After playing an unhealthy amount of the latest iteration of Sid Meier’s Civilization this past weekend, I’ve been left with a familiar “one more turn” addiction.
With a few hundred turns under my belt (many of them spent cursing the game’s unrelenting barbarian hordes), I’ve come to grasp the biggest changes introduced in Civilization VI.
Civilization VI is a major evolution of Civilization V: Brave New World, building on existing structures while making steps into fresh territory unexplored by previous Civilization titles.
The game feels new and exciting while retaining the familiar addictive gameplay of the series.
Firaxis has overhauled a number of the mechanics from Civilization V, including religion, culture, and espionage.
In most cases, these overhauled systems are a marked improvement over Civilization V and are interconnected in subtle and complex ways.
Ruling an Empire
One of the most noticeable changes in core gameplay has been the increased focus on terrain thanks to the addition of districts and housing.
Taking cues from other 4X games such as Endless Legend, Civilization VI has implemented a new district system, which adds another layer of strategy to city planning while retaining the familiar city structures of the previous game.
Building a district allows you to construct buildings specific to that district, such as constructing an Arena in an Entertainment Complex or a Library in a Campus district.
Districts are built on separate tiles too, meaning that you will have to plan your tile improvements carefully from the beginning in order to make the most out of your city’s districts and improvements.
Although they can be a bit difficult to figure out in the beginning, districts allow you to build both specialised towns and sprawling cities, allowing small empires to cram more buildings into their large cities while large empires can immediately begin directing cities towards a specific purpose.
Terrain features have also changed, with the addition of impassable cliffs and overhauled Natural Wonders, which look more impressive than ever and give bonuses to adjacent tiles.
Your choice of tile improvements and even the actions you take against barbarians and other civs can now be used to boost your progress towards scientific technologies, thanks to the new Eureka system.
This adds a level of planning to early game expansion, forcing you to consider the state of the map if you want to grow efficiently.
Another big change is the Civics system, which has replaced the old cultural systems of Civilization V.
Players now use Culture to learn Civics, which unlock new Governments and allow them to adopt new Policies.
Players can regularly switch Policies and Governments depending on which bonuses they require for their empire’s growth, although sticking with one Government for a decent amount of time will net you a permanent legacy bonus.
Governments and Policies strike a great balance between long-term and short-term governance, allowing you to change bonuses based on immediate challenges while building your empire to take advantage of your Government’s bonuses.
Civics also unlock certain buildings, districts, and abilities, making cultural growth important for even military and science-focused empires.
Religion works similarly to Civilization V with a few improvements, most notably the ability to win a religious victory by converting the majority of cities in all empires to your religion.
Religion is powerful in Civilization VI, and the addition of a religious victory allows for civilizations such as Russia to pose a real threat early on.
Civilization VI also adds cassus belli, which is a feature that was sorely missed from previous games.
Now you need a valid reason to declare a war on another civilization, unless you want to incur severe diplomatic penalties.
This also allows you to take back conquered cities or liberate city states without becoming immediately despised by the rest of the world.
The AI is still not perfect, but the addition of Agendas means they are goal-oriented and their actions are for the most part more logical and reliable than previous games.
Art and Music
I was initially hesitant about the change to a more colourful and less realistic graphics style, but coupled with the new fog-of-war art and animated leaders, it is thankfully more charming than cartoonish.
The clear unit and building differences make the map easier to read, which is helpful as the addition of stacked units, fleets, and armies has only increased the clutter on the playing field.
Most Civilization fans will argue that it is impossible for any in-game music to measure up to Civilization IV’s Baba Yetu, but Christopher Tin’s Sogni di Volare comes very close.
The piece translates to The Dream of Flight, and is the main theme for Civilization VI. It is also the score that plays over the game’s fantastic launch trailer.
Overall, the game has its share of bugs and minor UI issues, but nothing that detracts from its well-crafted and invigorating gameplay.
Civilization VI includes everything players loved from Civilization V: Brave New World, filters out redundant gameplay mechanics, and intertwines new and existing concepts into a highly-addictive and complex game.
While it is a little rough around the edges in some places, Civilization VI is quickly becoming my favourite game of the series.