Civilization VI's [official site] E3 demo will not only teach you a lot about the game, it also happens to be a fascinating cultural object. Narrated by Sean Bean, it follows a tribe from their first settlement through barbaric battles, early diplomacy and trade, technological development, and into the terror of modern warfare. Then they jump in a rocket and set off into space. The erstwhile Ned Stark/Richard Sharpe provides commentary throughout. It's as if Sean Bean has transitioned into a career making Let's Play videos and, by god, I had never known how much I wanted such a thing until now.
I've chosen to believe that Firaxis sat Sean down in front of the video and asked him to describe what he was seeing on the screen. No script, no rehearsals - just an honest reaction to the events unfolding. And then he really went for it, even managing to speak in time with the little cartoon advisor who appears just before the one minute mark, syncing his speech to the movement of those whiskered lips.
I love this video. I love it because Sean Bean's voice soothes my tired mind and makes me think of agreeable ale in the Yorkshire Dales. I love it because it makes me believe, even momentarily, that the old thesp has been indulging in bouts of Civ for years now, in between taking the occasional acting job and travelling the country to watch Sheffield United in action.
Mostly I love it because it actually does a bloody good job of showing lots of Civ VI's new systems, and the ways in which it reworks old ones. It's not a gimmick, bringing a famous voice on board for laughs or prestige - he's doing the work that a developer might do during a playthrough, but with a lot more style and a much better accent. Early on you can see how builders work, expending themselves as they improve the land and construct districts rather than toiling forever like the workers of Civs gone by. Then there's a quick run through the way in which trading leads to road construction and resource exchange.
There's even an explanation of the new district system and city specialisation and you'll get to see the diplomacy screens as well as the card system that dictates the use of civic policies. On the aesthetic front, you can see the gorgeous hand-drawn map that occupies the fog of war.
It's the deepest look at the game so far, outside of our hands-on preview, and it also manages to be a story rather than a lecture. Good work, Mr Bean.
Civilization VI is due on October 21st.