There’s been a lot of speculation as to what we were going to get with Civilization VI. From the somewhat different art style to the curious new civilizations and their leaders, we’ve been getting trickles and tidbits of info, but today we have something far more substantial to offer. We got some hands-on time with an early version of the game and we’ve got to say, this may be the most enjoyable Civilization system yet. There are some kinks to iron out and certainly some things we’d like to see before its release on 21 October, 2016, but all in all, this is a game that’s sure to delight any 4X fan with a fantastic blend of micro- and macro management.
Firing squad, Circa 650BC. Poor sap.
We’re certain the fans are already wondering. Is it like Civilization V? If so, early Civ V or post expansions? Or perhaps it’s more like Beyond Earth? Well, the answer is yes to most of that. Civilization VI doesn’t really go out to deconstruct what is mostly a good thing. Instead it mostly works to make what’s come before even better. There’s reduction here, expansion there, and a multitude of options to make every play style happy for the most part.
In the preview build we only had Prince difficulty to work with. We played on a continents map with eight civs, but tiny, large, Pangea, and Island maps were also available. We got 10 of the 20 civs that will be in the final game and from what it appeared, they are much more balanced than they were previously. Germany was pretty lousy early on in Civilization V with an early perk that gave a chance to recruit defeated barbarians, but this time around, they get attack bonuses against all City-States as well as a specialized district that increases their production. Much of the civilizations we saw have new bonuses in this way that make them far more balanced than ever before.
Many of the civilization bonuses have been reworked in pretty balanced and enjoyable ways.
Speaking of districts, building your cities is a far different process. As you unlock the technology to do so, you build specialized districts in your city that each handle specific resources. Merchant districts produce gold and allow trade routes, campuses supply science, industrial zones provide production, culture districts supply culture, encampments grant bonuses to units and city defense, and entertainment districts provide happiness to your citizens. Once a district is built, you can begin to improve it with bonus buildings that can be built over time or purchased. For instance, once you have a campus, you can build a library and university there. Moreover, these districts take their surroundings into consideration. A merchant district adjacent to an industrial zone and your main city will create more gold than if it were simply on the edge of your property. Considering location is paramount to getting the most out of your districts and enjoyable in the city planning aspect.
Of course you can still build improvements too and with that comes one of the most jarring changes to the game. Builder units are in charge of producing farms, wood mills, mines and the like, but each builder only has three uses before they disappear. This was bizarre and kind of annoying at first, but it makes you choose more carefully what you want to do with your land and in the end, there are perks and bonuses to allow you to get more out of training and using builders if you’d like. It can still get annoying having to take the time to train or buy builder after builder, but everyone has to deal with the same thing. It’s not unbalanced, but it does feel sort of like an extra inconvenience until you can reach those aforementioned perks and bonuses.
Location is still everything and Teddy Roosevelt is cruising for a bruising planting so close to us.
That said, it brings us to one of the absolutely coolest additions to the Civilization series: The Civics Tree. You still have your Technology and Science tree informing buildings, upgrades, and units you can create, but the Civics Tree adds a new edge to the game. It’s sort of like Virtues in Civilization: Beyond Earth, but much more streamlined. As you play the game, you unlock government styles like in Civ 5, but more importantly, you unlock a list of Civic slots you can fill. They come in forms of Military Civics, Economic Civics, Diplomatic Civics, and Wildcard Civics, which can be slotted with any Civic. As you rank up your Civic tree much like your Tech and Science tree by means of Culture, you unlock new Civics cards and each unlock allows you to swap your equipped cards.
Early in our game, we were fighting a war, so we had cards for reduced military unit maintenance and faster cavalry production in play, but later in when we were at peace, we used new cards that allowed us to get happiness for every city with a unit stationed there and bonus science for harbors and military academies. You can change your game up on the fly at every Civic unlock and it allows you to constantly evolve and transform your playstyle in fantastic ways as you decide what of your growing list of Civics cards fit together best.
Your evolving Civics can turn you from a peaceful nation into a battle-ready one in no time. It's that adaptable.
If that wasn’t enough, City-States are more interesting than ever before. As you discover City-States, you can gain envoys for them, either by gaining them via government points or via quests specific to the City-State. At one, three, or six envoys, you get growing bonuses based on the type of City-State, but if you have the most Envoys in an area, you also get a special bonus. Geneva was kind enough to lend us 15% extra science in peace time for having the most envoys with it. It creates another competition between civilization to have the most control over any given City-State and enjoy the special benefits they offer.
War and combat remain mostly the same in Civilization VI. You can still only have one specific military unit per hexagon, but a couple new and enjoyable features come to the fray. First off, you can stack specific types of units and set them in escort formation. Say you want to protect a builder. Stack him with a swordsman and set the swordsman to escort. This makes the two of them move as one unit, ensuring that your builder won’t ever be left unprotected. You can do this similarly with great persons (such as generals), siege equipment, and religious units. Moreover, once you get far enough down the Civics tree, you can build Corps and Armies. These are essentially two or three units stacked into one super unit with an appropriate amount of attack and defense. You can do this with any military unit. As much as Civilization V forced us to spread out, Civilization VI lets us reduce space used in cool and appropriate ways.
Systrem Requirements and Presentation
The creation of wonders is easily one of the most gorgeous visual sequences in the game.
The system requirements for Civilization VI had already been dropped and this is what they look like: Minimum
OS: Windows 7 64bit / 8.1 64bit / 10 64bit Processor: Intel Core i3 2.5 Ghz or AMD Phenom II 2.6 Ghz or greater Memory: 4 GB RAM Hard drive: 12 GB or more DVD-Rom: Required for disc-based installation Video card: 1 GB DirectX 11 Video Card (AMD 5570 or Nvidia 450)
OS: Windows 7 64bit / 8.1 64bit / 10 64bit Processor: Fourth generation Intel Core i5 2.5 Ghz or AMD FX8350 4.0 Ghz or greater Memory: 8 GB RAM Hard drive: 12 GB or more DVD-Rom: Required for disc-based installation Video card: 2 GB DirectX 11 Video Card (AMD 7970 or Nvidia 770 or greater)
-Initial installation requires one-time internet connection for Steam authentication; software installations required (included with the game) include Steam Client, Microsoft Visual C++ 2012 and 2015 Runtime Libraries, and Microsoft DirectX.
The map aesthetic that repalced fog of war in this Civilization is rather pretty.
The art style of Civilization VI raised a lot of commotion when we first saw it for its somewhat cartoonish look, but seeing it action now, we’ve got to say it looks good. As you can see above, you don’t really need a beefy rig for this game to run as smooth as silk. Throughout our time with it, the most slowdown we ever got out of it was during turn phases when all parts of the map had been discovered. Even then, it wasn’t a technical issue as much as just the computer moving all of the other parts around. For that matter, you can turn the game speed to fast if it bothers you to wait on everything happening between turns.
The presentation is pretty slick too. We particularly liked that the fog of war has been replaced. No longer does a cloud or inky blackness obscure the unknown. Now it’s like an unexplored treasure map. The spots you discover still fill with shade with you’re not there, but all in all, it’s an appropriate and cool look compared to the all-too-boring fogs we’ve seen throughout most strategy games.
Make good friends with your neighbors. They'll reward you handsomely.
Civilization VI is an evolution in every way. Just about every system, civ, mechanic, and visual is improved for the better in a ways that make Civilization V seem dull by comparison. Certainly we loved Civ V, but between unit stacking and escorts, Civic trees, City-State Envoys, and Civ bonuses, everything is moving in a great direction to make Civ 6 the definitive Civilization experience and we’re excited to see the final product.
One of the few issues we had with the game was a lull that comes with doing too well. That might just be Prince difficulty, but we found that enemy civilizations were far too ready to just leave us alone once we were ahead of the pack. You can micromanage the heck out of your tiles like in Civ V, but it’s just a little bit boring when you go unchallenged once you’ve got enough power under your control. At that point, we found ourselves just waiting for the next thing to happen turn after turn while production kept going. If anything, just a bit more aggression or a raise in the stakes from other civs might make this just a bit more engaging. It also just might be that we need a higher difficulty than Prince.
Most Anticipated Feature: We like what we’ve seen out of the different Civs so far, but we can’t wait to play with the other 10 civilizations we didn’t see in this preview. If the balance of the ones we played with are any indication, we’ve got high hopes for the rest of the roster.