Sid Meier's Civilization VI (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 04.11.2016

Review for Sid Meier

It's that time again; time to dust off the mouse and keyboard, and jump into the next "Civ" as it is affectionately known by its legions of fans. It actually has been longer than it seems for a new main title in the series. Civilization V was actually released back in 2010, although it had a number of expansion packs over the preceding years, as well as an otherworldly spin off, Civilization: Beyond Earth, which received a decent chunk of criticism for a lack of ambition. Therefore, with such a length of time between entries, a lot of expectation lays on the shoulders of Firaxis Games. With 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) strategy games there are rarely any 'big ticket' changes, and what defines a good or bad experience usually depends on subtle balance. The interesting thing with Civilization instalments is that the community are real aficionados of what makes a good version, and, indeed it is a cliché, but it usually takes a few months for the changes made to be fully digested and assessed. It might be a long journey but Cubed3 is determined to answer the great universal question - is Civilization VI the best?

One of the fundamental questions that turn-based strategy titles are continually dogged with is how they welcome first time fans into the fold. A bad tutorial or confusing UI can effectively destroy the confidence of someone looking to be eased into what can sometimes appear an overwhelming experience. It is therefore pleasing that, right off the bat, the tutorial on offer here strikes the right balance of being both informative and interactive. That is to say that it gives all the pertinent information and directions to the correct menus and buttons, but only moves forward when the process has been actively completed by the player. The fact that it does this with a very clear and engaging narrator is a bonus.

The reality, though, is that Firaxis is extremely experienced in the most important aspect of delivering a seamless experience to first timers, which is having a user interface and menu system which is as simple and straightforward as can be. A brilliant touch to it is that, anytime there is something to be done, an outstanding piece of technology to be researched, or a city waiting on a new building order, this is alerted to and the turn cannot be completed until the situation is rectified. There is nothing worse in some other titles than effectively being cheated out of turns and productivity due to cluttered menus. This issue is eliminated and oh so simply and logically.

There is no doubt that a good introduction comes from a good first impression, and Civilization VI certainly makes such an impression through the visuals which are more dynamic and striking than ever. The map itself looks beautiful, and considering it can be entirely procedural, presents a mix of diversity that makes each playthrough a treat for the eyes. A particular delight is when the fog of war effect takes hold; the 3D map transforms into an old hand drawn parchment which is a very cool detail that adds a real sense of love and passion rarely found in those kinds of moments in other titles.

Screenshot for Sid Meier's Civilization VI on PC

The map is also where one of the new standout features comes into its own. The hexes that surround capital cities are now specifically used to place districts, which means all the building work of a city is no longer assigned strictly to one central area. Therefore, builders will now expand productivity improvements such as farms, mines and housing circled around the main city, and objects like wonders and aerodromes use these hexes too. This is a welcome change for a number of reasons. Firstly, for the superficial visual aspect, it means that cities appear more visually impressive and lifelike, and take on an ever-expanding look as the city and nation grows. However, from a strategic point of view it makes things a lot more dynamic. Each of these hexes come with their own bonus such as the amount of food they generate.

These also have bonuses depending on the location, such as beside hills, adjacent to rivers, or on a coastline. All of these aspects play into making the decision of placement another consideration. It takes into account logic as well, as having a commercial hub beside a river would make sense for the transportation of goods; therefore, there is a bonus for doing so. The only downside to the district system is the level of balance that needs to be struck, or else potential ruin sets in later down the line. The early temptation is to just build, build, build, without any long-term planning, but this has dire consequences for even a slight miscalculation, and suddenly 100 turns later the AI is running an empire in the Atomic age while the player is still exploring the world on horseback.

Of course, it isn't such a bad thing that the AI takes advantage of a mistake though as long as this is balanced. One of the few complaints about the previous titles in the series was a general lack of a dynamic, and compelling AI. Now, there is still some way to go in this regard, because there are still some very random decisions made, especially when it comes to diplomatic matters. However, one very useful change made is that each of the 18 playable leaders has its own specific programmed AI agenda, which is an interpretation of historical characteristics by Firaxis.

Screenshot for Sid Meier's Civilization VI on PC

This dictates their play style and was very noticeable when, for example, seeing England want to expand all across the map in an allusion to the empire, or forging an alliance with Japan due to a strong emphasis on military. Yes, it might potentially remove some of the randomness that can occasionally bring about an interesting match, but overall it helps shape and balance matters much more smoothly by providing the AI their own goals to meet. Of course, if randomness is a factor, there is of course a fully-fledged multiplayer mode that puts the direction of leaders in the hands of the community themselves, and thus eliminates this issue. With "Civ" veterans, though, multiplayer is very unforgiving, and a great deal of patience is needed to be any good at it and to avoid being 'curb-stomped' very quickly.

As well as their own agendas, each of the 18 factions come with their own language and look, plus some unique units and passive abilities. The production values are generally very high here. Each character who represents its nation (be it Queen Victoria, Teddy Roosevelt, or Gandhi), is so engagingly designed. They all come with personality in abundance through the visually crafted look which is reminiscent of a Pixar animated character. They are stereotypical, but in a charming way, and they are even voiced in the correct accent and language.

As if that wasn't enough, as a narrator it doesn't come much better than the pragmatic and gravitas tones of Mr Sean Bean, who is on hand, particularly after researching technology, to read out the snippets of real world quotes of many famous people in relation to said technology. These can be funny or serious anecdotes which really add to the charm and production of the whole thing. The process of completing a wonder was always immensely improved by having him eulogise about just how wondrous it is.

Screenshot for Sid Meier's Civilization VI on PC

Speaking of wonders, these are one of the many paths to victory present in each match of Civilization VI. There has been an increased emphasis on using these to improve tourism and creating an empire that the world goes to in order to seek out the greatest sights ever seen. This is just one such path to victory alongside scientific discovery through being the first into space, as well as the newly added religious victory condition which centres around expanding a chosen religion throughout the world. The religious victory condition, though, has been one of contention, and it's definitely the one that maybe needs to be looked again at. It tends to descend into nothing more than spamming missionaries across the globe, and it is not even explained in the tutorial how to utilise it most effectively.

Of course, the most overt way of ruling the globe is through might and it is pleasing to say that combat is still as good as ever. In fact it has been improved, at least in the sense of making things much clearer - again, this is a high-five to the user interface, as it is now more apparent than ever which benefits of each unit type versus another are. The UI lays out the comparison stats very clearly on each side, and gives a breakdown of the damage done through the encounter.

The option to stack units into corps and armies also means that single stacked units are no longer cannon fodder. The little combat animations match the other animations in being of excellent quality, and convey the combat outcome excellently. The only issue present was that sieges on cities were not explained in great detail throughout the tutorial, working out which units work best for attacking cities can be frustrating initially. Thankfully, there is a useful encyclopaedia on hand for any questions, which sets out a great deal of the mechanics in very understandable terms.

Screenshot for Sid Meier's Civilization VI on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The thing about Civilization VI is that there is so much content that a traditional review struggles to do it justice. The number of units on show, the diversity in buildings, the research tree, the choice over governmental direction and the bonus this gives; it is honestly a title that is best experienced first hand and delved into in the deepest possible way. It is definitely the most fulfilling and enjoyable Civilization to date, and with Firaxis' tendency to add expansions and updates to their products, it can only get better from this point onward. Some irritating issues do exist, such as religion and some slight AI deficiencies, but these are minor complaints in a title that is so easy to get addicted to that it is scary. The strategy crown remains with Sid Meier, and it is hard to see any challengers conquering his empire in the near future.

Developer

Firaxis

Publisher

2K

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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