You will be hard pressed to find a PC gamer who has never played, or at least heard of, Sid Meier’s Civilization series. Since 1991, these games have mercilessly driven players to disregard their work, lives and loved ones in order to seek glory in building the biggest, strongest and wealthiest empires the world has ever seen. Needless to say, 27 years and six iterations later, Civilization has become no less addictive, only a lot more advanced.
My first experience of this series was, admittedly, quite late in the game (no pun intended). Just last year, whilst browsing through a Steam sale, I stumbled across an interesting looking empire building game by the name of Civilization V. The proceeding weeks are a blur of leaders, resources, continents, wars, treaties and unhealthily late nights. As ill advised as it may, I often think that the highest compliment that any gamer can give a game is when they sit down to play a simple round or two and then find themselves logging out only as the sun begins to peak over the horizon, many hours later. Such is the power of Civilization.
I loved Civ V. The graphics were detailed, the gameplay was complicated but wonderfully satisfying and the stories were not only well-represented and researched, but also very nicely integrated into the overall experience. After all, there was no campaign, just the histories of the many leaders and their respective civilizations, each making every game different and fresh.
So imagine my excitement when I saw Civ VI on sale. However, upon research I discovered, to my disappointment, that many were not fans of the new game. The most common complaint was that not much had been changed in the six years between V and VI, and that the new artistic choices were something of a step backwards. I still bought the game, but with no small amount of trepidation.
I needn’t have worried.
It is true to say that Civ VI is probably not as different to V as it could have been. Many of the dynamics are similar, especially early on in the game, the choice of leaders is limited without DLCs and everything just seems very… familiar. But the biggest problem, by far, is how temperamental the AI leaders are. Any small transgression is now punished by denouncement and war, and it is very difficult to repair those relationships once they are broke, which forces many players towards military victories rather than the more peaceful alternatives. However, all that said, unlike many other reviewers, I don’t necessarily think that Civ V is a better game.
The new, cartoony look of VI is a great change, in my opinion, with really smooth animations and much more detail. The dynamic of having specialised ‘districts’ for different type of building allows each and every construction to be animated onto the map. It also allows the ability to place wonders in their own tile, rather than leaving it up to the AI to throw them somewhere, which only adds to the importance of space management in VI that just wasn’t there in V. On top of this, religion now presents not only a way to influence enemies and gain boons, but also a path to victory for whoever founds the faith that becomes dominant in the world. Spies, too, have been updated with a whole arsenal of new abilities and options. The same can be said for the masterpiece dynamics, the social policies and methods of warfare.
Overall, I would actually say that Civilization VI is a very different game to V, but not because of the few major additions. Almost every dynamic has been edited, even if only very slightly, a fact that only becomes clear later on in the game. As such, once a round gets going, the whole experience is just that little bit better. It’s more engaging, more complicated (in a good way) and more realistic. Apart from a couple of issues with overly touchy AI’s and an acquired taste in artistic design, Civ VI is an amazing game that I would happily recommend to anyone… but only when it’s on sale. For pity’s sake, don’t go paying the frankly ridiculous full price of £49.99. We are all students after all.