counteract this problem.
    – The removal of specialized energy production facilities is a step back imho. The geography of the map could have easily lead to having wind / sun / wave / hidro power districts.
    – Encampments are overpowered and useless at the same time. I generally just ignore them because of that. Whenever I had to take out a city with an encampment, I just steered clear of it and only focused on the city itself. Taking out the encampment would have costed me too much time and effort and since it automatically falls to your control once you conquer the city, I just didn’t see why I should have bothered with it.
    – And finally my last and biggest problem with the game. The builder. It seems like a quaint and interesting mechanic when you first get into Civ 6 but not even before the end of your first playthrough you start literally hating them. There is no point in having to make an army of them and then micromanage every single one. There is more than enough micro for you each turn and having to constantly rebuild builders is something that I did not enjoy one bit. I hope they’ll switch back to normal workers that you can automate and forget they even exist.

    • klops says:

      That diplomacy part is the thing that probably bothers me the most. I don’t see playing as the beard Greece very inviting since the AI is so fond of attacking your city states.

    • Someoldguy says:

      The things I’d add to this are:
      Stupid frustrations about apostles – they can’t even spread the word to your own cities if they aren’t connected by owned tiles. In the early game, most cities are not linked up by owned tiles. Needlessly annoying.

      Stupid frustrations about individuals (great people etc) blocking the movement of armies.

      Stupid frustrations about getting the game work at all. What game can’t learn to play nice with Nvidia Geforce Experience and whose saves and loads get slowed to a crawl by windows defender?

      Really anticlimatic victory screen. They can make 50 Wonder screens, a cracking intro and can’t be arsed to do a culture win clip or a history map showing the game flow so you just get a ‘game over’ and a tiny power graph?

      Sean Bean. Not the right Narrator for the badly chosen text clips. I’d love to turn his voice off completely.

      • klops says:

        Apostles can spread the faith to your and other players’ cities even while they wouldn’t be connected.

        • Someoldguy says:

          Maybe I meant missionaries? The first ones you get can’t cross into a national border, even your own national border. I eventually fudged it by moving them to just outside the next town border and buying the tile they stood on.

          • klops says:

            ? They also can do that. Try moving them with go-to, holding right click longer down.

    • gengangere says:

      “Cultural victory is very dependent on the amount of cities / culture districts that you have. Because of the mind boggling decision to limit the amount of art works per district / wonder, you end up with a standing army of hippies who can’t make art because there’s no “space”. Utterly unrealistic and a much weaker system than Civ 5 had for culture, if you ask me. The need for new museums and galleries drives you to expand more which eventually leads to you becoming a warmonger.”

      Setting aside that the cavil about being ‘utterly unrealistic’ strikes me as a bit weird in a game that is essentially number crunching with an amusing (but pleasingly reverential) kooky-historical overlay applied to it, is it really so unrealistic? Sure, the whole needing a ‘place’ to convert your ‘great writer’s genius into ‘great works’ to earn ‘tourism points’ is, quite obviously on its face, complete bullshit. But having said that, there’s probably a reason irl that, say, Germany is a cultural powerhouse and Luxembourg isn’t that maybe that system reflects.

  21. pseudoart says:

    I like it so far, but there’s a nagging feeling that I’ll grow bored sooner rather than later. I’ve completed two games. The first I won a surprise culture victory on prince – I didn’t even go for it, I was just doing a bit of this and that. The second I won a science victory on (epic length) King. The last 100 turns was just “click next turn” over and over and over again. One of the other civs would try to sabotage my industrial sector over and over. Norway declared war, then 20 turns later, sued for peace and gave me a bunch of gold. I didn’t see a single unit of his. It feels very weird.

  22. Warwise says:

    I´m loving the game. All this negativity seems to be bothering me, mostly because I´ve started to notice some AI problems which I cant really be 100% sure yet, since I havent played it that much.
    Yet, hardly ever in the last years I´ve had a game where I was so much hooked. I´ve been playing non-stop, and having a great time. The graphics, music, animations, units, are really beautifull and work together. The gameplay itself is great, and has a lot of layers and systems to understand and learn.
    The UI is bad. Yes, it is, but it only takes a few hours of playing if you are used to 4X games. You see the systems moving and working, it just takes some time to figure out where they are. But there is indeed a serious lack of information. The descriptions offer only that, a description, but without adding the stats and real improvements in the game mechanics.
    The AI is not exceptional, yet IMHO it is far better than most other 4X games. It surprises me, and actually tries to kill me. Costed me a game where I had to deal with a beligerent neighboor while the other skyrocketed in development and went far ahead of both of us. Recently also surprised me in other situations where I actualy had to react to what the PC was doing. I just hope the AI can somewhat adapt and dont always behave the same, like “Oh shit, Egypt, guess I better prepare for war.
    Overall, anyway, its a great game. Tons of fun, and the “one more turn” factor was never this strong.

    • klops says:

      I’m with you. I was very enthousiastic about CiVi at first and _still like it very much_. But clearly the weak points start to show more later on. My biggest gripe is the useless diplomacy that xfstef wrote couple of post up:

      Me: “Don’t build next to my capital”
      Cpu: “Ok, sorry” Builds next to my capital.

      Me: “Don’t convert our cities”
      Cpu: “Ok, sorry” Converts my cities.

      Me: “Dear neighbour who shares all my values, loves to trade with me and fought a joint war with me, do not attack my suzerained city state for fuckssakes!”
      Cpu: “You can’t say that, actually you can’t do shit about it. Except later on you could start a casus belli war against me, your dear friend” Uuurgh…

      An also: the conversion bullshit. Does someone enjoy that part?

  23. Premium User Badge

    SuddenSight says:

    I am late to the party, but I really couldn’t disagree more about the diplomacy points. To be more specific, I recognize that there are issues but I genuinely do not understand how Civ VI’s diplomacy isn’t the best step forward since forever.

    In every other Civ game diplomacy was also about appeasement, but it was always the SAME appeasement. You avoid things that make them angry (settling nearby, going to war, etc…) and you send them lump sums of cash and free luxuries. And that was IT – all the AIs love you!

    In Civ VI diplomacy actually depends on WHO you are talking to. I love it!

    That said, there are silly bits based on how the computer seems to care more about military score than friendliness when it declares war and so on, but I genuinely feel like the traits are the only thing that has actually gotten me interested in the diplomacy screen again.

    • Premium User Badge

      SuddenSight says:

      I also want to mention that diplomacy itself is rubbish. I mean the actual, with-humans diplomacy. I’ve played Diplomacy the board game and Game of Thrones (AKA Diplomacy 2) and Risk and all those games where diplomacy between peeps is a thing. And it comes down to the same silly stuff.

      “Attack B, he’s winning! No, don’t look at me like that, I’m not winning! C’mon, we can help each other…” It is okay for a game or two, but diplomacy is the same problem over and over.

      The REAL problem with diplomacy is that diplomacy is fundamentally boring. It only becomes interesting when there are clashing personalities. I mean, think about diplomacy stories you’ve heard. There’s really just two, “France and England signed a trade deal because it was mutually benificial” (yawn) and “Hugo Chavez called George Bush the Devil” (interesting!) So the introduction of traits is the only thing that has breathed life into diplomacy, in my opinion.

  24. Pyromanta says:

    I never thought of Civ as being complicated, then again I’ve been playing strategy games for 20 years. I suppose to a newcomer or someone with less experience, the layers of systems that seem so familiar and basic to me would be baffling.

    Also really like this article format, good job guys 😊

  25. iucounu says:

    In both games I’ve played so far, at some point near the end I’ve had a warning that another culture is close to a culture victory. I check; nope, they aren’t? So far as I can tell?

    The first time this happened I won a score victory and it was a moot point. The second, I was told rock-bottom Philip of Spain was on track for a culture victory, and I won the culture victory about 3 turns later. So there’s a bug, I think, with that whole dealie.

  26. Danley says:

    I think one reason why it seems unreasonable that it’s been six years since Civ V is that Civilization: Beyond Earth came out and crashed on release, then didn’t get any further attention even when it was improved significantly in patches and the one expansion.

    I think Civ VI plays a lot more like Beyond Earth than it does Civ V, and a lot of the strategies that worked well in that game work better here than a strategy from Civ V might otherwise.

  27. miateila says:

    “The AI is not Terrible by Any Means”

    It attempted to take an information age city with slingers.

    It also attempted to kill a tank with slingers.

    It moved knights one at a time into range of crossbowmen that could one shot it. Times over 20 units.

    It’s generally at least two eras behind on technology, and if you play for faith — it’ll be just as far behind on faith. It doesn’t know how to build cities, and so Firaxis compensated by multiplying by some sort of a factor. It is blatantly obvious when you take the cities, it’s not even masked a little bit.

    The scoring is worse than the scoring in beyond earth, and as the scoring on the leaderboard is a primary factor in the AI’s decision making, the AI would never be capable of making good decisions.

    In particular, the military score needs to be something like a 5x multiplier or 10x multiplier per era, because you may have 50, 60 knights — but they’re not going to win against a rocket artillery.

    The AI is oblivious to the tactical situation.

    It is, in fact, the very definition of the word terrible.

    Just saying.

  28. Jezebeau says:

    My biggest complaint would be the lack of information. Tooltips are non-existent in a lot of places. Unique icons for different unit upgrades have been replaced with generic pips. The Civilopedia is all flavour text and no substance, with no cross-linking at all.

    The AI, of course, leaves a lot to be desired. At a point where I had overwhelming military power and had just conquered the two runners up back to back, Japan decided to settle on the fourth tile out from my palace.

  29. gengangere says:

    ‘Pip: Right. Spain has 782 points. England has 847 points. The Mighty Pip Empire has 201 points.’

    Like, I’m not going to sit here and say chess is a crap game just because I’m crap at chess.

    In all seriousness, what Pip describes about the uncertainty of pursuing culture, religion etc when military always seems to be an issue bubbling under the surface is describing the balancing act that is the fundamental challenge of any game of Civ. I’d probably recommend playing the babby difficulties and just enjoying the gamer-architect aspect of building a beautiful-ass civilisation without really thinking or worrying about strength in numbers (and the city/nation building aspect is what hooks me into civ games in the first place, more than the promise of victory.) It’s the best way to come to grips with the games systems (which for more inexperienced players really can take a long time) without too much undue stress and it makes stepping up the difficulties a lot easier. That said, I never got past Level 6 in Civ 5 I don’t think – the excessive challenge (cheating due to AI limitations basically) just made it too much of a slog for me, even though there were plenty of guides to be found with strategies for winning Deity games.

    You’re all spot on about amenities though. Instinctively, it feels like a better system than Happiness, but it is still too opaque for me to fully come to grips with it. In Civ5 I could understand happiness easily but the struggle to keep the happiness number green always felt unduly stacked against you, and with amenities it feels different but it’s harder to manage if I don’t fully understand what’s going on with the system and I’m not in a position to just trade all my luxuries.

    The culture victory system is also a bit too opaque, compared to how it was presented in Civ5. I’ve had a culture victory but it was really just a question of building a shitload of great works. Amusingly, my first game I lost quite early when I was on track for a straightforward score/science victory, to a religious civ because my approach was very much “pff, it’s religion, who cares?” It’s kind a of a delight to lose when your expectations have been subverted like that and you lose to your own hubris.

    I would say that after a few days my gut feeling is that I think the game could use another victory condition and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they add one in the first expansion (although I certainly understand why they didn’t add one more for the game’s launch, probably wanting to get the new systems down pat as best they could). Culture/religion are overtly similar and, unless playing a small/easy game religion is going to be too attritional I think. Maybe they’ll bring back the diplomatic victory, which would seem to make the most sense.

    There’s a few bugs too but I haven’t come across anything game breaking yet and I expect that will all be ironed out in fairly short order.

    I’m surprised with a lot of the negativity here. The foundations of Civ6 are superb and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a fact that when games like this come into the wild and are explored in depth by a lot of players that their foibles come to the fore, but I’m really impressed with the design of this game broadly and I’m really enjoying it. Broadly speaking it takes everything I’ve loved about Civ5, which is a lot, and made it that much more sophisticated. It’s one thing to rail against the diplomacy in Civ, but that is a system that is always going to be compromised in some way for a large number of palyers. On its face it is much more elegant and transparent than the Civ5 diplomacy system and it shows a lot of promise. I hope the devs who might be reading these things aren’t too disheartened. They’ve done a wonderful job and my hope (and expectation based on what we saw with Civ5) is that they’ll take the criticism on board and make the game even better and more robust as time goes by.

  30. MysteriousGum says:

    More than anything I want to be able to set up simple reminders like when x happens on city/culture/research… y remind for z so that I can race my memory with my secretery’s and also see small stages and stories played about the current flow of the game even if they do not have anything to do with the gameflow otherwise.

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