Two hefty expansion packs, numerous DLC, and a vibrant modding community combined to give Civilization V a long full life in the gaming community and formed what will probably be an enduring legacy. When Firaxis announced the development of Sid Meier’s Civilization VI in May of 2016 the fanbase was energized, not so much with dissatisfaction over the current title in the Civilization Series but with gleeful anticipation of the new material Civilization VI would introduce.
Civ VI maintains the core elements of the Civilization series. Players use Settler units to found cities which generate gold, production, food, science, culture, and faith fueling all the options and projects the player must undertake to achieve victory over competing civilizations. Regional terrain types also remain alongside bonus, strategic, and luxury resources. Combat most closely resembles Civ V with single units each occupying a hex; although a new feature allows two or three units of the same type to merge into a corps or army.
City planning is the most noticeable overhaul that the series received in Civ VI. In addition to a roster of buildings and the tile improvements constructed by workers cities can now produce districts in any workable tile. Districts resemble great person tile improvements from Civ V in that they focus on one type of resource. Only one of each type can be built in a single city and the city can produce buildings to improve those districts. Some districts like the encampment and aerodrome focus on unit production while others like the entertainment district and neighborhood improve the city’s happiness and growth.
Districts emphasize the importance of city tile management in Civ VI. Districts must compete with world wonders and worker-built tile improvements for space around the city. Districts also yield more resources if they are adjacent to other districts and some can only be built on certain terrain types. City specializing is heavily encouraged along with the importance of founding cities early in the game. Great people, which are now generated in competition with other civilizations, can only be utilized on a district appropriate to their type (holy sites of great prophets, harbors for great admirals, etc.).
Luxuries and population growth have also received an overhaul. Now luxuries are referred to as amenities and each city has its own count of amenities that affect its populations mood. Luxury resources provide an amenity to every city in a civilization. Entertainment buildings and other factors now only affect the city they are constructed in, however cities no longer suffer penalties due to the number of cities the civilization owns. Also occupied cities do not cause the rest of a civilization to suffer unrest.
Housing is determined by the base capacity of a city and any buildings in that city that increase housing as well as other faction specific research and benefits. When a city exceeds it’s current housing limit population growth slows significantly regardless of the food the city produces. District production is also limited by housing as a city can only produce a certain number of districts for each level of population.
The social policies of Civ V have been heavily redesigned to resemble scientific development. Culture generated by cities contributes to research through a tree of available civic techs. When a civic tech is researched, new civic policies are made available. Civics are divided into military, economic, diplomatic, and great person categories and a civilization is limited to the type and number of each civic based on the government they currently have. Civic techs unlock new governments over the course of play with some governments emphasizing military or economics by by allowing more military or economic civics to be active. Civics can be swapped out anytime, and can be changed without penalty whenever a new civic tech is researched.
Culture and scientific research now benefit from a bonus system. Most civic and scientific techs have an optional bonus objective, like clearing a barbarian encampment or constructing a mine, that will decrease the research cost of the tech by half. These boosts can’t always be easily completed each game but savvy players can use them to jump ahead in certain areas as the game progresses.
Civ VI features the series’ first official religious victory option. Cities follow a religion if a majority of their citizens convert to it. The faith resource can be used to purchase missionaries, apostles, and inquisitors that spread the player’s religion or combat opposing religious pressure in friendly cities. The victory condition is fairly straightforward: simply convert a majority of cities on the map. Certain religious units can even engage in theological combat, which is functionally the same as combat between conventional units, but cannot be healed.
Diplomacy is all about exploiting in Civ VI. AI opponents now have one pre-programmed agenda and one randomly selected hidden agenda that dictates their attitude towards the player. They also receive a randomly generated hidden agenda that is only revealed to players with sufficiently advanced diplomatic relations. The agendas allow the players to engage more tactfully with the AI, however they also have the side-effect of making the AI very one-dimensional. AI civilizations will denounce the player if the player’s actions fail to satisfy their agenda within a few turns. Additionally, even when the AI has moved to this passive aggressive state they still initiate trades with the player giving their convictions a mechanical feel that destroys immersion.
Graphically Civ VI is very beautifully designed. A more cartoonish approach to details was taken but the colors are vivid and the units and buildings are animated and precisely detailed. The game also features optional daytime-nighttime transitions giving the effect of passing days although it does not have an effect on the actual speed of play. Even on lower graphics settings Civ VI is pleasant to look at and meeting the minimum requirements for play is sufficient to enjoy the game completely.
Civilization VI brings no shame to the Civilization series and re-introduces some of the concepts that Firaxis attempted in Civilization: Beyond Earth. Bugs are virtually non-existent and it’s release is overall very polished. Some elements could use refining, like the similarities of several civilization’s unique buildings and bonuses, but a good expansion can fix those easily. One notably pervasive change is the slower environment of play on standard speed. The early and mid-game are very well fleshed out so it doesn’t detract from the game, but players used to the active and hectic end-game of Civ V may be surprised at the crawling science victory requirements or slow build times for modern units.
Any 4x fan will enjoy Civ VI and even at its release price its a valid purchase for any casual strategy gamer. Online performance is very stable and playing with friends is one of the hallmarks of an enjoyable Civilization experience. Not everything veteran Civilization players enjoy may have made it into this latest release but there is still plenty of new and improved elements to warrant numerous playthroughs.