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Civilization 6 review

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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Deep, engrossing strategy from start to finish
  • Fantastic presentation and personality
  • Great new additions to the fundamental mechanics
  • Refinements and improvements make all of its existing mechanics even better

Cons

  • Religion can be a little spammy

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Key Features

  • Developer: Firaxis
  • OS: Windows
  • Release date: October 20th 2016
  • Manufacturer: 2K Games
  • Review Price: £50.00

Civilization VI is the best in the series to date. That’s no mean feat for a franchise with such a revered lineage, but the changes, refinements and additions that developer Firaxis has made create a game that’s not only complex and deep; it’s fun, exciting and unpredictable over the course of dozens of hours of play.

Despite its various changes, this is still undoubtedly Civilization. You still establish cities, expand an empire and grow an army. You continue to research scientific and cultural upgrades in order to plot a custom-made path through history, all the way from the ancient era to the space-age. Diplomacy, religion, trading it’s all here at launch, making for the most feature-packed Civilization game, perhaps ever.

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Civilization 6

It’s the most beautiful, too. I’m sure it’ll divide opinion, but a more colourful and cartoonish art style brings more character than ever before. Its great voice acting, wonderfully emotive animations and some fabulous character design gives every single world leader a sense of real personality, and the map itself is just as gorgeous. A day/night cycle and subtle little movements bring each tile, district and civilisation to life, from the way the ocean laps against the shores to the glinting gold of a sunset on the river that bisects your empire.

This extends to the minutiae details, from the way the glow from your lighthouses reflects off nearby structures, to the chickens that occupy a granary. A particular treat are the different musical themes for each individual civilisation, from soaring strings to sombre harpsichord motifs.

The biggest mechanical change in Civilization VI is the “unstacking” of cities, i.e. the spreading out of improvements across a much larger play space on the map. This not only looks better giving each of your key buildings the chance to stand out from your city centre but it greatly enhances the level of decision making. It’s awesome to see your scientific buildings crop up within your Campus and a stadium appear in your Entertainment District, but it’s similarly engrossing to plot out a path for your civilisation’s advancement.

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Civilization 6

To do this, you have to play the map as much as you play your opponents. While you’ll be constantly managing diplomatic relations with Peter of Russia, or Frederick of Germany, you’ll also be making vital decisions to how your cities expand. Rather than just plonk a capital city on the coast, you’ll have to employ a large amount of foresight in order to win place a District in an inopportune place and it could change the stakes for centuries to come. Each tile has a number of different factors, each of which affects what you can build there – a Wonder like the Pyramids of Giza can only ever be built on a desert tile, for example.

At first this can be confusing, even frustrating, but Civilization VI’s fantastically designed UI makes all of its complex choices and systems feel the most approachable that they’ve ever been. Other integral facets to play are also easier to manage. Trading is now somewhat automated, with roads appearing as your traders move between the different cities you’ve assigned them to, just like they would in real life. Espionage is similarly simplified, but still remains in-depth and complex in how you choose to assign your spies to steal technology, gain information or defend your own cities from attack.

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Civilization VI’s most impressive achievement is how it populates every stage of the game with meaningful decisions. In the past, there was often a lull as you entered the mid to late game stages, having established a handful of cities, but this seems to have been minimised a great deal. Not only do the Districts and Wonders keep you on your toes as you plan where to build and how to upgrade, but there’s a constant juggle of diplomacy, exploration and combat (should you choose the path of war) to keep you busy at almost every stage.

This is further diversified by the new progression trees. While previous Civilization games had a single Technology tree to guide your people through history, Civilization VI splits all of your progression options into two entirely separate trees. The new path, called the Civics tree, features all of your cultural and political options for progression and it opens up a pursuit of victory by adding interesting and exciting new ways to define a campaign. From the Drama & Poetry upgrade that lets you construct a Theatre Square, to the different requirements needed to establish the game’s various Governments, the Civics tree is a hugely important part of any game and it removes the tunnel visioned approach to upgrades of Civ games past.

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Civilization 6

These Governments are all unique, providing your civilisation with a number of different boosts and perks depending on what one you choose. Theocracy and Autocracy are entirely different, for example, with a different arrangement of card slots that you can fill with perk-giving policy cards (military, economic, diplomatic and wildcard). These policy cards grant further bonuses and are also earned by progressing through the Civics tree; it’s a fundamental part of your civilisation, and one that adds an extra layer to the already multi-dimensional strategy experience.

Perhaps the game’s greatest new feature are the 'Eureka!' moments. These single-objective quests are tied to every single scientific and cultural research point, and reward you by halving the time taken to research them by completing a task. If you’re a civilisation that’s settled on the coast, you’ll find that you research sailing much faster, while you’ll research certain military upgrades if you’ve killed three sets of barbarians. It’s a simple, smart system that not only provides something to do at every single stage of the game, but which rewards you for it in a way that’s vital to a victory.

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Victory conditions receive a significant shake-up, with Diplomacy ducking out and Religion stepping in. The latter isn’t quite as fleshed out as maybe it should be, and it becomes a case of spamming other civilisations with your theological units in order to spread your faith into their ranks, but theological combat itself is pretty cool to watch; there are hints of Age of Mythology’s combat as your Apostles cast down lightning from the heavens in order to wipe out any heretics. If anything, Religion is the only part of Civilization VI that feels it may be tweaked a little in any expansions.

While Diplomacy has disappeared as a victory condition, Firaxis refines and improves the diplomatic systems at play to create the most fleshed out version in any Civilization game yet. Rather than try to create a human player in an AI, Civilization VI now employs different Agendas to give behavioural traits to its individual leaders. Each leader has two apiece – the first is a historical trait, based loosely on their time in rule. Frederick of Germany hates City States and those who ally with them, while Philip of Spain detests any civilisation that follows a religion other than his own; he absolutely hates it if you start to spread your faith into his ranks.

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The second agenda is hidden and randomised, adding unexpected behaviours to every single leader in the game. This opens up diplomatic diversity a huge amount, giving each personality their own tangible behaviour patterns while also giving individual campaigns their fair share of unexpected scenarios. And that’s without mentioning the raft of new details visible in the diplomacy screen, from the way you can use spies as bargaining chips should they be caught in the act of, well, spying, to the different forms of war you can engage in, each of which results in varying warmonger penalties.

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Verdict

Strategy games live and die on the complexity and satisfaction of the countless decisions made within them, and it’s here that Civilization VI stands tall. Where its predecessors laid the foundations and systems of play, this is a game that refines and perfects them to a remarkable degree. It’s not without a couple of flaws – the odd diplomatic quirk and some religious spamming are its most notable – but Civilization VI gives the series’ 20-year Anniversary the hurrah it deserves. It’s a game that celebrates the genre while fundamentally improving it, and it comes in a package that is simultaneously attractive for newcomers while being exciting for Civilization veterans.

Overall Score

9

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Jeremy Alexander

October 20, 2016, 9:59 pm

The AI stinks.

Pohojan poika

October 23, 2016, 5:39 pm

Few negative issues:

- There are too few units. I was warring in 1870 with warriors against warriors, because I, nor my enemy, didn't have the strategic resources to update them to anything else. There they were, modern artillery and warriors, side by side. Enough steel to build huge artillery pieces, not enough to produce few swords. Luckily this was an issue with all neighboring countries.

- Civics tree and science tree combine into a spamfest, together with all the other notifications, city state emissaries, and whatnot. It's hard to concentrate on what are the important issues, when you are constantly interrupted by something requiring your attention elsewhere. This is so distracting that I kept on forgetting that I was preparing to go to war and kept building buildings that didn't have anything to do with my war effort.

"Oh, I need a builder! I'll just... oh, whats this? Ah, there's a new... Which one I choose? And this? Ok... ... ... [20 turns later] I forgot to build the builder!"

This is even worse when you can't just put your builders to "auto build" mode, so you could concentrate on warring or whatever you are interested at that moment. No, they need you to tell them what to do.

- The interface is very bouncy and inconsistent. When it's the AI's turn, everything looks like you could issue commands etc., but those commands are ignored. A typical example is the city state emissary selection view, which pops up at the end of your turn inviting you to send your emissaries to city states, yet allows the actual selection to happen only after all the computer players have ended theirs. You can scroll around, but the maps keeps randomly centering on the capital.

I'm sure that this game will be improved radically after updates and a few expansion packs, like the Civ5 did, but as it currently is, this is worse than Civ5.

André Quintão

October 23, 2016, 9:42 pm

Nice review, I'm yet to try the game, I will buy it later, but your review made me want to buy it earlier :P

I've made a galery with 22 civilization wallpapers if anyone else wants to customize their computers with the game. The link is: http://www.gamesdeguerra.com/2...

I hope you like it ;)

Harvey Specter

October 24, 2016, 10:09 am

I wish I held off not buying the game just yet because while I believe this is the most complete civ launch title yet, there are so many issues with the game's scaling, new systems (like terrain movement, housing and road construction) and the various handicaps they introduce, UI design issues i.e. the visibility of roads and how the movement maps of units (very obvious for religion units) overshadows the map itself, the over-reliance on production and the currency of the land in relation to what you can build.

The tech tree needs to highlight all the resources that require a tech discovery in a much better form and distribution of the resources on the map could be better. A whole continent without niter, wth!
Resolution scaling for different display types

The games needs to be balanced. That said, the foundations of a great game is all here.
Tips: Disable religious victory on your first few playthroughs, investigate buildings and techs/civics that boost housing, Trade, trade, trade.

Michael Garry

October 25, 2016, 4:04 am

"CONS

Religion can be a little spammy"

So they nailed that then.

disqus_krgjQSyyuh

October 26, 2016, 10:11 pm

of all the great raves about this game, i finally found one person i can relate to. The flow and balance of 6 is completely out of sync. They need some serious testing and toning before releasing it!!!

Ridder

November 1, 2016, 12:32 pm

It's so hard to trust these reviews after seeing that they gave NMS 7/10... Though I don't doubt Civ 6 is pretty great.

jeff b

November 2, 2016, 7:05 am

Terrible game. I have loved each and every civ since 2. and i have played this one about 6-8 hours. i wont be playing it again. Art work is insanely bad. The map looks like like a bad mimic of LotR. 1/10 imho.

Felix Martinez

November 10, 2016, 11:24 am

ahhahahah trustedreviews!!! hahahah you dont ever play the game. shitty web. this game is 3/10 at best because its a fuckin beta with AAA price

Felix Martinez

November 10, 2016, 11:26 am

big mistake. this game is broken

lando

November 13, 2016, 6:46 pm

holy fuck it looks bad. civ 5 looks good in comparison

lugger11

November 14, 2016, 8:38 pm

I found Civ 5 ridiculously slow, to the point it was unplayable. have gone back to 4. How is the pace of this game? Please tell me you don't have to wait 30 seconds between turns while the AI churns through...
What are the technical requirements? Do you need a super high-end graphics card to play at the lowest graphics settings?

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