At the beginning of every year, the RPS crew begin work on a team-building crafting project, which we recreate wonders of our world: 2016 was the year of the matchstick Blackpool Tower. Welcome to day nine of The RPS Advent Calendar, which highlights our favourite games of the year, daily. Behind today’s door is...
The year's best 4X game: don't settle for less, it's Sid Meier's Civilization 6
Alec: Forgive me, but I’m going to be a little bit mealy-mouthed here. I picked Civ VI not for as pure a reason as “I really like it” but instead because it relieved some anxiety that Firaxis was going off the boil. Civ: Beyond Earth wasn’t a terrible game, but it was misguided and weirdly joyless, while even XCOM 2, which I liked a lot more, couldn’t always see the woods for the trees. Civ 6 has its foibles, but it’s very much the work of a studio that Gets It, that totally grasps what makes us keep playing Civ and what gave Civ IV so much charm.
It’s beautiful, too. That antique map presentation is delectable, and the charisma of the animated leaders is off the charts. I suppose I wish there was a little more than felt new-new rather than re-establishing, and that diplomacy system, though well intentioned, needs a serious tune-up. As for the UI….
But! I’m not sat here whining “needs an expansion, maybe the expansion will sort it, what about the expansion”, as I did for both Civ V and Beyond Earth. Civ VI feels substantial and, well, complete. A full-fat, clear-eyed Civ, right from launch. Not a definitive 2016 Civilization, no, but not too far short. It’s mere tweaks I want, not rethinks or whole new features.
Adam: I agree with some of Alec’s complaints, though I’m apparently immune to a lot of UI issues (I think playing Paradox games for so long may have been some sort of vaccination program). When improvements come along, I’ll gladly take them, but apart from a few inconsistencies and screens that don’t display the information I need right away, I found Civ VI a pleasure to play.
A couple of months down the line, it’s still taking up more of my time than any other game released this year. Marathon games are my new thing, history stretched out as long and broad as possible, and small decisions echoing down through the ages. I love founding a city in the classical era and already having, in my mind, an image of how it’ll look two thousand years later. The university district nestled between the mountains to the east, the world-famous theatre, the wonders that surround the city centre.
Of course, priorities can change over the decades and centuries. The new city-building might be my favourite feature but there’s something less tangible that’s kept me coming back, and will probably carry on doing so for the next few years. It’s that this is the Civ that accommodates reactive playstyles best, allowing you to change long- and short-term strategies on the fly without placing blockers on your plans. The new civics systems and research boosters allow for a flexibility that changes my approach completely, and makes it that little bit easier to feel like part of a developing world rather than a race to the finish.
As I argued in my review, that’s what Civ is - a race to the finish. It’s a competitive game, history as point-scoring, but Civ VI has enough variety and flavour in its strategic possibilities that you can, to a great extent, play your own way without losing sight of the front-runners.
I’m excited to see what expansions might bring, but I’m just as excited to go back to my current playthrough this weekend. What alarms me is that over the year as a whole, this isn’t even the Firaxis game that’s taken most of my time...