"Civilization VI" Review: Standing the Test of Time
The Civilization franchise is widely considered to the benchmark against which all over 4X (explore, expand, exploit and exterminate) strategy games have been measured against. The series continues to hold that lofty position with the release of its latest numbered entry, “Civilization VI.” Like every entry before it, “Civilization VI” improves on the series’ formula while also adding new wrinkles that freshen up the addictive “one more turn” gameplay.
As with every Civilization game, players take control of one of many different nations, often represented by a notable person from that nation’s history, and attempt to guide their nation from ancient beginnings to modern times. With every turn that passes, players build units and cities, research technologies and attempt to achieve one of several different kinds of victory conditions, whether it be total military domination or being the first to launch an interstellar rocket. It’s a familiar gameplay loop that Firaxis Games successfully adds a new layer upon with the introduction of a few new mechanics.
The most significant change in the Civilization formula is the addition of city “districts.” In previous entries, a city is represented by a center hex around which the borders of the city grow, and every building is built in that center hex. In “Civilization VI,” hexes within the city borders can be allocated to specialized districts that give certain bonuses based on placement and its adjacency to other districts or terrain features.
The addition of districts means that not every city will grow in the same fashion, as the terrain will often restrict or encourage certain districts and buildings. Additionally, the limited amount of hexes also means that not every city can be good at everything, and space must be allocated with care. The effect is that city planning is far more involved and requires more strategic planning or specialization to be effective. This is good because it forces players to adapt to new situations. But it also means that players will need a far better sense of foresight because they’ll need to know what to do, or not do, at the moment in order to leave themselves space or resources in later turns.
There are other differences that subtly change the way the game will feel to Civilization veterans. There is a small, technical change to the way units move that will make military units feel slower. This change also magnifies the usefulness of the new ability to combine military units with non-combat units into one single unit. Builders, once the automated build-everything units of previous games, are now limited-use units that must be carefully used for maximum effect before they are used up. Roads are now automatically built by trade caravans, increasing their utility and necessity while also highlighting the loss of the ability to manually build roads yourself. At least the enemy AI seems more reasonable and predictable, as they now possess readable “agendas” that guide their behaviors and give the player insight into how an action might influence diplomatic relations.
The addition of districts and the many smaller changes to “Civilization VI” breathe new life to an old and faithful formula. Now let’s see if you can build a civilization to stand the test of time.