Civilization VI Review: Always Forward

Civilization VI Review: Always Forward

Sid Meier’s Civilization is back with a sixth installment. Announced earlier this year, the studio put forth a new look to their website and a sneak peak into their final stages of development. With over 33 million copies of the Civ series sold over the years, 8 million to Civ V alone, Civ VI has a lot to live up to.

And it will not disappoint. Since Civ is a rather unique series in its own right, this review will be structured as a mechanic by mechanic breakdown, looking how each element functions and how it compares to past entries in the franchise.

Genre: Strategy
Developed by: Firaxis
Published by: 2K
Release date: October 20th, 2016
Platforms: PC (Reviewed on PC)
Launch Price: 59.99 USD

Civilization 6 Features

  • See the marvels of your empire spread across the map like never before. Each city spans multiple tiles so you can custom build your cities to take full advantage of the local terrain.
  • Unlock boosts that speed your civilization’s progress through history. To advance more quickly, use your units to actively explore, develop your environment, and discover new cultures.
  • Interactions with other civilizations change over the course of the game, from primitive first interactions where conflict is a fact of life, to late game alliances and negotiations.
  • Expanding on the “one unit per tile” design, support units can now be embedded with other units, like anti-tank support with infantry, or a warrior with settlers. Similar units can also be combined to form powerful “Corps” units.

World Creation Screen

You have many options to chose from and a variety of difficulties ranging from Settler to Deity, 6 different map sizes, and the same aging and temperature as previous games. Multi-player is alive and functioning with 3 mods to chose from, or create your own!

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World Map

The revamped World Map is a work of art. Taking inspiration from old-word cartography charts, the world map is beautiful by design and flawless in execution. The fog of war slowly moves outward as your units move giving a real feeling of discovering a new area.

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The map can display many numerous bits of information and allows you to filter what you want to know vs what you do not need to know at the moment. The pin system is fantastic for making notes and keeping tabs on your areas.

City Planning

The most anticipated part of the new Civ is the city planning. Unlike V, the cities are now “unstacked” and will sprawl in a more city-like environment. You can build a few buildings  in the City Center, but other buildings will need planned Districts. Each District is separated into sections of what can and cannot be built. For example, in the Holy Site district you can have a shrine or temple, worship buildings. There are Campus districts meant for Libraries, Universities and Research Labs. And you remember the Harbours right? The unstacked harbours of Civ VI will make bring sea-faring (or warring!) civilizations proud.

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To add even more depth, there is now a day and night cycle with advanced camera rotation controls. The game feels a lot more intuitive and real time than ever before. The new engine that built Civ VI will allow even the most modest computers be able to run this beautiful game in all its features. Last month the team announced on Steam the requirements needed to run Civ VI so even your 5 year old lap top should keep up.

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For veteran CIV players one of the most annoying aspects was keeping population in check. You need just enough population to build better than your opponents but not so much they are unhappy and revolt.  Civ VI has a new Housing metric. Your population cannot grow without all the necessary benefits it needs to thrive. Even if your city has more than enough food it simply will not grow without access to fresh water and proper amenities. This added feature brings your citizens to a new level of the Civilization series in that your citizens matter.

Housing is broken down into this: If you have a granary you are allowed 2 housings, if you build sewers you add two housing. You can easily control other parts of your population in your social window. These features will allow you to build a diverse world. One city can be your Industrial Military Complex, pumping out all the fighters you need, while another city can send food to support the endeavor. Adding this little strategy gives a new depth to planning.

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Resources

Similar to the previous games, there are tiles that will house luxuries and resources. Without giving too much away, you will see the return of cattle and sheep and another added food source: rice. Some civilizations have restricted resources tied directly to their civilization.  Strategic resources are back with your basic horses, iron and coal, but a name change of saltpeter to “nitre.” You will also have a few more unique mine resources like jade which add to your production points.

Within these resources and buildings you now have Builders instead of Workers. Builders will complete their jobs instantly but have a limited amount of uses. This will allow for a better planning of your city and mining operations so you are not constantly bombarded with idle workers once they have finished improving a city. At first I was unsure how well this would work out but the way that they operate, how long it takes to build one and the types of improvements they do streamline a better build queue. This nice addition to the game will again, add that little bit of extra layer that is strategic rather than monotonous.

Tech Tree

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The bread and butter of your Civilization. With improved features and larger interface, understanding the Tech Tree has never been easier.

Governments

Governments are back! With customization features with various policy cards you get while playing the game you can breathe new life into an old system. These governments are centered around non-scientific and non-military aspects of the game so that your government can focus more on cultural development and diplomacy. The governments have a Civics Tree which progresses by cultural development rather than scientific development. If you wanted, you can ignore scientific research and pour your heart into cultural achievements instead. Who needs pottery when you have art?!

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In previous games, the religious Civilizations had to side build with military and/or cultural builds in order to move forward. No longer! The religion feature comes with a new unit, Apostle, and allows for a religious victory. When you found your pantheon early in the game it cannot get overwritten by foreign religions. While they only provide a small bonus to start, adding in more religious features will give you more bonuses. Apostles and Inquisitors will be able to enjoy bouts of Theological Combat with other religious units. To add to this, the previous “Diplomatic Victory” has now been changed into “Religious Victory.” With the changes of how government and cultural production is achieved this will not be missed in Civ VI.

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One thing to note about dealing your new policies cards. While some cards offer clear advantages, there are a lot and it can get overwhelming. Some of them become obsolete but still remain within your deck. It is wise to focus on one main area of your government and have one supplement policy while ignoring the rest. You can mix and match as you go along and re-focus at any time. Maybe in the beginning you focus on a heavy military but then slide into more cultural advantages. There is always an option to change your strategy and is the highlight of the new governments and policies. Play around…live a little!

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Leaders

New leaders will be in charge of your Civilizations. Gorgo and Pericles replaces Alexander for Greece. Each one brings something new to the table. England gets a revamp from the Naval genius, Queen Elizabeth replaced by Queen Victoria. Instead of the usual founding father of Washington, American now has Theodore Roosevelt.. but still keeps the “Founding Fathers” in their ability name. France’s usual Napoleon has been replaced with Catherine de Medici. Historically speaking many people have glossed over the name of Catherine de Medici, who was Italian by blood and ruled France by influencing culture and the arts. An interesting choice as she was a controversial figure in French history. Returning heavy-weights are Cleopatra of Egypt and Ghandi for India. The interesting aspects of these civilizations is their primary focus matters. If you are diplomatic you can earn more diplomacy and do not always have to result in warring early on to get ahead. Each Civ is more unique and offers clear advantages and disadvantages.

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Playing with various civs will be a highlight for returning and new players.

Great People

Great People can be acquired by fulfilling specific tasks to earn them. The benefits are listed for you ahead of time. Previously Great People were more randomly recorded and not as easy to keep track of. Good job Civ VI dev team!

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Diplomacy & War

A new Diplomacy menu is more complex than ever. You can meet a civilization that is polite at the start but slowly becomes envious of all your nitre and can get crafty and want to sneak things from you or start an all out war. The leaders you meet  have two Agendas; one that you see right away and the other is a hidden Agenda that becomes unlocked while you keep playing. Playing against the same Civilization twice, the second agenda appears to be random and you can either play into their nice side, or provoke them into declaring war. Even better is if you unlock the right policies you can earn points for “Casus Belli” (Latin for “reason of war”) which allows you to declare war without too many penalties. Waging war, or declaring war has also been revamped.

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In this new incarnation of waging war comes in the style of “Surprise War” all the way to “Formal Declaration.” Different types of players will be able to create any sort of different wars and make their civilization truly unique. You will also be able to build spies as a military unit, rather than them being just something randomly assigned. Your spies can gather intelligence or steal other Civs’ technologies.

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The bottom line is this: a more realistic feel to how diplomacy works, or does not work. These advanced features really bring Civ VI to a whole new level.

Military Units

Military units get a nice little boost in this installment. When you stack two identical units they will earn +10 to combat; add anoter and add +7 for a total of +17 attack points. You will not gain any additional defense points,but this strategy is good at getting rid of pesky Barbarians. Escorting units is a lot better in VI and will increase your defensive positioning of builders and their defenders. While the Barbarians are smarter, your units are braver (Right?!). Keep in mind that when promoting a unit, you get healed automatically. No more choosing between “heal a unit in a dire situation” vs promoting their stripes.

Bonus: You can rename your military units. Your ships can now be the Pirates that say Ni if you so chose.

City States

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City states are back in full force with a slight tweak. In Civ VI you will have to enact specific policies and complete missions and send envoys to gain their approval.  If you gain enough approval you will become an honorary leader of that City-State and earn a bonus. Note: I have not tried to declare war on them…. that would be rude! The new immersion you get from the restyled City States will feel more engaging and meaningful during your play.

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Barbarians

And what about those pesky Barbarians? Their AI has been improved which will be  a source of annoyance and triumph for any player. You will actually see Barbarian Scouts sent ahead to scope your budding city. Prepare a good defense and mount an offense early as possible. Your  military units can now be assigned to protect your civilians and with advanced tactics you will engage in more polished skirmishes. Battles have improved animations and better notification of how many health points your unit uses.

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User Interface

The UI has not strayed much from Civ V, however, with so many added features it might feel “cluttered” at first. There is a lot of information going on and I suggest using the basic UI before the advanced AI. Give yourself a quick and easy play through the first time. There are new windows, of course, for the Religious, Diplomacy and Government tactics but overall it has the same feeling as Civ V  with some enhanced features. Because your builders are not like previous workers, their shortcut keys are different. Just remember to read everything, do not glance and think you know what is going on there. There are some juicy tidbits all over the place if you are willing to pace yourself. And remember: Your advisers are here to help!

Final Thoughts

With all the new and enhanced features of Civ VI I believe that patience will win over the hearts of gamers everywhere; veterans and any new player will gain enjoyment out of a strategy game that will require a lot of thinking in all the right places. All the diversified changes means no one real victory, or Civilization, will be better than other, just different. Those differences are placed into your hands and will shape and mold your game for hours on hours.


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Not just a gamer, but also a wife, mother and modder. I cook like a mad scientist and read books like they are candy.

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5 comments on “Civilization VI Review: Always Forward”

  1. Solaris68B says:

    Thank you very much for the review! 🙂 It`s well made and covers every aspect of a typical Civ campaign.
    I played every Civilization game, starting with Civ I (although only the demo for Beyond Earth which was a bust in my opinion), so Civ VI sounds good so far. I first encountered the city district idea by playing Endless Legend , so I have a good guess about how it can work. Population growth control is also a good thing. It was annoying like hell in Civ V at higher difficulty settings. Not to mention the idea of specialized cities. Endless Legend used the idea of (pre)dividing the map in regions, and each region allowing one city to be built. Also it was possible to use some luxury resources as temporary boosts (for instance food harvest, or science), and to make some sort of simplified "plan" for further development.

    How good is the commerce system in Civ VI ? There is one still, I hope? And just how good is the AI for major civs / city states, compared to Civ V ? It`s good the barbarians AI was improved, but it`s the same true for the major civs as well?
    About that card system for policies… how does that really work? It was a bit unclear for me. You get cards to play with, or you can add policies as in Civ V?

  2. Avatar Tarshana says:

    I am glad you liked it!

    The commerce system is much more rich than previous versions of Civ. You get to start with 1 trade route early on and those trade routes build your roads so no more creating spam workers do it for you. Each route takes from its target city to bring to the origin city so you can import – export within your own empire and outside of your empire based on need. More trade points are created per Commerce district. Rome has the ‘all roads lead to Rome’ passive so all Roman cities start with its own road system on the founded city. Depending on the era your city can earn gold, food, culture and science points.

    The card system is freakin’ AWESOME. You can mix and match depending on your given government (one gov’t does not even have military cards!) so you can min/max what kind of system you want. For example, after Chiefdom you can have a Classic Republic, Theocracy or Oligarchy government type. The Classic Republic has no military cards, instead has 2 trade cards. See here:

    Great People that you earn do have chances for more policy cards. Gorgo gets an extra ‘wild card’ which allows for any colour to be slotted there. I like using her with Classic Republic for a scientific victory because I can use one wild card to keep my military unit costs down and continue building up for science related buildings and trade routes.

    Another bright spot about Civ VI is no more running around trying to find goody huts, They give only small boosts rather than techs outright so it is far better to build up your empire before meeting other Civilizations. The goal is to build up YOUR people and worry about the others later. I love the new AI system because no two AIs will like you at the start. You have to earn your way into their favour depending on their personality. For example, China’s leader hates it when you have more wonders than him. Even if you give him favourable trade agreements he is a whiny butt. The most you can do is goad him into a war so the other civs hate him and then offer him peace so the other civs love you for it and hate him even more when he refuses. This all ties into the governments because some people hate your type of government, some do not like it, some are happy they share the same one.

    You will find that the barbarians are tricky little jerks. When you see a scout, follow him with a warrior to ambush their outpost. Do not follow the scout too far or chase him any further than the barb outpost. They usually start 7-10 tiles from your starting city so it is a good idea to garner a few xp points with a warrior unit. But never ever leave your workers or borders unsecured. The new linking ability with military and support units is key when playing Prince or above against the barb AI.

    Civ VI will have people thinking harder and playing smarter. This will be both a joy and a frustration. Personally I love it. Knowing that a civ can turn on me at any given moment or goading them into attacking me so I look better is downright awesome.

  3. Solaris68B says:

    :biggrin: I never liked the idea about those "ancient ruins" in Civ games too much. In Civ V it was usually frustrating on higher difficulty (the AI civs seemed to know the location of the nearby ruins), so most of the time I just disabled them. It`s good these ruins have less importance in Civ VI.

    About the policy cards:

    So, for each type of government you can use several cards of different types (based on the government type and your civ`s wild cards). What I still don`t understand is: these are random cards you have to draw (like in card games) or are just number of policies you can chose from a list (like the ideology / religion policy lists in Civ V). A random choice is bad news for me. I really hate the random choice systems. My only issue with Baldur`s Gate 1 & 2 and Icewind Dale games was the idiotic random character point system from AD&D 2`nd rules. Spending hours to re-run the stats until a decent number appeared was not my kind of fun :X(: .
    If Civ VI uses more randomness, it`s bad. Every player will just save BEFORE such choices and reload countless times until something decent will come out. I really hope it`s not the case.

    I really hope the AI is much better in Civ VI, because in Civ V the AI was lame. I tried the Comunity Pack for Civ V (with the updated AI) and it was better, but not good. For instance, if I was technologically more advanced, all major civ sent spies on me every second turn :rolling eyes:
    So I would really like a better AI for Civ VI. And some more flexible diplomacy / commercial options with major civs. It seems that the player has some subtle choices for the desired goals (using "tricks") which sounds just perfect. But there are some diplomacy OPTION changes too? Or commercial option changes?

  4. Avatar Tarshana says:

    Everyone has access to the same cards during each Era, so you can chose, and change, anytime you want 🙂 Some of the cards become "legacy", such as production for ancient wonders, later on, but the only limit is based on your government.

    You get to build spies based on slots available. Spies cannot directly steal any tech, but they can steal "boosts." The thing about that is once you capture one (which is not very hard if you are advanced btw, the more crap you have the more likely you are to catch them) you can chide the other government and use their spy as leverage for trading xD You can keep spies in your own government to protect certain areas, too.

    Diplomacy is a lot different in Civ VI. Without spoiling too much let me say this : early scouting except to secure your borders is not recommended. You see, in Ancient Eras in real life history, people warred all the time for almost little to no good reason. Until the other Civilizations "grow up" they are envious little bastards. You can see on the diplomacy menu exactly why they love or hate you. For example, China wants all the wonders, if you have more wonders than him he hates you almost the entire game. So what do you do? Provoke him and take over one of his cities, offer peace and the city back. For about 20 turns he hates you, but keep sending trades and then he realizes later on you are awesome. Every game I have had people hated or loved me during different eras but by the end I had alliances with them all. Right now all the grumpy cats on reddit are complaining because they expect Civ VI to be the exact same as V. I have wanted to make a post there but I realize that just like early civilizations people can be stuck in their ways for a long time and will not listen to reason when emotions are on the line. (and gamers are very emotional over their games).

    The game is worth it 🙂 It is a nice distraction from all the action games out there.

  5. Solaris68B says:

    Sounds just great!!! 🙂 I know only too well about gamers attitude about their favorite game 🙁
    Sometimes "fans" pressure can be a very destructive force. Especially if they really don`t like a change. Let`s hope Civilization fans are wiser…

    For instance, I liked Heroes IV very much the moment it was out, exactly because it changed several peculiar elements from the early Heroes games. But of course the HMM fans hated the change, so after 3DO closed, the new Heroes games reverted to HMM3`s system… I never played those, and I still play sometimes HMM4

    I was afraid that the card system is random… So it`s more like the ideology / religion system from Civ V: you have more option to chose from. The limit is about the number of policies in use for each government type.
    More, if there are ways to change the attitude of other rulers during a campaign, even better. I just remembered the grumpy Augustus from Civ V, who was always against you no matter what…

    I really like changes in a game series if these bring new challenges. For instance, I liked the option to barter with technologies from the early Civ games. I would welcome this to be back, but not angry if it doesn`t. Also, smarter barbarians are just perfect to me. I learned fast how to use them to my advantage in Civ V (and I am not talking about Bismark), but a more dangerous world in ancient / classical era is what I was expecting to be.
    I`m not an historian, but history is one of my big hobbies (I have read hundreds of history books and treaties). This is the reason why I like medieval RPG`s and strategy games like Civilization. There is a book I read recently, "Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari. Quite good. It deals more with the mental and technological revolutions. A close fit for Civilization fans.

    And something completely out of topic: I found a very nice and old movie for kids (a fairy tale rock opera). It`s called Mama, and it`s a Romanian / Russian / French movie. The English version was dubbed in UK. It`s a cult movie here, in Russia and in other European countries.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4Typ2fVffI” rel=”nofollow