TL;DR – This is a fantastic entry into the series, and it had its One More Turn hooks into me from the start, beautiful music and art, solid gameplay, however, there are a couple of small issues with some systems and UI
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
So here we are and the year of 4X continues, and this time it is the granddaddy of all 4X, the next entry into the Civilization franchise. Now I am probably ageing myself here, but I have played every entry in the series so far from Civ1’s square everything and Palace that you could build, all the way to Civ5’s One-Unit-Per-Tile shake up and I have loved each entry. However, Firaxis’ last game Beyond Earth, while having some interesting ideas, left many people feeling more than a little meh, and while its one expansion pack Rising Tide [See Review] really improved the game, it left me and others wondering could they pull off a sequel to their flagship franchise? Well not to jump ahead, but can they even, Civilization 6 got its hooks into me right away, to the point I think I am done with Civilization 5 and I have (now this is a judgment-free space, I won’t judge you from watching every episode of Gilmore Girls if we just gloss over the next bit) over 1500 hours in that game. That’s not to say Civ 6 doesn’t have its issues, because it does, but most of them are minor compared to everything they get right.
So to put this review together I have played a number of games as the Romans, Germans and Japanese across both single and multiplayer and I think at this point I have interacted with every Civilization in the game, from Catherine ‘I will ruin all your nice things with my spies’ de Medici, to Qin ‘we will never be friends cause I build all the wonders’ Shi Huang. However, I think it is a testament to the game that even after all that, I am hesitant to call this a review and not a first look because it will take several playthroughs to see everything, but after many late nights this weekend I think I have seen enough to give my general impressions of the launch build.
So I can remember the day that Civ 6 was announced, it was midnight here and it caught everyone off guard as there had been no leaks in the build-up. So I immediately started pouring over the information of the unstacked cities and all the new features of Civ6, and then you got to the bottom of the page and they had some screenshots. Well, it was like some sort of emotional whiplash, as they looked so bad, some cartoony, Clash Of Clans-ish nonsense. But here I have to say I was so wrong because this game is beautiful, I mean a number of times I have had to stop because I was admiring a glorious vista, I mean I did not expect to see that. The leader animations are superb, sure they are exaggerated but they all work so well with the voices to make them incredibly engaging, I mean you almost don’t care when Phillip denounces you or when Harald Hardrada declares war (ok maybe not this one as you then have a surge of Berserkers waiting for you). This in-game terrain is exquisite, I mean I would like a bit more verity with the forests, and some in-game delineations between continents, but like look at that image above, the idea to put a day/night cycle in Civ 6 was ingenious, and if you have not turned it on I highly recommend you do. All the little unit animations are fantastic, sure when you see religious combat it is a bit silly, but when that last builder finishes a mine with the power of his shovel you can’t help but feel ‘you go you little beauty’. Also while I was a big fan of the wonder paintings from Civ 5, I am glad to see victory movies are back in Civ 6, nothing was more anticlimactic than you hitting end turn and a still image pops up saying you won. Just from a visual perspective Civ 6 is a marked improvement on Civ 5, and indeed all its predecessors, but, and this is always important, fancy graphics a good game, but it can really help with the immersion.
The music, I mean the music, just listen to it, I mean wow, this is the best music in a Civilization game and indeed this is the best music I have ever heard in any strategy game. The music starts as a single instrument in the ancient era, and as the game continues it expands until the end when you get a full orchestra. This is such an impressive way of subtly reinforcing the progression of time in the game, and as you meet new civilizations you get to hear parts of their music creating such an engaging experience. I cannot recommend the music enough, hell it is hard not to just leave the main menu open and sit there absorbing the epicness of Christopher Tin’s Sogno di Volare play. Look Baba Yetu has and always will have a special place in my heart, and indeed in gaming history, but this new theme is just captivating, and for me music is one of the most important parts of my engagement with a video game, movie etc, and it is rare for a video game soundtrack to capture me like this. Look you don’t have to take my word for it Firaxis put all 4 and ½ hours of it up on their YouTube Channel just click and listen along. Also, you can’t go wrong with Sean Bean narrating your game, even if he does survive all the way to the end.
So when it comes to the gameplay mechanics in this review I’m not going to go through and explain every mechanics of the game per se unless I am critiquing it, but instead, I’m going to give a broad stroke overview. One of the big problems with Beyond Earth was that all the leaders started to blur together as there was nothing really to separate them, well that’s not an issue with Civ 6 as every civilization gets a unique civilization bonus, a unique unit, and unique building, and a unique leader ability (which will make the inevitable multi-leader civs quite interesting). All these bonuses really feel like they link into the character of the Civilization or their leader, but I would say Mvemba a Nzinga’s leader ability probably goes too far in this regard. This means there is a lot to keep track of, and then combine this with every city state getting a unique bonus and every single great leader also having a unique bonus, and well Civ 6 does not hold your hand as much as previous entries. This creates a very interesting dynamic where each playthrough is going to be different as you are going to meet different leaders, different city-states, different great people. While most of it is balanced quite well I do feel the unique districts are by far more powerful than the other unique buildings and tile improvements, as in the game normal districts are population dependent, however, unique districts are free to build, so Rome will have an aqueduct in the vast majority of its cities but it will be difficult for Arabia to build a Madrassa in every one of theirs unless they plan it from the start. Also Buenos Aires your bonus is amazing.
It is nice to see diplomacy get a bit of an overhaul, I mean all the Civilizations still end up hating you (Not you Gilgamesh, you’re cool, #SuperBro) but this time round, you at least know why they hate you and it is fun to play them off against each other. As well as this, it is good to see a reduction in the spam diplomatic messages during turn processing, no Lizzie I don’t care if we are friends of friends, most of the time now they are still relevant, most of the time. As much as there was a lot made of the new Cassi Belli system, I have not really gotten to use it that much in my playthroughs.
I did get a chance to play a couple of games in multiplayer, and generally, it all holds up quite well, we did have one player drop out but that seemed to be an issue with their graphics card drivers that an update/reset fixed. The turn times seem ok, and I liked the option of both a turn timer and dynamic turn timer for later in the game when you have more stuff. One thing, there was a missed opportunity, you have the Steam friends list in the multiplayer page, but no option to join their game. Also just in general, it feels like Civ 6 does not gel with the Steam overlay as well as it should.
While generally speaking I really enjoyed the updates and changes to the systems from Civ 5, there was some areas that I don’t think worked as well. Firstly, I don’t think the upgrade from global happiness to local amenities works as well. Part of this I think is that the UI does not do a good job of showing the important issues unless you go digging, and part of it is that I think the system just does not work as well as the global happiness of Civ 5 at the moment. On the subject of the User Interface, this is one area that Civ 6 does need some work, a lot of these things are minor but they combine together to be a bit annoying. For example, to clear notifications you have to have your mouse perfectly in the right spot to open them so you can clear them, it took forever to realise that you could delete things in the diplomacy panel by right clicking on them, it is hard to see information on wonders once you have built them, also in the Tech tree, most techs give a bonus like bonus food from farm adjacency, but a lot of these are hidden somewhat, in Civ 5 when this happened they had a little star in the Tech entry to let you know what it did. While I love the idea of government and adding policy cards that you slot into place, that whole screen becomes a mess as the game goes on and you get policies thrown at you and the pile just builds up. Also as a system, the culture/tourism/great works of art etc interplay feels a bit stilted compared with Civ 5, I always ended up having a pile of Great People laying around with nowhere to put them. Also, the great work interface is a bit frustrating, and the tourism factor needs to be integrated better.
While there are some issues with Civ 6, thankfully they are all minor and don’t stop your immersion with the game or indeed your fun. I’m having a real ball with Civilization 6, it has its hooks into me like no other 4X game does. The best thing I can say is that it sucks you in with its One More Turn gameplay, on the first day I got it I looked up and noticed it was 3am and I had no idea how late it was, so while Civ 6 might not be good for my productivity in any way shape and form, I honestly don’t care. So if you will excuse me, I need to go back to my Russia game because Teddy is blocking my expansion and I have cities to found.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you played Civilization?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Lead Designer – Ed Beach
Lead Engineer – Ken Grey
Producers – Dennis Shirk & Sarah Lynn
Art Director – Brian Busatti
Music – Geoff Knorr, Phill Boucher, Roland Rizzo & Christopher Tin
Developer – Firaxis Games
Publisher – 2K Games
Disclosure – I am a moderator in the site Civfanatics of which several staff and players are members of the ‘Frankenstein Testing Group’, Firaxis Games internal play testing team. I am not part of this team nor do I have any links with Firaxis Games or 2K.