|Wouldn't be a Civ game without a video of a rocket taking off into space somewhere, amirite?|
- Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: Firaxis
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Release Date: 21 October 2016
- Time played: 111 hours
What is itThe Civilization series has a long and distinguished history and I've played every single one of its PC releases. Ever since I got my hands on a floppy disk version of the original Sid Meier's Civilization in the mid-1990s, I was hooked. Like many other fans of the historical turn-based strategy series, "just – one – more – turn..." became an all too familiar phrase whenever I played the game.
The first two Civilization games, Sid Meier's Civilization and Sid Meier's Civilization II were both developed by a company called Microprose and were released in 1991 and 1996 respectively. In 1996, many key employees including Sid Meier, Brian Reynolds and Jeffery Briggs went to form Firaxis after Microprose was restructured by Spectrum Holobyte (Microprose was sold to them in 1993).
All remaining Civilization games (including the most recent one) have been developed by Firaxis: Civilization III was released in 2001, Civilization IV in 2005, Civilization V in 2010 and Civilization VI in 2016. The game is probably the most famous franchise to be developed by both Microprose and Firaxis, and the one you're most likely to remember when you hear the name "Sid Meier" (despite Sid Meier only having designed the very first one).
Civilization VI had a lot to live up to: all previous Civilization titles were critically acclaimed – no easy feat for a series that's been around for over two decades. So, it's probably a relief to Firaxis (and publisher 2K Games) that this also appears to be the case with Civilization VI which has a rating of 88 on Metacritic – however, it's Metacritic User rating and Steam rating are different stories with ratings of 7.1 and 64% respectively. So, what gives? We'll come back to that later in the review but first, a bit of information on how this Civilization differs from previous incarnations.
At its core, Sid Meier's Civilization VI is still the historical turn-based strategy game we all associate with the Civ series and it uses a lot of concepts introduced in Sid Meier's Civilization V as a template, especially the hexagonal grid, the way trade works, combat mechanics and the prevention of "stacks of doom". You also do many of the traditional Civ actions like settling new cities, improving land with builders, completing wonders and researching new technology. In fact, most changes are probably hard to spot when comparing the game to Civ V as the devil is in the details, except for one obvious change which is the introduction of "districts".
Civilization VI is the first Civilization I've played that incorporates elements from city builders like SimCity: now certain city improvements need to be placed in districts and these districts exist outside the protection of the central city hex. Want to build a temple? You have to build it in a district called a Holy Site. Want to build a marketplace? You have to build it in a Commercial District and so on.
In terms of other changes, the game now has two tech trees (one an actual technology tree and the other a cultural "tech" tree), government types are back, diplomatic victory has been replaced by religious victory, leaders have agendas (similar to Beyond Earth), traders now build roads in the early game, builders have a limited number of actions and warmonger penalties are quite severe.
And I've probably missed a whole lot more but those are the few that stick in my mind.
How I got itThanks to my lovely wife, I received the Digital Deluxe edition of Sid Meier's Civilization VI as a gift! I mainly wanted the Digital Deluxe edition for the 25th Anniversary Soundtrack but the extra DLC was the icing on the cake. Originally, there was meant to be only four extra DLC but this has since increased to six (apparently due to the aforementioned player backlash to the game, reflected in the mediocre Steam rating).
What I like:
Different leadersI actually believe that one of the criticisms of Civ VI is one of the game's strengths: the fact that they don't' have the leaders you usually expect. While many have derided the choice of leaders and nations in the latest iteration of the Civ franchise as pandering to "social justice warriors" (due to a high number of female leaders) I think it's a refreshing change considering all the previous games in the series tended to use the same leaders, over and over again. No luck with Gandhi though, he's still in it :P.
STRAYAAnd on the topic of different leaders and nations, it's good to see that Australia finally makes its debut into the Civ franchise! True, Australia couldn't really be considered an empire by any stretch of the imagination but that will all be forgiven when you hear Geoff Knorr's Atomic Era rendition of Waltzing Matilda; brings a tear to this Aussie's eye.
Animated leadersAnother criticism of Civ VI are the fact that the leaders look too cartoony, especially when compared to Civilization V, although I ask people to look at the Civ games prior to Civilization V and tell me if the leaders looked any better. I for one don't mind the new style and believe the animations on the current leaders really bring these historical figures to life (I just love it when Cyrus throws a tantrum: it's oh so melodramatic 😊).
DetailThere is such a huge amount of detail on the map in Civ VI to the point where you can zoom in on a granary (that sits in one, solitary city hex mind you) and see chickens flapping about.
Day/night cyclesWhat seems like a seemingly minor addition is actually a really nice touch: now you can view the cities of your empire during the day and night. You can either choose to fix the time of day or have it just take its course. Modern Era cities look particularly impressive at night.
Sean BeanIt's been a tradition since Civilization IV to have a celebrity voice the technology quotes in the game. In Civilization IV it was Leonard Nimoy (may he R.I.P.) and Civilization V, another actor with “Star Trek" experience, Morgan Sheppard. In Civ VI we have the actor whose character never seems to survive by the end of the show, Sean Bean. He does as good a job as you'd expect and he was even a good enough sport to voice this combination of memes:
Christopher Tin is backChristopher Tin, who composed the only piece of video game music to win a Grammy (Civ IV's "Baba Yetu") is back with a main title theme that I believe is just as good: "Sogni di Volare". Just take a listen to this:
Evolving MusicEach civilization in Civ 6 has its own musical theme usually based on a popular folk song (e.g. for Australia's it's "Waltzing Matilda", for England it's "Scarborough Fair", etc.); not only that, but each theme evolves during the eras from a simple one instrument solo in the Ancient Era, to a fully-fledged ensemble of folk instruments in the Medieval Era, upgraded to an orchestra in the Industrial Era, and then finally introducing synths and piano in the Atomic Era.
25th Anniversary SoundtrackThis inclusion is specific to the Digital Deluxe version of the game: you get a sampling of music from all previous Civilization titles (no "Babu Yetu" though, I'm afraid) and it isn't too bad. Definitely a trip down memory lane for Civ veterans.
DistrictsOne of the major changes in Civ 6 are the inclusion of "Districts". In previous Civilization games, the building of city improvements would all be built within the city hex, meaning you didn't really need to worry about enemy armies traipsing around your territory, pillaging them: in this Civ, you do have to worry about it since many city improvements exist in districts that you build outside of your city hex (e.g. commercial districts, harbour districts, holy sites, etc.) Another interesting aspect about districts is that they confer greater bonuses depending on the terrain nearby. For example, Campuses receive science bonuses near mountains and rainforests while Industrial districts receive production bonuses near mines and adjacent districts. So, not only are you doing the usual empire building you've become accustomed to with Civ, but also SimCity style city planning in determining where to place your districts.
Eureka!Civ 6 introduces the concept of "Eureka moments" where performing certain actions in the game will reduce the research cost of particular technologies. For example, founding a city on the coast will grant a “Eureka moment" in the Sailing technology.
Culture tech treeUnlike previous Civilization games, you don't only have one tech tree but two "tech" trees. I use inverted commas because one of the tech trees isn't a real tech tree but it works a lot like one: the other tech tree in the game is a culture tech tree where culture points you earn are used to unlock social policy cards (which can be used to customise your government). But wait! That's not all folks! The culture tech tree is also able to unlock wonders and even new units (e.g. the Privateer) so it's not as benign as you would initially think; it also means that civs that focus on culture aren't going to be at a complete disadvantage either as they're not neglecting the tech tree altogether, just one tech tree for another.
Governments are backIn previous Civilization games prior to Civilization V, you had the concept of different government types: from Civ 1 to Civ 3 they were quite distinct such as Monarchy, Fascism, Communism or a Republic. Civ IV introduced the concept of civics where you had a bit more customisation but you would still be able to choose a government based on those civics. Civ V got rid of government types altogether and you only had social policies which followed their own tech trees (although Brave New World did introduce "ideologies" which re-introduced the advanced government types of Autocracy (Fascism), Freedom (Democracy) and Order (Socialism)).
In Civ 6, you get the best of both worlds: as you progress through the culture tech tree you unlock new government types which opens up "card slots" for military policy, economic policy, etc. Any policy cards (which you also unlock using the culture tech tree) can then be used to customise your government type.
Warmonger penaltiesThis is yet another bone of contention if you ever decide to read the negative reviews for Civ 6: Dat warmonger penalty. In Civilization VI, you can receive significant warmonger penalties if you declare war against your neighbours for the wrong reasons. Surprise Wars and even Formal Wars tend to be frowned upon in later eras although wars where you liberate cities for your allies (for example) won't result in a warmonger penalty.
As a result, players who actually prefer a more peaceful game of Civ will actually find this beneficial to a degree since it's risky for a civilization to declare war without attracting universal condemnation from the rest of the world.
Steam Trading Cards and AchievementsThe game currently has 191 achievements to earn (but this number will no doubt increase with the release of the expansion pack next week, Rise and Fall). The game also has 8 Steam Trading Cards to collect.
It's worth noting that achievements with ridiculously hard prerequisites have returned including the below which is one of my favourites:
What I dislike:
BugsThe game was released with several bugs and missing features so playing Civ 6 was quite a frustrating experience for the first few months: the game didn't allow for teams in multiplayer, you weren't able to rename cities, you'd be unable to close notifications, it was impossible to find the best empire-wide trade routes at a glance (like you could in Civ V), ceding cities was bugged and the game would occasionally freeze thanks to Windows Defender.
Most of these bugs are now thankfully fixed and the missing features, implemented, but it's been a long wait and I still reckon the Steam overlay doesn't work properly with this game (just try Shift+Tabbing to open up a web browser in-game and you'll see what I mean).
Resource hungryI acquired Battlefield 1 and Civ 6 at around the same time: neither game ran particularly well on my old PC so I decided to upgrade to my current machine. While buying new hardware is a given when you decide to purchase the most recent games, I never expected that a Civilization game would be the reason; a first-person shooter perhaps, but not a turn-based strategy game!
Overcomplicated game mechanicsThe game does have some overcomplicated game mechanics that I think Civ V did better. For example, amenities (which was known as "happiness" or "luxuries" in every other Civilization game) is now not an empire wide affair but localised to the city that produces it, except when it's not. Apparently, amenities from luxury resources are automatically allocated to the cities that most need them but this means for the control freaks among you, you don't really know what's going on with your luxury resources – it's a black box affair. War weariness is another concept that isn't explained very well and neither is the concept of ceding cities; the civilopedia is probably the worst in the series since there have been many times I've tried searching for a concept but never finding an answer.
|This guy apparently likes civs that declare suprise wars. Seriously?|
Silly agendasThe AI leaders have "agendas" which is a mechanic that has been copied over from Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth in that they like your civ if you do things they respect but dislike you if you don't. While most of them seem to make sense, there are some agendas which will make conflict inevitable with particular civs.
Some agendas, such as Cyrus's dislike of civs that don't declare surprise wars, I've tried to address by promptly declaring a surprise war on him. I was disappointed when he didn't shower me with compliments despite trying to appease his agenda (hey, he didn't say I had to declare it on someone else!)
Notification spamWhile it's normal to receive notifications in Civ games, Civ 6 seems to take it to the extreme; in fact, by the end of the game your whole screen will be filled with notifications and usually about things that are inconsequential like an ally clearing a barbarian camp with a tank – I mean, do we really care?
Score – 8/10 (Recommended)While Sid Meier's Civilization VI has travelled a rocky road since release with respect to bug fixes, missing features and questionable design decisions, the game is still an enjoyable and worthwhile addition to the Civilization series. The game takes risks in introducing us to a whole bunch of new leaders, SimCity style districts, a culture tech tree, a beautiful soundtrack that evolves through the ages and Eureka moments. As Sean Bean says, "One does not simply take one more turn" when you're playing Civilization and this still rings true for Civilization VI.
Is the game worth $89.95 USD?: Yes. Despite it being just under $112 AUD (which seems like quite a lot) you get all the 6 DLCs that have been released so far (Vikings Scenario pack, Poland Civilization & Scenario Pack, Australia Civilization & Scenario Pack, Persia and Macedon Civilization & Scenario Pack, Nubia Civilization & Scenario Pack and Khmer & Indonesia Civilization & Scenario Pack) and the 25th Anniversary Digital Soundtrack. So that's quite a bit of value right there (and I was happy when I was only expecting four DLC and the soundtrack!)
If you like this game, you might like…
- SimCity 3000 (2000)
- Sid Meier's Civilization V: Brave New World (2013)
- Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth (2014)
[ LINK: Official Sid Meier's Civilization VI Website ]