The successes and failures of Civilization 6

When Sid Meier’s Civilization VI [official site] came out last October, it represented a novel take on the series, boasting two parallel tech trees and an innovative city system that broke the previous games’ monolithic metropoli into distributed districts, with attendant tile-space-management gameplay. Nine months on, I spoke to lead designer Ed Beach about the finer points of the game’s design, what needs work, and Firaxis’ approach to designing expansions and DLC.

As the lead designer of its latest iteration, Beach is, perhaps unsurprisingly, pleased with the overall direction the series is going. “Something that I’ve been very happy with is the way, over the last few titles in the series, we have increased the level of uniqueness of each civilisation,” he said. “I think in the very earliest Civ titles the civs weren’t really unique, but then you got to Civilization III and Civilization IV and they had simple characteristic statistics – they would be expansionist and industrious, or something like that, or religious and militaristic. But, really, there was just a collection of 8 or 10 of those different traits, and you could apply a couple of them to each civilisation, but they weren’t really taking a civilisation and giving it a whole unique gameplay style of their own. In the two most recent titles – Civ V and VI – we have handcrafted specialised abilities, in many, many cases, for each civilisation, so that we can really vary the playstyles. So, for instance, if you look at Civ VI, with our Norwegian civ led by Harald Hardrada, they are the premier civ for being able to get out on the oceans, they can cross oceans earlier than anyone else, and they have fierce abilities to raid up and down the coastlines and land amphibious armies that no-one else has.”

This differentiation of civilisations, Beach says, can be a difficult design process. “Every time you’re designing a civ, you’re taking [Civilization V’s or VI’s] simple systems and you’re saying ‘well, in order to capture the essence of either this personality or this empire we’re going to have to take all those game rules, and we’re going to have twist them, and distort them, and change them in unique ways’, four or five times, for each of the forty civilisations we have in that game […] We don’t want to make every single one of those a special case. If we can come up with patterns and then apply those patterns over and over again – that’s something that people will get used to and they’ll understand. So, for instance, we introduced Poland in one of our first DLCs, and they had the ability to grab extra land whenever they built an Encampment – we called that a ‘culture bomb’, that’s one of the Civilization terms for grabbing land nearby you from either unclaimed territory or another player – and we decided that we wanted to do the same thing for Australia, because they needed lots of land for all their cattle and sheep farms. And so what we ended up doing was every time they created a pasture they also grabbed more land, and again that’s a culture-bomb mechanic.”

The differentiated civs are one of the tools Firaxis uses to address problems with the game. “We wanted to make sure, [when we looked back at] our base game of Civ VI, that the world was a little bit more dynamic, and the diplomatic landscape was a little bit more unpredictable and treacherous. So in DLC 4 we introduced two civs, Persia and Macedon, that both sort of take that to different extremes. Persia is led by Cyrus, who was quickly able to conquer Babylon and a bunch of neighbouring empires with a series of quick strikes – surprise wars – and so we gave them bonuses [meaning] that if they declare a surprise war they’re very, very effective at that, and they can do some really rapid conquest. And then the other civ we shipped at the same time was Macedon, with Alexander the Great, and he just has an amazing capacity to build up an army, start on a spree of conquest, and just keep it going throughout the game, because we took away all the war weariness penalties that a civilisation normally faces. When you’re playing Macedon you don’t suffer those at all. And so those were both civilisations that were tuned to the fact that we felt like the diplomatic landscape in the game when it first came out wasn’t quite as treacherous and dynamic as we’d like it to be.”

The espionage system, he says, is one feature of the game that has room to improve. “The part of the espionage game that people love is building up spies who have a set of traits that work well for certain types of missions, and that’s allowed the players to get very, very attached to their spies […] I think people will love it if we can go and expand the role of the spies, and maybe give them even more promotions that they can choose from, so we can role-play with these secret agents even more.”

But is there an issue, I asked, with defence against spying being completely passive, unlike military defence? “We toyed with that when we first put in the espionage system,” he told me, “that there would be a whole other layer to it, where you would have police forces that you would assign, and when a spy initially triggered that he was trying to steal something from you there could be a chase sequence in your city and the police could be trying to track down the spies. And, you know, I’m obviously a big fan of spy movies and novels and stuff, because that’s definitely the way the espionage system has been headed here, but the more I looked at that, I thought that that was maybe drilling down a layer too deep.

“…the defence could be a little bit more active – you’d feel more agency, and more capable of fending off what was going on. But we have improved that over some of the previous Civ titles […] The way the counterspying game works is, each counterspy you put out in the field defends not only the tile he’s in but all the adjacent tiles. So there is a little bit of an element of positional play, an active role in the defence there. I think if we could come up with ways to make that even more engaging and active that would be a plus, though.”

The endgame is another area Beach isn’t completely happy with. “In Civilization V, when we got to the Brave New World expansion, we felt like the game was very good up through the Renaissance – we’d done a lot of work with religion in the earlier expansions – but we felt like at the end of the game it really needed to be brought into the 20th Century. We really needed to see these ideological governments in conflict with each other, we really needed to set the stage for the dramatic World War period, so that was where the main focus for Brave New World went, and I definitely feel like that did a good job of giving the proper sense of time and place to the conflicts of the 20th century. And I do think that’s an area that we could definitely make some improvements on in Civ VI. We kept most of the gameplay systems that we had from Brave New World, and those all kind of did find a home with Civ VI, but some of them weren’t quite as deep, or didn’t have quite as much of a full sense of time and place, as some of the ideological conflicts that we had in Civ V. We had the World Congress in Civ V that really set the stage for ‘now there’s a global community, and all your actions are going to be looked at by that global community’. We haven’t brought that to Civ VI yet, so that’s definitely an opportunity.”

For many people, Civ V’s expansions brought it from passable to essential, and if the future of VI involves a successfully fleshed-out endgame and improved diplomacy and espionage, it’ll look even more solid than it did at launch. The move toward specialised civs could see a drift away from broader mechanical reinvention in favour of additional nations, but Beach’s interest in expanding espionage and possibly reintroducing concepts such as the World Congress shows a desire to rehaul the thinner systems. That is almost certainly a good thing.

44 Comments

  1. mpk says:

    Will be interested to see the comments from the proper Civ nerds on this article.

    I gave Civ6 40 hours or so, but it really didn’t capture my imagination in the way Civ5 did. And yes, I’m aware of all the arguments about Civ5 being rubbish on release and improved by expansions, but that doesnt scan for me. I bought Civ5 expansions because I enjoyed the base game. I didn’t buy the Beyond Earth expansion because the base game was dull and boring; I don’t intend on buying any Civ6 DLC for the same reason.

    I really wish I found the game that Adam played when he reviewed Civ6. Instead I got priest spammed into uninstallation.

    • Quite So says:

      I’m not sure I qualify as a proper Civ nerd, but I put over 500 hours into V – at least half of which was before any DLC or expansion. I followed the development of VI, and was genuinely excited about the changes.

      I only managed 31 hours in VI before I lost interest in playing. I didn’t think it was a bad game, but it felt like something was missing. Not a feature or system, but more like….fun.

      • Dicehuge says:

        I had the exact same responses, both to enjoying 5 and being really ambivalent about 6. I think for me it comes down to the balance between “Civ as a empire simulator” and “Civ as a strategic boardgame”, and it feels like with 6 it leans way more to the latter. I can get why a lot of people like that, but for me constantly grappling with mechanics geared towards competitive strategy and victory conditions rather than just exploring, building an empire and seeing what kinda wacky stuff happens made it feel more tedious and less playful than the previous civs.

        • Babypaladin says:

          I find it kind weird that people were praising Endless Legend for having such diverse factions that plays so differently, but when Civ basically does the same thing and it’s suddenly a bad thing.

          To me it kinda sounds like you’d be more interested in grand strategy games instead of 4x. In Civ you play to win, as as opposed to in CK2 you play for the simulation of running a country. Civ has always been mostly a 4x franchise, so while I do agree that Civ 6 is a bit more board-game-ish than Civ 5, I honest don’t see it as a surprise, or even as a problem.

          • mrpage says:

            I do take your point but for me (and I think for others) Civ should be about your civ developing in an emergent way: I don’t like that a player gets cool ships early because he plays as the Norse; I want a player to get cool ships early because he lives by the sea and has lots of ports and has focused on ship tech. I want the civ to be shaped by its choices, not the other way around.

          • Someoldguy says:

            That’s always been my issue. It shouldn’t be Australia having sheep pasture as an advantage. It should be an empire which finds itself with a lot of land suited to sheep can choose to unlock that specialisation. If it finds itself next to a lot of coast, it could choose the ship raiding. Admittedly they have some of that with your empire focus, but I don’t like too much being tied to your pick of nationality. One special unit type is quite enough.

    • syndrome says:

      I’m replying to mpk, because of text width.

      @mpk
      Civ5 has sucked around 2000+ hours from me. Civ6 about 5-ish?

      @Dicehuge
      Spot on. It’s so tedious because you can tell that every choice is a minefield in a way. If you consider that every game is a lens of sorts, you can observe two layers of what matters in any gameplay: 1) operative mechanics, 2) the core of the experience.

      What is captivating about any Civ game, at least in singleplayer, is how small choices snowball into a geopolitical entity that has strong semblance to historical civilizations. As eras pass, waves of movements and ideologies stem and emerge from the stratum of small steps solving local problems in time.

      Civ6 destroys all of it giving too much weight to the operational engagement, requiring from you to understand in advance every tree, and minmax every single tile you come across. This has nothing to do with civilization building, apart from the names of individual buffs.

      @Babypaladin
      Endless Legend is a wildly different game, as it’s not a civilization builder, but a well-developed boardgame with a strong flavor and ambient, as well as some interesting mechanics.

      Unfortunately the novelty transpired too quickly for me. Once you get a feel for the game, and try its factions, you’ve seen it all more or less. I’ve tried to return to Endless Legend recently, only too find it too predictable and calculated, exactly Civ6 does.

      Civ5 was like an open sea to me. Broad, bitter, fresh, and dangerous. Ominous but inviting. Unending but worthwhile.

      It did a story for me. I could zone in, and listen to the waves on its shores, and for a moment imagine the tiny lives go by in a city I’ve designed to be such and such. Civ5 was about the world, not about you playing the game about the world, I don’t know what they did, but they obviously did it by mistake (or by the untold talents of its previous designer), though it wasn’t perfect, it could’ve been even better.

      OTOH, Civ6 could’ve been a cookie clicker AFAIK.

      @mrpage
      Exactly. They’re pushing freeform civilization building into preemptively selecting the mold that one should fill up throughout the rest of the game, which is then focused too much on things that are hard to describe from a historical perspective. That’s just a shortcut for the game balance, if you ask me. The game turned into Terra Mystica quite strongly.

      But hey, let’s settle down on a fact that the whole thing revolves around having two schools of thought. The one that’s transparently competitive and turn-based, rewarding a minmaxing route and strategic management of abstract quotas, and the other that’s more organic and exploratory, allowing for different approaches and combinations, giving life to the odd states in which you find a haphazard nation.

      Yet again, it’s the operative mechanics vs the core of the experience, which should be, IMHO, quite philosophical, even theological to an extent. Certainly not mechanical. A civilization game should praise the notion of intelligent life on this planet, and all questions that arise from having multitudes of living agents coherently populating it — what it shouldn’t do is to present the whole thing as a shallow system of mind-boggling levers, because this presentation is ultimately meaningless.

      UNLESS YOU WIN of course, because if you win, you at least get a dose of dopamine and forget about the whole point of moving through the eras in the first place, which is kinda self-depreciating. Who gives a fuck about the medieval period in RL? Does it truly concern you in your life? No. So that’s a takeaway from Civ6, that you should move through it as efficiently as possible. Gee thanks.

      But what if I actually wanted to relive the period? If I wanted to feel it all yet again, from a bird’s perspective. And the period before it. Only to see how it will all unfold into modern times, the least interesting of all, but the crown of your deeds. You are the designer, not Firaxis, you should at least get to develop the character of what you care about. That’s 2000+ hours for me.

      Yeah, Civ6 has missed this direction, and frankly, opened it up for someone to capitalize like Cities: Skylines did with SimCity.

      • Eater Of Cheese says:

        re: “Civ6 destroys all of it giving too much weight to the operational engagement, requiring from you to understand in advance every tree, and minmax every single tile you come across. This has nothing to do with civilization building, apart from the names of individual buffs.”

        That’s it. In previous Civs, I felt like there were interesting and contrasting paths through the tech tree, allowing for greater depth and gameplay styles. Civ 6 – although a fascinating achievement – is what I’d call ‘over-designed’. Everything seems to have an equal weight – there’s a lot of breadth, but the core gameplay experience feels shallow and repetitive =|

      • Jaeja says:

        A week late to the party, but what the hell, this is a good comment thread that’s made me think interesting things.

        The big challenge IME with any long-term game is where you’re getting your replayability from, and in Civ VI it seems that they’ve primarily tried to get it from differences between civs. The problem with this approach is that, OK, I do a Scythian run where I spam light cav, and then I do a Norwegian run where I do boats, and then I do an Australian run where I do sheep stations… but once I’ve done each of the victory conditions once, everything else is just an optimization game, and despite the increased individuality between civs there’s still far too much identical busywork for each run that, as others here have pointed out, has too few interesting decisions. By going deep on civs having unique playstyles, a lot of problems just boil down to “how do I solve this while deviating as little as possible from the optimal path?”, which severely constrains the worthwhile decision space.

        The approach I suspect would yield better results would be to ease back on the civ differences, and instead rely on the game’s random setup elements for variety, ie map layout, non-player civ selection, and start location. A nice balance here is struck when your initial choice of civ expresses a preferred solution to certain types of problem (deep vs wide, science vs military etc), but lean as heavily as possible on responding to the map and the placement and attitude of other civs to drive decision-making, such that it may often be optimal to largely ignore your civ’s particular bonuses in order to better exploit the situation you find yourself in. This has a good chance, I think, of substantially boosting the amount of interesting decisions being made over the course of the game.

  2. FranticPonE says:

    Ugh, and this entire interview is why Civ 6 is such a bad game.

    The lead designer doesn’t care about what’s interesting for the player, he only cares about what’s interesting for himself. That you can only optimally play each Civ one way because of how the game is designed doesn’t even imping on his thought process. “Hey look how great Macedon is at conquering things! I mean, if you ended up as Macedon and wanted to do literally anything else you’d feel like an idiot, but aren’t I clever for making Macedon in the game feel like Macedon in real history!”

    And the answer is no, of course not, hell no. The fun part of Civ in terms of gameplay was Sid Meir’s own advice “a good game is a series of interesting decisions”. But if you have a shit ton of uninteresting decisions and only one style to optimally play each Civ as you do in 6 then that’s an absolute failure. And the fun part of “history” in Civ is that the game gets all screwed up compared to real history. EG “Albert Einstein was born in Japan in the year 1015 while the Statue of Liberty was being built in Tokyo!” which is the exact opposite of what he’s so proud of. I suspect he has absolutely no idea why people enjoy Civ, and I really hope Civ 7 is completely different.

    – An angry person that pre-ordered 6 and played it the absolute least out of all Civ’s since starting with A Call to Power (1!)

    • Zorgulon says:

      I disagree.

      Civ VI certainly isn’t perfect, and has some issues where I can see why some players are turned off the game entirely. But I rather like Ed’s approach to design. Things that are interesting to him do often turn out to be interesting to players – not you, perhaps, but there are lots of players out there that liked the features he added to Civ V, and expanded upon for Civ VI.

      I also disagree that the more unique civs railroad the player into one style of play – Macedon is perhaps an example that heavily funnels you towards conquest, but plenty of Civs in the game give you more general bonuses that can help with a variety of routes. There will only ever be one “optimal” playstyle – that’s literally what optimal means – but Civ VI went further towards avoiding that narrowness of play than Civ V certainly did, with its more complicated city and district placement and map features.

      There’s a lot of work to be done on the UI, AI, and too many bugs and wonky features to list (you’re right that there aren’t quite enough “interesting decisions” at every stage in the game, but there’s potential there), but this interview shows Beach is thinking along the same lines as me and a lot of other players as to how we want the game to develop in the long term. I’m sorry if you don’t agree, but part of the richness of the Civ franchise is, in my view, the varying design approaches of each one. Your £50 may be sadly wasted, but Civ IV or III or whatever is still there for you to play.

      • FranticPonE says:

        But the UI and AI and etc. aren’t the fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is the game presents you with a neverending series of uninteresting choices. The districts sounded like a good idea, but you end up with exactly one good place to put the district if it matters, either that or it doesn’t matter and it’s just another thing you have to do on the checklist. Same with the workers, making them a limited resource sounds good. But actually being forced to sit there and make the choice of how to use them just ends up being not interesting. The entire game is filled with uninteresting checklists of things to do, it’s a slog and no DLC or patches are going to change that without changing the fundamental game dramatically.

        Here’s a test to apply yourself to see if it’s really the issues he thinks are wrong with the game that make it bad, or if it’s something more fundamental: Did previous Civ games have bad UI? Yes. Did people like them anyway? Yes. Did previous Civ games have bad AI? Certainly, I don’t think any of them have ever been good. People liked them anyway. Have previous Civ, hell and hundreds of other games had bugs? But did people like them anyway, of course they did! It’s not the issues he mentioned, it’s the fundamental changes he made that have made it a bad Civ game.

        • Kohlrabi says:

          Your comment includes some interesting observations. While I feel like the boardgamey direction the series has been taken latetly is great, I still feel it does not go far enough, yet.
          The issue I seem to encounter with Civ games, and other 4X games in general, is the fact that after the initial expansion phase and small conflicts, games tend to become a chore of deciding between plethora of options, which all have or seem to have minimal impact, and only increase numbers or tick boxes.

          The thing that mostly miss from 4X titles is tighter design and a game arc. Most interesting strategic boardgames will take around 3-10 hours to play, and offer an arc: They will offer multiple paths to victory, and they are tuned so that the game will end at the point where you feel everyone had his chance to make an impact, and the major game mechanics all had a chance to be tried against each other. The other aspect which is important is the constant feeling that you are playing with or against other people. You need to be in interaction and deny options to other players, or force a reaction. Another apect is a design which forces you to select and option while also foregoing other options at the same time. These are aspects which make for an interesting strategy game, but which seem to be more or less missing from Civs or 4X in general.

          Your description of the disctricts mechanic is one case of pseudo-choice. But I think the game mechanic which needs a rework or rethinking the most is research. It is also a pseudo-choice what to research. The tech tree simply does not branch enough, and during the course of the game you will be able to research everything. The tech tree has been one of the weak points of Civ games (and most other 4X titles) since the first one, but 5 and 6 made things worse. While in 4 you could research very deeply into one branch, in 5 and 6 there are not enough interesting choices to make, since research branches will converge very often. For example, in Civ6 the first batch of new governments are all on the same tech, so everyone who wants an advanced government will end up taking the same route. This issue is curious to me, since a game as old as Master of Orion (2) made research interesting years ago: Enable players to research all tech levels, but only allow them to choose one tech from each level. The other techs could only be acquired by espionage and tech trading. This suddenly adds interesting choice to the research mechanic: Do I go for that shiny new weapons tech? Or do I need a new shield tech to better defend my ship? Or maybe that new planetary building that adds happines? Those are real decisions. If I get to research everything anyway, only the order in which I do it is a choice, and even that is minimal because Civs’ 5 and 6 tech trees do not branch enough. This is a fundamental weakness which I feel needs to be addressed in the next iteration. I am not saying it needs to be like MoO2, but it certainly needs to get some more meaningful choices over the course of the game.

          One design which strays not too far from the current formula, and I think can make the tech more interactive and interesting is the following: Add more branches to the tech tree, increase all tech costs by a huge amount, so that you have more options at each point in the game, but also forego the chance to research everything. Missing techs can then only be acquired from other players, but not by direct trade. They have to “trickle” into your empire over time via trade routes, common borders, diplomacy, and conquest. So you will slowly “research” the other techs by staying in contact and interacting with others. Suddenly trade routes will not only add small bonuses to your income, but are also necessary to stay bleeding-edge in technology. Turtling or not staying in contact with others will put you at a slight disadvantage.

    • rochrist says:

      Part of the reason that Macedon funnels you the way it does is that you arent really taking on a country to play. You’re taking on a leader, with all that’s leader’s strength’s and faults. If you don’t want to play they way Alexander is best played, choose a different leader.

    • Xocrates says:

      While I don’t agree with the “Civ VI is a bad game” I do agree with the general sentiment, as this was a big reason on why I grew bored on Civ V and still have problem clicking with Civ VI.

      Having civs with really strong traits tends to railroad players into specific plastyles, and while Civ VI tries to work around this by having stuff like district/wonder placement having terrain requirements and bonus and similar stuff, there are often optimal solutions to each one, meaning that choices feel more complex, but not more interesting because, again, there is often an optimal one.

      This is a big reason on why I like Beyond Earth so much (though I agree the base game was a bit too bare bones, and the expansion was visibly unfinished on release), where each civ gives you a baseline from which to build up, and enough variables that where and how you go from there depends on both what you can do and what you want to do.
      As a result each game feels different an unpredictable. A game where you get Warp Spires and are allied to Polystralia is a completely different game from one where neither are available.

      Or I can pick Macedon and go for a domination victory.

    • DThor says:

      I must admit I find the Steam representation of the civ playerbase as annoyingly toxic, with waves of negative reviews and constant whining that seem more related to some fictitious game they would rather write themselves then the thing in front of them. Oh, and money. Stingier than a flock of retired teachers on holiday, complaining every step of the way.

      But…

      I agree with your comment. That interview felt like an talk with Marie Antoinette about her favourite types of cake.

      I just bought it during the summer sale, in fact I got the dreaded deluxe version since if you do the math all the extras will work out to what many complainers said it should cost. So far I’m a bit underwhelmed, but it’s too early for me. There’s a lot of little things I do like, like the instant, limited life span workers. We’ll see…

  3. sebveile says:

    My first proper delve into the Civ world was 2. Since then it has got less and less appealing with every iteration so far for me. Can’t quite place why. That’s not to say that some of the later ones aren’t amazing, but they’re just all playing it slightly too safe for my liking.

    I’d really want to see some investment into the AI and the economy side of it; great that I’ve got bananas or iron, but I want something more meaningful than having to secure them for a temporary bonus to happiness, a proper trade system. I want the AI opponents to feel like its behaving in a way which does not leave me feeling like I’m effectively balancing numbers to get them to 0> happiness. I want irrational friendships, historical ties, envious neighbours, exploitative dealings; not just -10 happiness due to border proximity….

  4. Carlos Danger says:

    Best Civ game was a Civ 4 mod Fall from Heaven.

  5. MrEvilGuy says:

    It is what it is, but I wish someone would make a similar game that had a bit more historical/political realism, in the sense of not having nation-states existing since the dawn of time, but rather changing the modes of civilizing relations between groups over different geographical regions and eras. I want more Civ, but I want more variation in the way the game operates through different eras, while still keeping it properly balanced and competitive. A big ask for the future.

    • EvilMonkeyPL says:

      If you have around a thousand hours and the attention span of a sapient glacier you can go CKII-EUIV(or extended timleline EUIV alone)-HOI IV-Stellaris(?).
      Not really an option, I know. It just kinda shows, I think, that cramming all these stages of development while making them all matter and fun you really have to split them into different games.

  6. Herzog says:

    First Civ game I did not buy on release. Part one was actually my first game I bought (or let my parents buy for me). But after Civ 5 I wait for all Dlc to be released and buy in one big package.

  7. MrEvilGuy says:

    Yeah I should clarify, I don’t want completely different games patched together, as that never works. But I think they could stretch the boundaries of Civ a bit to give more variation while still staying true to the central tenets of the game. Keep the immortal leaders, get rid of the nation states (until modernity).

    And include dismantling the state as a possible endgame victory condition!

  8. stanonwheels says:

    Nine months in, and still no functional World Builder while we’re charged three quid a pop for ‘Scenarios’ (maps).

  9. racccoon says:

    The problem here is the human element, never knowing when to change.
    If the guy had said to himself wow we did it! Great! lets break up and re build something else. But, its not happening as in most cases like this, its near on impossible for them to do, or want to do, its like an artist or a singer, they sing the same song or tone over and over again, if they changed direction radically they’d become unique, like a small few. This is all this franchise needs, is change, Real change, not tiny tot steps but giant leaps away from what they do.
    Current status: Sid Meier’s the hex.

  10. Shadow says:

    As much as I love Civ, and as much as I’ve tried to remain hopeful, ever since Civ5 it’s been biting more than it can chew. The state of the AI is a fundamental problem, with mechanics growing ever deeper and more complex, and AI evolving at nowhere near the same rate, frankly just not keeping up. The military game has been a joke for a while, and in Civ6 the AI has shown it has trouble handling other aspects as well (i.e. settling). Patches haven’t significantly helped.

    Virtually no complex strategy game has an AI it can really be proud of, but if games are going to keep advancing, proper AI enhancement can’t be postponed any further. It’d behoove Civ7 or whatever to put the brakes on feature creep, and prioritize developing AI which can manage existing mechanics and systems.

  11. ghos7bear says:

    And not a word about worst AI in Civilization history. I might forgive moronic and useless diplomacy of Civ 6 but when it comes to war AI cannot even do basic strategic thinking, cannot think a single turn ahead, beating Civ 6 AI in war feels like taking a candy from a child.

    • UncleLou says:

      That’s what people always say, though, about every sequel of any big stratgey game series, no? If the internet is anything to go by, Total War and Civ have been on a constant decline.

      Can’t say I am noticing that.

      • syndrome says:

        You should also notice the rise of the people on their payroll.
        The quality of a game is inversely proportional to the amount of bozos that suck the life out of any profitable venture, like mosquitos. It’s a known phenomenon.

        More on The Bozo Event Horizon.

    • Shadow says:

      As I’ve implied earlier, it’s less that the AI gets worse but rather that the games grow more complex for the AI to comprehend, and it doesn’t keep up. There’s more money and manpower invested in feature creep than in designing an AI that can use said features with a modicum of competence.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      I mean, did you play Civ 5?

      And Civ 4’s AI could be considered “better” only because they were allowed to create stacks of death.

  12. Ivan says:

    Civ 4 was a momentous achievement… both before and after expansions, as far as providing an immersive, addictive, comprehensive experience. The expansions, especially Beyond the Sword, made it sing.

    I didn’t like Civ 5 much on release, but the expansions really did round it out, and the Steam workshop modding thing really helped give it longevity. The good folks at CivFanatics and the Community Balance Patch, etc., helped breathe some fantastic life into the game.

    I can’t bring myself to play more than an hour or two of Civ 6. I don’t find the mechanics interesting. I can’t even find something in a leader that I find engaging. Maybe that’s on me, but I’m not even frustrated by it, at this point. I tried a few times, quickly went “Nope,” and went on with my day. I’ve given it a few months, tried to come back, after patches, etc., but just am not interested. There are some great concepts, but the feeling of playing it just isn’t very interesting. There’s too much “next turn” and not enough doing. Civ 5 had this problem at first, but fixed it. Will Civ 6? If so, maybe I’ll come back…

  13. SaintAn says:

    No Celts is definitely the biggest problem in VI.

  14. cardigait says:

    Still play it from time to time, but misses the soul of previous chapters (as Beyond Earth had no soul too).
    Hate priests spam.
    Hate mobile-like-graphic style.
    Strongly hate Dlc policy and what little i received for my deluxe edition (puah!).

  15. Eraysor says:

    I thought playing CK2 more regularly was the reason I didn’t like Civ 6 but judging from the comments above it seems I’m not the only one who didn’t like it as much as earlier versions.

    I put an unbelievable amount of time into Alpha Centauri (the best Civ game of them all), Civ 4, 5 and Beyond Earth but never got into 6 at all.

  16. Ibed says:

    Wow, looking at the comments Civ VI was probably financially successful enough, although I can’t imagine Firaxis being happy with the fan response.

    FWIW, I’m also in the “disappointed” pile. I never had much problems with the AI (though I don’t go to war often, so I haven’t much experience with its tactical side) but the UI was almost offensively bad. Combining this with a remapping of hotkeys (petty, I know) and the fact that new game concepts were just left unexplained, even in the Civilopedia meant that I started with very little goodwill.

    I haven’t played enough games for the traits specific to a civilization to bother me (one and a half games) but the feature I was most excited by, the city-planning, turned out to be just not as interesting as I had hoped. There often was a correct choice, and sometimes finding out that I made the wrong one afterward was annoying (although this is something that would be solved in new playthroughs). The specialization also didn’t pan out very well; finding out that I needed more happiness just led to making an entertainment district in the city where there was room for a district at that moment. I guess subsequent playthroughs could lead to more planning in that regard, but just thinking about this I already feel tired. It’s just not very interesting to do.

    Thanks for this interview, by the way. It’s interesting to see where the lead designer thinks the game is right now, and as evidenced by this comment and others, RPS’s Civ players really needed some space to vent :)

    • syndrome says:

      Nicely put.

      City-planning is boring as hell. You basically struggle with planning the unplannable. Unless you know the entire game like Ed Beach obviously does. It’s like school, but without any authority to compel you into remembering everything so perfectly.

      Where are all the interesting choices? And when I say interesting, I really mean meaningful. Yes, whole civilizations fell because of not having enough cities where science districts can be adjacent to a mountain.

      ALT+F4.

  17. Chiron says:

    It’s all been downhill since Alpha Centauri came out, Civ4 was doable but Civ5 and 6 very underwhelming.

    Got to be honest as well, I cannot stand the increasingly silly art styles.

    • toshiro says:

      I fully agree. I do not see what the thinking behind these decisions are, or, rather, they seem to be genuinely designed NOT FOR ME anymore. As I am done with the total war franchise, I am done with the Civ franchise. It is not for me anymore.

  18. Zorgulon says:

    I have to say I’m startled by some of the comments. I can entirely understand people who dislike design VI’s design decisions, can’t get past the rough edges, or just have grown tired of Civ in general.

    But you really don’t need to min-max in Civ VI any more than you did in previous iterations. District placement is interesting, and adjacency bonuses are nice, but the game doesn’t hinge on whether you had a +4 adjacency bonus for your Campus. Not at all.

    • Xocrates says:

      True, but this is a well known psychological effect and it’s not something that’s easily disregarded. It’s much the same reason as you buy something you would otherwise never get just because it’s on sale, you want the best deal even if it doesn’t actually benefit you.

      You can ignore it, sure, but you feel like you’re missing out. Making the game revolve around this type of decisions is either boring because there’s always an “obvious” solution, or frustrating because you feel like you’re playing it wrong.

      And while other civ games did this, the bonuses weren’t so significant as to be noticeably meaningful, mostly because you could get (near) everything regardless.

      • Shadow says:

        Bonuses not significant enough? Are you kidding? Carpeting entire continents with railroads in Civ3 made a tremendous difference, and so did cottage-spamming in Civ4, which was nowhere near as automated as the former.

        That’s just off the top of my head, but optimal strategies always made a significant difference. I don’t see how Civ6 is any less egregious (nor optional) in its optimal play.

  19. Dread Quixadhal says:

    I will give Civ VI another try at some point, but what many of the previous posters have said rings true for me as well. Civ 4 felt like a strategy game with a slightly underwhelming combat system. Civ 5 addressed some of the combat issues, but sacrificed much of the strategy by forcing the tech tree to be more focused. Essentially, you decided which victory condition you wanted to try for, and then your tech choices were set for you.

    Civ 6 has expanded on the tactical game, making the actual city building and combat more interesting… but even further choking off the strategy portion of the game.

    At the point, the only real solution would be to entirely redo the tech tree to give it a wider set of choices where many of them become mutually exclusive, or at least where the cost of going down more than one branch at a time becomes exponential.

    If I decide to focus on combat with mounted units, for example, it should be very expensive and difficult for me to change my mind until the next technological era, because I’ll have had to invest so much in all the supporting techs.

  20. Calculon says:

    I also dislike Civ VI and like many of you Im a long time player of the series (all the way back to the original).

    Civ IV I enjoyed because I felt like it was a step in the right direction. Civ V was only decent after all of the fixes and expansions but didnt really pick up the amazing strides and changes IV had made – it was just more of the same, but with some additional ‘meh’ mechanics.

    To me – instead of making the game more engaging and dynamic they have included a lot of silly mechanics that dont really offer a lot of interesting gameplay and enjoyment.

    Someone above mentioned the lack of economic depth – and I want to echo that – many strategy games ignore this huge opportunity to create interesting emergent gameplay and decision making. Economics and trading are key drivers as to the decisions that governments make and actions that they take – and this is largely missing from most Civ games and most strategy games in general. Civ IV started down this path with resources that were key to develop certain types of troops or leverage certain types of technology – but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Victoria II (with mods) did it quite well but of course it can be improved upon. I keep hoping EUIV will add a proper economic model and meaningful strategy behind it but they havent thus far – and I suspect that they wont. I feel like the struggle to add ‘new features’ to the game however they seem to get caught in meaningless grinding mechanics rather than adding something truly dynamic and interesting.

  21. MaxMcG says:

    The thing I hate the most in Civ 6 is this production inflation. I can have a new-ish city with OK production in the mid-late game and yet it takes a stupid number of turns to build something like a worker. I find it really annoying.

    Otherwise, I have lots of faith that this will improve with expansions.