This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version, however it is also available for PC.
It’s back, the franchise that basically held me captive as a kid. I didn’t have time for any game other than it, and now available on my favourite console. Im talking about Sid Meier’s Civilization, a game that has done so much for the culture of RTS. This time in its sixth edition and an edition that’s sparked a lot of controversy. Some love it, others hate it. Its time to hear my opinion, the only real opinion, some nerd on the internet’s opinion.
I don’t think I can stress how exciting it is for me to be able to play Civilization once again. As someone who only games on a console, I could only dream of playing Civilization. The last time I got to play Civilization on a console was when I first got introduced to the game on the Xbox 360 with Civilization Revolution, a basic entry but an entry I absolutely adored. After that it was onto bigger and better things with Civ 5 and ohhh was that game a masterpiece in my eyes. Its up there in my top five games I’ve sunk the most time into and it’s handled the test of time as I can still enjoy it today.
So for me, I was unsure how you could improve on the format that Sid Meier had down to an art. But they’ve done it. As I jump from Civ V to Civ VI I can honestly say that in the short amount of time that I’ve had with this game, there are quality of life improvements that just make the game as a whole run a heck of a lot better. The foundation is still there but the games been built so that it not only streamlines the gameplay in a way that will help new players but also rewarding those who can take advantage of the systems. It benefits everyone in my eyes and to put it bluntly, just has a lot more character.
Civilization VI sticks to the tried and true formula that doesn’t need to change. It starts you off with a small civilization in the past at the beginning of its settlement and you have to manage it as it grows and overflows across a sprawling map until you’re in the future years, either dominating the globe or being crushed under the heel of some other superpower civilization. Everything in between these two points in time is up to you though, what your society focuses on, who you make alliances with, or how you want to be remembered. Will you be a civilization of wisdom as you battle through the sciences and win the space race? Are you a country that has an eye for the arts and more in tune with the culture of your civilization? Or do you want everyone to beg for mercy as you go on a warpath destroying anyone in your way. That’s always been the most fun part of the game for me, figuring out how I want to lead my empire. Especially when you look at all the different choices for leaders, each with their own unique perks and buffs. My favourite was always Ghengas Khan, but making him the peace loving cultural type. The world is at your fingertips with this game, literally.
The basis of this game’s character is built from its beautifully crafted art style. As im not very artsy, artstyle and graphics aren’t usually my starting talking points for why a game is good but I couldn’t help but begin here. The visuals in this game are fantastic and popping with colour, as you expand your nation the world around floods with colour giving a really nice visual indication of where you reign. When you don’t have any troops or cities in other territories the colour fades away and resides to a washed out map look which in my opinion is amazing and incredibly fitting for the game. I understand where people have been criticising the game, as sometimes it makes it hard to distinguish what’s in the washed out area as small details are harder to see but to me that’s the penalty of not having forces in that area. I just love the way as your empire grows and as you build alliances the map begins to sprawl out with colour, to me it’s a win and the overall “old timey map” aesthetic for the map is a fitting addition.
Its not only the map that looks good but also the leaders themselves have had a visual upgrade. The avatars for the leaders have always been interesting and looked nice in their own right but this time they went above and beyond. They all look so expressive and animated, I adore it. I had noticed this but it wasn’t until they released the trailer for Kupe the leader of the Māori civilization (Can’t contain how hyped I am that there is a Māori rep in Civilization). Kupe’s trailer blew me away with just how he looked as he preformed a Haka, It was amazing to see the effort that has been taking to bring these leaders to life. This little Haka at the end of the trailer made me appreciate just how much effort gets put into respecting each culture. This has been the case with every Civilization game but this entry has leaders with more unique buffs and units making the choice of who you play as even more crucial. Each player is entirely unique and how they play on the map reflects that. Different characters prioritise different resources or terrains and each leader has 4-6 unique traits that all influence just how you play. Its really beneficial if you take the time to learn the character your going to play and this entry more than ever I think you’ll be likely to have a main leader you stick with.
Now what have they changed or added in Civ 6 to make it more appealing? Well in my eyes, Civilization VI is a more balanced and fluid game. What I mean by that is that throughout the course of a play through, there are no luls in the enjoyment factor for me. I can’t talk on how balanced it is in terms of leaders (I’m sure like all Civ games, there are good ones and bad ones) but in terms of how balanced the game is for overall enjoyment throughout your play through, it does this better than ever before. This is in part due to its new science and culture system and the addition of eureka moments. Eureka moments are Civ’s mechanic for that light bulb that pops up over your head when something sparks a brilliant idea. How this works is like the previous linear science tree, as you go to research new sciences they show you a mini quest underneath them. For example, at the start of the game you begin with a ranged unit called a slinger, but if you get a single kill with the slinger it triggers a Eureka moment for Archery. This cuts the time in which it requires to research Archery in half. This creates interesting play styles and miniquests throughout the game where your focus in the game will switch so that you can drastically reduce the research time of longer sciences catapulting you forward in the game. That’s why I think this is good for both new players and veterans. Veterans can use this to their advantage and choose paths based on what they know they can accomplish and new players can just get the satisfaction and enjoyment out of trying to complete these quests and save time.
Another addition is the switch from giant cities with all buildings stacking up inside the main city tile to the new feature of district tiles. What this does is it makes every tile your city controls a choice. In old Civilization games, you’d get a worker and work him hard as you make every tile either a farm, a mine, or an upgrade to a resource. This meant you had little to no choice as there was always an obvious best pick for the tile regardless of other factors. This time, a lot of the buildings that used to be cooped up in the city tile now take up possible farm space. You build science districts, Culture districts, market districts and even wonders now cost a tile space (no more pyramids being built in the ocean). This means that you have to constantly micromanage and make hard choices over what your empire really needs. Positioning is also crucial as districts get bonuses depending on what they are adjacent to, so having desert (which used to be a waste of a tile in past games) is now not as much of a hindrance if you can get good bonuses from it. I like this change and it makes every city different even if they are in the same empire, you could have one city built around mountains which is good for science while you have other cities disregarding science and focusing more on generating gold. Districts are a hit to me and have brought new strategy to an already very strategic game.
Lastly I can’t get through this entire review without talking about the real way they completely switched this game up. By bringing it out on the Switch. That’s right, not giving the Switch a dumbed down version of Civ like the 360 got when I was a kid but the real, entire version. It looks amazing, plays as well as on PC minus a few frame rate drops and the occasional frustration with the controller but these are all things I can look past. Especially when they give it full touch controls which make a breeze to handle and almost nicer in ways. Touch controls and controller in tandem makes playing Sid Meier’s Civilization VI in handheld mode the way to go. The way it plays so smoothly on a console and a Switch console at that is amazing. The team have put a lot of effort into reforming the way the game plays and is laid out so that console gaming is just as enjoyable as PC gaming which is a huge stride since their past attempts.
This is an amazing step in the journey that has been Sid Meier’s Civilization and to me is one of the best entries yet. Past fans might not be so ready to jump on board and may continue to think previous iterations were superior but regardless, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI has made improvements. Whether its in its art style, or its gameplay, or its transition to console gaming. Its not a massive jump or complete restart in the franchise but it is far enough away to be recognised as different and innovative while still staying faithful to what has made this game great all this time. There are slight issues with how it runs but these issues are merely annoyances rather than problems with the game and that’s why this is a Switch game that any strategy lover should definitely purchase.