Review: Sid Meier’s Civilization 6

A triumph of diplomatic nuance and sophisticated city systems

By Ken Kurtulik – Dec. 12, 2016

Sid Meier’s Civilization 6, available on PC, is Firaxis Game’s latest installment in the turn-based strategy franchise. Firaxis, a long-time juggernaut in the strategy-game market, looks to recover from Beyond Earth’s 2014 shortcomings and build on XCOM 2’s success from earlier in the year.

For the uninitiated, Civilization 6 (Civ 6) allows you to guide an empire from the stone age to the information age as one of 20 historic world leaders. City-building, expansion, economics, diplomacy, and conflict are the challenges you’ll face. Seasoned players will find that Civ 6 has added much needed nuance to the diplomacy and city-building systems without over-encumbering the systems in tedious detail.

Courtesy of the Official Sid Meier’s Civilization YouTube channel.

The path to victory

Civ 6 plays very much like Civ 5. You grow your empire until your borders meet your neighbors, then you seek to either conquer them through war for a domination victory, or coexist through diplomacy long enough to achieve a science, cultural, or religious victory.

Trade, gossip, espionage and diplomacy

Diplomacy requires careful manipulation. From the first encounter with a rival civilization to a declaration of friendship, the relationship between your peoples will advance from closed, to guarded, to open. Once you have an open relationship with a rival civilization, they’ll share their personal values. Some civilizations will value strong armies, while others will value civilizations that trade with them. Occasionally another civilization will rise from rival to opponent. When relations are closed, trade routes will share gossip and spies can embed themselves in foreign cities to gather intelligence.

City-building and tile improvements

City-building in Civilization games has always been about maximizing adjacency bonuses to improve productivity. The addition of districts now further specializes your cities. The campus, commercial hub, encampment, industrial zone, harbor, holy site, theater square, aqueduct, or neighborhood are just some of the districts you can build. The campus awards technology points for adjacent mountains or rainforests, an industrial zone awards the city with increased production equal to adjacent mines or quarries, and a neighborhood supplies housing for citizens equal to the appeal of its surroundings.

Technology and science

Now, many dead-ends and off-chute technologies can be ignored.”

The technology-tree, a system for developing everything from the wheel to cold fusion, has been fully revised. In previous installments, you’d be forced to research every technology by the end of the game. Now there are many dead-ends and off-chutes that can be ignored. As a result, I was able to rush priority technologies much faster. Careful though, I found myself missing basic techs like the printing press, a critical device to have for mid-game diplomacy.

Government and Policy

The new civics-tree, a system for unlocking governments and policies, is difficult to understand. It gives you greater command over your civilization’s rule of law, but policies are so varied that I often struggled to find laws that would further my goals. Still, the flexibility is an improvement over previous games that would lock you into a single style of government early in the game. The new system works by allowing you to purchase a style of government with amenity tokens, a currency earned by building trade routes and maintaining a happy populous. Each government has a unique number of military, economic, diplomatic, and wildcard policy slots. As you progress through the ages, more sophisticated governments become available offering an ever-greater number of policies to be signed into law.

Combat and Artificial Intelligence

Occasionally, enemy troops appeared to loiter on the battlefield…”

If Civ 6 has one significant short-coming, it’s the artificial intelligence (AI) in combat. They are bumbling. The most sophisticated military strategy it can muster is throwing troops at you, and you can’t even count on that. The AI often appeared to take pot shots at my various troops never focusing on one unit to wipe out. When I would besiege a city, they wouldn’t prioritize my foot soldiers standing ready to seize the city once sufficiently bombarded. Occasionally, enemy troops appeared to loiter on the battlefield completely oblivious to the threat to king and country.

Recommendations

Civ 6 offers the most sophisticated and nuanced empire-builder to date. Many features have been upgraded in ways that long-time fans never knew they needed. Its weak AI is difficult to overlook, especially for fans of the domination victory, but Civilization is a franchise known for its expansions, and that bodes well for post-launch patches. For now, I can only offer a tentative recommendation to buy.

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