TL;DR – South East Asia is here, and it is a wonderful addition to the game, also a powerful one to boot
Well, this is a pleasant surprise, when it was announced that we would be getting DLC for the South East Asian region I honestly was not expecting there to be two SEA civs in the game. Indeed, the first Civilization game to have two from SEA was only the last generation’s Civilization V and even then we had to wait for the DLC and two expansion packs before we got it. But I am so happy that we did both of them because both Khmer and Indonesia are fantastic additions to the game, because of their history and also for their civilization bonuses. So in today’s review, we are going to first look at the Autumn Patch that came along with the DLC, then take a moment to discuss the music, and then delve into both Khmer and Indonesia. Now, unfortunately, I just have not had the time to give the scenario a proper go, and I don’t think I will get the chance for a couple of weeks so I won’t be talking about it here. As well as this, this time around I still played on Huge, Continent style maps, but I did have to speed some of the games up faster than Normal speed this time around. Before we move on just a quick note that we have updated our Civilization Map (see here) and City Map (see here) to add Khmer and Indonesia.
So as has been the tradition with the Civilization VI DLCs, Firaxis has also used the chance to upload a new patch to the base game, so to start us off today we are going to take a moment to look at the changes in the 2017 Autumn Patch. The first thing we have to talk about is religion, because it got a big overhaul, the size you would usually see in an expansion pack. The first thing we see with religion is an overhaul to the UI and the religious lens in game. You can see where the religious pressure is coming from, a better breakdown of the religions of your cities, and how many turns till your cities flip. As well as this, hallelujah, the religious units are now on their own level, no more getting in the way, and military units can shoo them away without declaring war. All of these changes have made the religious side of the game so much more understandable for those who like to play it. As well as this, we have some new units, and beliefs, added to the game, to mix things up. I really liked the Guru, like a portable Holy Site to heal your units, and also Goddess of the Earth, which is the first Pantheon that I may go for over Divine Spark. There is also a new belief that gives you access to a Warrior Monk unit, however, in my games, I have yet to be able to grab it to test it out.
As well as the changes to the Religion mechanic, there were also some updates to the UI in other areas of the game. For me the best changes were to the diplomacy screen, with all the data being much easier to find and understand, also civilizations will ask to be in an alliance now. It would have been good if some of the more persistent issues like the build screen overlap would get fixed, and the Great Works menu is still a bit clunky, but at least they are not game breakers. We also got a new Natural and World Wonder with the DLC, Angkor Wat is a nice boost giving every city a population and housing as long as you remember to leave room next to your Aqueduct, and Ha Long Bay is a great natural wonder to build a city behind to get that extra layer of protection. There were also a ton of bug fixes in the patch which fixed a lot of the issues we saw in the Nubia patch (see review here). However, with all the fixes I have come across a rather large bug with regards to spawning locations. Several civilizations or city-states get spawned very close together, this leads to stunted growth, or indeed a big early rush if someone can bag all the nearby cities. Also, in some cases, they have been so close that city-states can’t settle, and get wiped out in turn one or two. At the time of writing there is no announcement on a hotfix, but hopefully, there is one soon and thankfully it does not happen every game. Another small thing I noticed is that goody huts seem to be a bit more generous, which is nice.
Before we get into the main civilizations, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the wonderful musical scores for the two new civilizations in the latest updates. Composer Geoff Knorr has mentioned that the Khmer music was based on the folk tunes off Khmer Rourm Sam Mawgee and Kawnsaing Snai, while Indonesia is based off Bapang Selisir and Rejang Dewa. It is really good to see them focus on these folk songs because it helps tell the story of the civilization. The Khmer theme has such a pulsating drive to it which really accentuates the different eras adding more layers to the soundtrack. Also, I would expect finding sources for the Khmer music was not an easy task. In some respects, I would say the Indonesian score is going for a brassier feel, with all the horns coming out to play in the Atomic era. One of the similarities between the two themes is the focus on percussion instruments, this gives a lightness to parts of the Indonesian score and more guttural oomph to Khmer’s. These musical scores were different to anything else we have gotten so far in Civilization, and I have had them playing as I wrote this article. Congratulations to Geoff and his team because they are stunning.
Now it’s time to jump into the two new civilizations in this DLC, so let’s start with Khmer, the civilization that is probably best suited to make the most out of the new religion changes. What is really interesting about Khmer is that when facing it as an opponent you can be damned if you do and damned if you don’t when that missionary swarm appears. All of Khmer’s missionaries get the Martyr ability, this means that to stop them stomping their way to a religious victory, you may be setting them up to win a culture victory instead. Add to this Khmer’s unique building the Prasat gets a bonus relic slot for them to fill and even if the AI does not go after your missionaries, you are still on track to win a religious victory. As well as this, Khmer has a number of bonuses that make it one of the first real civilization that could be described as tall¹, well at least so far, we’ll get to that in a bit. They get boosted Aqueducts which every city can build if you plan it well ahead of time. It is not a huge bonus, but if you can position them well you can get a good bonus to your food, though I think it would have been better if this was a unique district. Also, we got another culture bomb mechanic, I mean it is fine, but most of the time it hits mountain tiles, though the bonuses if you are next to a river are nice. Side note, ok can I say that it is a little weird that mountain tiles remain unusable throughout the game, at some point they should be usable/passable.
With regards to the leader choice, Jayavarman VII or Mahaparamasaugata to his friends, was a really interesting character in Khmer and world history. In many respects, he inherited a kingdom on the brink of collapse, as the Champa (a kingdom based out of the area around modern southern Vietnam) had invaded and sacked the then capital in Yasodharapura. This was usually the start of the end for ancient empires, because even if you get your capital back it inevitably creates a power vacuum that usually precipitates civil war continuing to weaken the empire and eventually leading to collapse and even invasion. But no Jayavarman was like ‘I’m having none of that please and thank-you’ recaptured the capital, stopped the infighting, established control over a breakaway province, then went and concurred the Champa back and expanded Khmer to new heights and ushered in a golden era for the civilization. Also, I almost forgot, they get elephant siege engines, that can move and shot, come on how great is that.
Now the second South East Asian civilization that was released in the DLC was Indonesia, and wow it is almost like Firaxis made a civilization that is designed to completely fit my playstyle. So I may have mentioned that Khmer was designed as a Tall¹ civilization, well Indonesia is that and more. As well as this, while we have had some naval civilizations so far (England, Norway etc.), Indonesia is our first real coastal civilization. I had thought that Australia’s Outback Station was the best unique tile improvement in the game, but wow do those Kampung’s blow everything out of the water. I have had huge population cities without needing building any neighbourhoods, indeed I have had cities in poor snow/tundra locations thrive. This is also important because no other civilization can build on normal coastal tiles, which makes Indonesia truly unique. This is supported by Indonesia’s other bonuses that all focus on that #CoastalLife. You get adjacency bonuses for a lot of the districts when they are next to the coast or lake tiles, which is nice, but you are not going to hit Australia levels unless you find that allusive 1-tile island. For me the nice bonus is that you get faith if your city centre is on the coast, which means that you will be the first, or in my experience at worst second, civilization to get a pantheon. Now you want to get that faith production going quickly because you can buy all naval units with faith, which I have found has come in handy when the AI attacks with its navy, which is something that actually happens now. However, with Indonesia there is a but, and it is a big but. If you are not on the coast you are stuffed, because all of their bonuses are focused on that coastal fringe, so if you spawn in the centre of a continent, you are going to have a bad day.
So Indonesia is led by Dyah Gitarja or Tribhuwannottunggadewi Jayawishnuwardhani, which let’s be honest is the name they should have picked if only to hear the developers try to pronounce it. In many respects we are not quite playing Indonesia, as that was a word that wasn’t in use at the time, instead, we are playing one of the precursor nations to today’s modern Indonesia called Majapahit. Dyah Gitarja is interesting because she was a regent governing for her son because her stepmother decided to go live out her life in a monastery, and then she had to abdicate when the stepmother died because she was ruling with her authority. This makes for an interesting ruling relationship, but unlike Catherine de Medici, Dyah Gitarja is listed as being a ruling Majapahit monarch, but that may be more to do with how we dismissively view ruling women in history. Under Dyah Gitarja Majapahit started it big surge across South East Asia, making it one of the biggest empires in the region’s history, also it is just good to see another great female leader in the game. Just a little bit of trivia Gajah Mada who was Indonesia’s leader in Civilization V was Dyah Gitarja and her successor Hayam Wuruk’s Prime Minister.
Overall I think I have to say, this might be my favourite DLC/Patch combination so far, and that is including the fact that I am Australian and we got an Australian DLC. We got two fascinating new civilizations, the patch fixed a number of the issues with the base game, and we got some of the best music I have heard in a game in a long time. The question is, is this the last DLC for the base game of Civilization VI or are we going to see more before the first expansion pack? I bring this up because North/South America and Africa could use some additions. But then those Mongols are still missing in action and the fandom will not rest until they see a Khan in some kind, I personally prefer my Khan’s to be Noonien Singh-ed, but I’ll take what I can get.
¹ This is referring to the gameplay divide that existed in Civilization V where some players preferred growing Tall, that is having only a couple of cities that you pimped out, while other preferred going Wide, trying to get as many cities as possible, basically the quantity v quality debate.
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.