TL;DR – So how well does Civilization 6 capture Australia with its new entry? Struth, it’s a ripper of a new Civ.
Civilization is one of the pioneers of the strategy genre a series that has lasted six iterations, numerous expansions, and last year on its 25th anniversary launched the next entry into the franchise Civilization 6 (See Review). Since its release, there have been new Downloadable Content (DLC) released and this week it was announced that the next civilization to be added would be Australia. So Australia joins the large and expansive franchise as the 55th civilization¹ ² to be added, but the question remains: Is it any good? And then also is it a good representation of Australia? These are the question we will be looking at. Now there were three components of the Australia update The Australian civilisation, The Outback Tycoon scenario, and Uluru natural wonder, and we will be touching on all of these facets throughout this analysis.
Adding Australia was actually quite a controversial pick as it brings into question the notion of what we mean by ‘Civilization’, and can a modern post-colonial nation-state be considered a civilization? Well for many the answer is no, with people expressing sentiments like “Australia seriously? I guess it’s a pure marketing decision” on the popular Civfanatics forum, as well as the Civilization sub-Reddit. However, is it something we can even define, that line between what makes something a civilization and something, not a civilization, well even the game does not quite know where it is. For example it has had the civilization of India in every iteration that is meant to represent the multitudes of races, nations, and empires that have existed on the Indian sub-continent, but then it has also had Germany and the Holy Roman Empire in the same game, or in one iteration there is The Native American civilization and in other iterations of the game we get the Shoshone and the Sioux. So given that any definition of what a civilization is will probably be problematic, and given the context of the game, we’ll work on the following definition – ‘A civilization in a Civilization game is whatever the developers want it to be’
Now of course while we will be talking about Australia as being a new civilization, it has sort of appeared before in previous games of Civilization, Sydney and Melbourne were City States in Civilization 5, The Great Barrier Reef and Uluru have appeared as natural wonders in Civilization 5, The Sydney Opera House has appeared as a world wonder in Civilization 5 and 6, and Australia did make an appearance in the spin-off Civilization Beyond Earth (See Review) as part of the sponsor Polystralia (Commonwealth of the Pacific), and an Australia-focused civilization that also included New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia and The Philippines. As well as this there have been mods that have added Australia, and many of the Indigenous peoples of the continent to the game, but these are not official additions. However, while these exist, it has never appeared as a full civilization in its own right until now, and since that is the name of the game, we’ll be focusing on its release now.
So let’s start by first looking at the gameplay bonuses to answer the question – Is the Australian Civilization any good? For my money, it is now one of the stronger civs in the game, as long as you are in the right situation. If you start a city near cattle, sheep and horses, you will have a huge benefit from both the culture boom you get for building a pasture as well as the agency bonus from Australia’s unique improvement the Outback Station. Indeed, there is no reason you would not build an Outback Station on any desert tile you have, turning desert into a productive terrain, also all the fences join together to make one combined station, and you have no idea how amazing that is, it’s one of those things you wish had been possible for the polders in Civilization 5. The bonus for housing on the coast is a good help at the start of the game to get a city going where you don’t have a river, and a bit of a powerhouse if you can get a city next to the mouth of a river. Another situation bonus but quite powerful is the bonus production for certain districts if you build them on high appeal tiles, this gives Australia a super head start if you can position them well (Editors Note: The Appeal bonus was reduced at a later patch which makes the bonus a little less over powered). Also given how war-prone the AI is, that bonus production you get is going to appear over and over again. Overall Australia is an all-rounder civ, and a powerful one at that, and one you can position to any of the victory conditions. So should you play as Australia, yes, if for nothing else you should play it for its music which might be my favourite from the entire series so far, sorry Scarborough Fair, but it was fun while it lasted?
So we have answered the question of is Australia a powerful civ, as far as the game mechanics go, but another thing we have to analyse is how well they got the representation of the country and its very complex nature. Unlike say Rome or India which has had six games of past experience and traditions, there is nothing really here binding Firaxis to any particular interpretation, which gives them free reign when decided Australia’s mechanics. That being said the first thing to mention is that the developers have picked a very specific snapshot of Australia to use as the basis of their interpretation here, which is WW2 Australia. This was a really smart choice by Firaxis, as it was a turning point for the country and a defining moment that had a wealth of information to draw upon. Though this does lead to some odd choices, like John Curtin really, John Curtin not Menzies, ok sure whatever, but seriously. Overall it presents a really good snapshot of colonial Australia: taming the land, being focused on the coast, fighting British wars, colonising the interior, but there is clearly something missing here, and that was that there were people living here before the British arrived.
Now, this being said the developers actually do a really good job of giving a clear depiction of the history of the colonisation/occupation of the Australian continent in the civilopedia, it even throws some real shade in its entry on Uluru at the ridiculousness of naming something that already had a name. However, there are still some really problematic things that can be found throughout the game. While it was good to see the game layout that people existed before the British arrived, it does not help that at times they are referred to as ‘natives’ or that they ‘lived in a timeless, magical realm of the Dreamtime’. Now it was clear what the developers were trying to say, that the Indigenous population had a vibrant and unique culture, but the way they phrased it was not great here. While poor phrasing in the civilopedia might not be an issue for some, there were other issues with actual elements of gameplay. In the ‘Outback Tycoon’ scenario, the aim is to colonise the continent and exploit its resources, with the winner being the Australian state with the most gold per turn at the end of the game (bar Tasmania, which is hilariously missing from the map). However, there is no acknowledgement that this land belongs to someone else, nothing to challenge the player, instead the Indigenous peoples are relegated to being random events like “Fruitless Discourse With Aboriginals” event. The scenario is not as bad as say basing a whole game around colonisation whilst glossing over or ignoring everything the colonists did, but it is the safe option. Though it gets more problematic when one of the policy cards you can use is called ‘Terra Nullius’, which you can slot in without really understanding the weight and damage that legal term did. Now in interviews the developers have stated that they didn’t add Indigenous elements to the Australian civ to give them space to potentially add an Indigenous Australian civ in the future, and I really hope that they do, and I can sympathise with wanting to take the safe option, but this was an opportunity that Firaxis could have used to challenge the player like Spec Ops The Line, which was missed.
Look there are a couple of issues with how Firaxis depicted Australia in Civilization, but it is clear that they put a lot of time and effort has gone into researching the history and the culture of our great country. I literally laughed out loud when the achievement for losing an explorer in the Outback Tycoon scenario was called ‘Drop Bear’, and the list goes on with references to Bunyips, yabbies, funnel web spiders and more. Also, as an Australian, it is just nice to hear all our city names being pronounced correctly on the live streams. A lot of care and attention has gone into creating the Australian civilization and that’s really great to see. Also the music, yes I have already mentioned it but it demands being praised for the second time.
In the end, there will be some people who won’t pick up Australia because it is DLC and that is completely fair, but Australia is a worthy addition to the game. Also, it is super fun to play as Waltzing Matilda tunes along with you, Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, You’ll come, a-waltzing Matilda, with me, And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled: “You’ll come, a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”
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 Australia yet?, 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.
¹ It could also be the 52nd depending on how you class the relationship between The Vikings and Demark/Norway, and also how you categorise The Native American Civilization & The Holy Roman Empire
² For those playing at home the Civilization currently released across the franchise are: America, Arabia, Assyria, Australia, Austria, Aztec, Babylon, Brazil, Byzantium, Carthage, Celts, China, Denmark, Egypt, England, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Hittite, Holy Roman Empire, Huns, Inca, India, Indonesia, Iroquois, Japan, Khmer, Kongo, Korea, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, The Maya, Native Americans, The Netherlands (Dutch), Norway, Ottomans, Persia, Poland, Polynesia, Rome, Portugal, Russia, Scythia, Shoshone, Siam, Songhai, Spain, Sioux, Sumeria, Sweden, Venice, The Vikings, &The Zulu
Lead Designer – Ed Beach
Lead Engineer – Ken Grey
Producers – Dennis Shirk & Sarah Darney
Art Director – Brian Busatti
Music – Geoff Knorr, Phill Boucher, Roland Rizzo & Christopher Tin
Developer – Firaxis Games
Publisher – 2K
Disclosure – I am a moderator on the site Civfanatics of which several staff and players are members of the ‘Frankenstein Testing Group’, Firaxis Games internal playtesting team. I am not part of this team nor do I have any links with Firaxis Games or 2K.