Review: Civilization VI
Out since October 21, Firaxis and 2K Games’ prized 4X strategy game is back to the roots, with Sid Meier’s Civilization VI putting you once again in the shoes of a leader, as you build an entire civilization. This new installment is a major facelift in the franchise, with changes everywhere, from the game mechanics to even the art style. So is Civilization VI the best 4X strategy game of the past decade? The answer is probably yes.
As soon as you start a game, you’ll be shocked with one very immediate thing: the graphics. Firaxis has totally changed the artistic style of the saga, and in the better way. Originally, both the scenery, buildings, units, all had this very realistic style, painted with a cold tone. Civilization VI now shows a tanned complexion as if it enjoyed a fine summer vacation, with a sort of cell-shading style (if not even cartoonish) that will seduce even the most reluctant players. Although most veterans (including myself) might not like it at first (especially when we were used to the serious tones of Civilization V), Firaxis has at least the merit of innovating, and topped with an amazing soundtrack, Civilization VI looks and sounds great.
While the fact that some of you played the previous titles in the saga will allow you to more easily assimilate new game mechanics, beginners will not be lost since the game is very well explained. Like every episode, you can activate at the start of each session a game advisor (whether you are new to the series or just Civilization VI) to guide you gently as you solidify your reign.
For Civilization VI, in addition to a brand new tech tree designed from scratch, is the comeback of the religion tree, to add more depth to the management of your influence, instead of just juggling technologies and social doctrines like in Civilization V. Dogmas are now unlocked via your culture points obtained throughout the game, and each one will help you access new facilities, buildings, districts (I’ll talk more about those later on) but also doctrine cards. The later can be used in your “Government” tab and activate bonuses that are split into four types: Military, Economic, Diplomatic and Wildcards. Depending on the picked government (monarchy, democracy, republic…), you will have access to more or less of each type of card slots. It’s up to you to choose carefully how to pick your weaknesses or refine your strengths.
The true innovation and core element of this new Civilization VI lies in a new layer which are districts. As soon as your city has enough citizens, you can then activate a node within your area of influence, and erect a district, which can be a religious, military, scientific, economic, industrial, port, cultural or entertainment one. These sectors are now the pillars of your cities, and will help you also direct another city to have its own orientation. In my first playthrough (always a the French civilization), my capital Paris was focused on having defensive walls and expand its military district, while Marseilles handled the industrialization advancement of my civilization, allowing it to develop faster. This is the true strength of Civilization VI, something that previous titles tried to do but failed sadly. Although some civilizations draw their strength from some districts, nothing prevents you from breaking the rules, and push your cities to a greater destiny. However, only your city-centers and the military district can defend themselves, while others only serve to shelter your buildings and iconic people.
Unlike its predecessor, Civilization VI also offers more freedom during the beginning of your game. Less punitive, especially when going against a difficult IA, Firaxis’s new title allows you to try out things for yourself without getting punished for a silly mistake. But if your expansion gets too fast or too big, you’ll have the trouble to manage your neighbors, which will not hesitate to slow down your pace by means of war (the AI is not smarter when in comes to battles by the way). But generally, it is the number game that wins the battles and not by a brilliant strategic maneuver. When it comes to traveling across the map, that feature has been modified. Your units have less mobility than before, and your trusty scouts will need to be improved to go through forests, hills or jungles.
Now obviously, you will not be alone in wanting to become the greatest civilization of all time. Other leaders will emerge more or less close to you, and can end up being friendly or hostile. This is where the developers have listened to their fans, and improved neighbor or ally relationship, which you can now choose to accept their request, refuse or simply ignore them (more useful than it seems in some case). In addition to a declaration of friendship, you can form an alliance with them, which will be helpful once you go to war, since you’ll have allies. The dialog interface is also improved, and make more sense in understand how to regain their favor.
There is so much more to say about Civilization VI, but after the failure that most fans saw in of Civilization: Beyond Earth (although I quite enjoyed it if you read my review), it is important to ease the doubts of veterans and let them know that the license is back in force. While I’m happy most of the different victories are back, I’m sad to see the diplomatic one has been removed. The latter wasn’t greatly designed in Civilization V, but it is a shame not being able to win a game only through alliances and diplomacy, and ultimately found the United Nations. Instead we are entitled to a major extension to the whole religious system of the game and the introduction of a religious victory upon conversion of the rest of the world to your faith, with the help of missionaries, religious fighter and inquisitions. In some way, I hope that Firaxis concocts the return of diplomatic victory for future expansion, a game potentially primed for DLCs, for better or for worse.
Civilization VI was reviewed using an PC downloadable copy of the game provided by 2K Games. The game was tested on a PC running Windows 10 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 960 fitted on a 5th Generation Intel i7 4720HQ 3.2Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• Civilization V but just way better
• Rich gameplay and very deep mechanics
• Another successful visual identity
• The discover and new wonders on the map
• The new government and doctrines system
• The city districts adds a whole layer of management
• Sean Freakin' Bean as the game's narrator!
• No UN or diplomatic victory
• An often incompetent AI
• The later turns can get boring
• Interface can be a bit too cluttered