TL;DR – Nubia is a great, if overpowered, addition to Civ VI, and the updates to the UI are really welcome, but the AI still needs some work.
So it has been a couple of months since we have been able to do one of these, but with the new Nubia DLC, and the accompanying patch, dropping it is time to delve back in to see how well they have created Nubia. So there are three components to the DLC, first is the Summer 2017 update, then the ‘Gifts of the Nile’ scenario, and finally the Nubian Civilization itself. So to put this review together I have played through the scenario once, and the base game a couple of times with Nubia, as well as trying them out on multiplayer. Also, because I was asked this question last time, all my games are played in the vanilla game (no mods), on the huge map setting, continents, with the difficulty set at King. If you want to read my other Civ VI articles, you can look at my review of Civilization VI, my look at Australia, Persia & Macedonia, and even Civ VI mapped out.
So let us get started with the Summer 2017 Patch because this affects everyone’s game, not just those who bought the DLC, or got it as part of the Digital Deluxe Pack. For me personally, this patch has really improved the game by fixing a lot of the little things that had become annoying. One of the facets of the game that can really get fiddly towards the end was trade route management, so the adding of the last route button, as well as changes that make it much easier to see where the trade route is travelling, and thus where the road will go was also appreciated. As well as this, a reset button, goodness I didn’t realise how much I have missed the reset button until I got to use it again.
One of the things the patch focused on were some much-needed balance changes. As time has gone on it had become apparent that some of the vanilla Civilizations were really underpowered compared to their siblings. So I was really glad to see some bonuses to both Norway and Spain, not only are these bonuses a much-needed boost, they are also thematically appropriate to each of the civilizations. Also while we are here, it was good to see Scythia and Kongo get a much needed nerf as well. There were a lot of other improvements, like giving more incentives to build better walls, and gold is much more freely available with changes to camps and quarries that make those grassland stone actually worth keeping around now, though maybe the gold is a bit too freely available. While these changes are good, one area where I feel there does need to be some more work on is some of the World Wonders, for example at the moment The Great Library’s bonus is almost useless because by the time it appears you have already researched all of the technologies it effects.
Another area affected by the patch is the AI of the computer players, but here it is more of a mixed bag. It is good to see enemies and barbarians be more proactive with privateers raiding the coastline. As well as this, diplomacy and trades feel a bit more organic, however, I have come across more than a few occasions where the AI would offer a trade that it already couldn’t accept which was odd. Now there have been some reports that the AI has become a bit too friendly in this patch, which in my experience I have seen it happen in a couple of my games, but I have also seen them be quite ruthless attacking other AI and me if they see a weakness. However, just in general it does feel like the AI’s command over military matter is still not quite there yet. Now another thing that seems to have happened with this patch is a couple of bugs have found their way into the final build. Now while in my play throughs I didn’t come across anything game breaking myself, I did notice some small things like the ‘I love Nukes’ firing in the ancient age, and some weirdness with the Eurekas. However, I do believe that it wrecked the game if you were using mods, which on the one hand is kind of expected with every update, but the severity of the fixes was a bit more than usual. If you want to see all of the changes you can look at all the patch notes here.
Now one of the additions with this DLC that I was really looking forward to was the ‘Gifts of the Nile’ scenario. I don’t play a lot of head to head games in Civilization, so this was a novel change up for me. In the scenario, I played as Egypt and you had to be aggressive right from turn one if you wanted to make the most out of your mercenaries. Given there was so much uncolonisable desert across the map barbarians were a constant problem until almost the end of the game, indeed often a camp would appear in the one tile I couldn’t see in the middle of my territory and all of a sudden you would have horsemen overwhelming a city before you can blink. In the end, I think it was Egypt’s ability to build on flood plains that gave me the edge even though I was fighting off wave after wave of invasions, including a surprise Roman onslaught. I’m not usually a fan of scenarios, as I prefer the base game, but this was a nice distraction, however, I can’t see myself trying to replay it to get a quicker finish. As well as the scenario, we also got the Jebel Barkal Wonder. Now it can only be built on desert hills, and gives a faith bonus to surrounding cities. It’s not really a must build wonder, even without limitation on placement, though it can be useful if you didn’t get any iron in your spawn area, in which case it could be very beneficial for you, if you have the desert hills to build it on.
Now we get to the most important part of the DLC/Patch and that is the addition of a newly playable civilization and this case the new civ, the 57th entry¹ into the franchise, is Nubia. So first we will look at the design of Nubia, and then we will take a look at implement in the game with regards to its bonuses. First, it is really good to see Firaxis starting to address one of the imbalances in the base game, which did start to look a bit odd once you see it. Of the twenty-four leaders in the game before this DLC, fourteen of them were from Europe, fifteen if you include Cleopatra and her Greek heritage. Indeed before Nubia we only had two African civilizations, Egypt and Kongo, which puts Civilization VI on par with the original Civilization I. However, the developers at Firaxis have stated that they are looking to address this imbalance and Nubia is a great first step. Now little bits of Nubia have appeared in the past on the Egyptian city list before but this is the first time we get to see them in all their glory and it is a really well-constructed civilization. Now the first thing we have to look at with Nubia is their leader Queen Amanitore, who I have to honestly say I didn’t know anything about before she was added to the game. She has a fascinating history repelling foreign invaders, and also as a grand builder, something I really like because it fits with how I like to play the game. I also like that they gave us something different with her design which is not something you usually see in Video Games and even Firaxis is not immune slipping into the absurd sometimes … Civ: Rev. With the soundtrack, I’m not a Nubian musical expert, but it does sound like a good rendition of Allah Musau. I found personally that I really enjoyed the theme when it was expanded on in the later eras, with the claps and strings.
However, it is Civilization and what you are here for is how it works as a civilization in the game, so let’s break down those bonuses. So with Nubia, their bonus go from the ‘meh’ to the ‘oh wow’, so we’ll be going through them in that order. So to start we have the Nubian Pyramids, which is Nubia’s unique map improvement. It can only be built on flood plains/desert/desert hills, gives +1 faith, and +1 of whatever district it is next to. I know it is meant to play into that district placement game, but I found I was building them more out of the fact that you can’t build on flat desert tiles so it was better than nothing. It gets a little bit better if you can build one next to your city centre which gives you +1 food and a bonus to District production, but even though Nubia is meant to get a desert bias I actually found that a lot of my games there was no desert to be found anywhere nearby, thank you reset button. Where things start to get a bit better is with Nubia’s bonus to district building, especially now that overall the build times have increased in the last patch, and also a bonus to mines over strategic/luxury resources. Both of these combine together to mean that you can actually get really productive cities churning out quite quickly.
Now all of these bonuses could be missing and Nubia would still be a must play civilization due to their final bonus, and that is to do with archery units. Straight off the bat, Nubia gets a 50% bonus to building ranged units, and bonus XP from battles for those units. This is powerful, but then combine that with Nubia’s unique unit the Pitati Archer and you get a powerful tandem bonus. The Pitati Archers are more powerful than normal archers, but they also get an extra movement point. This means that they can move out of harm, and still get to fire off a volley in most situations, and also with the XP bonus, I found I was up to the top level very quickly. In most of my games, I was able to quickly build a bunch of Slingers, buy upgrades to Pitati Archers because of the more money in the ecosystem, and then I was able to easily wipe out everyone on my continent. Indeed, there was a time when I was playing a multiplayer game where I started in a very bad location and it took four turns before I could found my capital city #DontQuitMultiplayerGamesBecauseOfABadStart. This would have been bad enough but then my capital got attacked by a horsemen barbarian horde that another civilization had triggered, but no they came after me, not them #WhyCantWeBeFriends. However, even with that setback I was able to punch out five Pitati Archers and go on a City State concurring spree to jump start my empire. Now in my play throughs, it was only those civs that got early chariots like Sumeria that we able to slow down my advance. Indeed, they are so good that upgrading them to crossbowman feels like a step back.
In the end, I think Nubia is a great addition to the game, if not a little overpowered. I think it is also great to see them in the game because over the years the Nubian culture has been systematically damaged and oppressed in modern Sudan by the government, who is currently lead by Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for directing the crimes that occurred in Darfur. So Nubia is well designed, has great bonuses, and is an addition to the game that when you read more about them you wonder why we are only seeing them now. Now we know that the next DLC pack and the final part of the Digital Deluxe Edition will be set in South East Asia and we will be back to see how well they are implemented, which SEA Civilization would you like to see added?, let us know in the comments below.
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 the Nubia DLC 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.
Credits – All images were created by the staff of Civilization
Lead Designer – Ed Beach
Lead Engineer – Ken Grey
Producers – Dennis Shirk & Sarah Darney
Art Director – Brian Busatti
Writing – Peter Murray
Music – Geoff Knorr, Phill Boucher, Roland Rizzo & Christopher Tin
Developer – Firaxis Games
Publisher – 2K
¹ Once again for those playing at home the Civilizations 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, Macedon, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, The Maya, Native Americans, The Netherlands (Dutch), Norway, Nubia, Ottomans, Persia, Poland, Polynesia, Rome, Portugal, Russia, Scythia, Shoshone, Siam, Songhai, Spain, Sioux, Sumeria, Sweden, Venice, The Vikings, & The Zulus
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.