The first thing that many people noticed was the new graphics style. Taking quite the detour from the more realistic look of Civilization V, the sixth game goes for a more colourful, stylised approach. It’s a decision that has split fans down the centre, but we personally love it. Aside from the brighter colours being actually quite easy on the eyes, it also allows for the features of the world to stand out more. Much like Windwaker in the Legend of Zelda series, the more stylised approach may be controversial now, but it is also more likely to look attractive ten years down the line.
The main new feature in the game is ‘unstacking cities’. Rather than building everything on one tile, there is a new district system that widens your empire a little more. There are bonuses for placing certain things in certain places, so one really has to stop to make some tough decisions. Such a new concept was a risky move, but we think they’ve pulled it off really well.
Let’s get down to the real meat and gravy of any Civilization game, though, which is, of course, the civilizations you can control. From Trajan of Rome to Cleopatra of Egypt, there are 20 distinct and unique ‘Civs’ on offer, each with their own benefits and bonuses that suit different playstyles. One can understand the reluctance to leave Civ V, which has 43 to choose from (with all the expansions), but we think it’s a good move to make, with each one providing a fresh experience from the others.
We cannot sing enough praise to the music in Civilization VI, which is just phenomenal. Pieces evolve over the course of the game as your empire advances technologically, and each Civ has a theme associated with it. The theme associated with good old England, for example, is ‘Scarborough Fair’ and you’ll find that the piece changes over time from a single lone instrument to a swelling modern orchestra.
One noteworthy thing is that most of the features present in Civ V and its expansions are present in the sequel, with only a small number of missing features that will no doubt be added over time. This is an extremely respectful gesture. The folks behind The Sims 4 could really learn something from this.
Despite all the shining innovations, though, we can’t ignore the flaws, of which this game has a few. For instance, the AI in this game seems to have a few irritating quirks. During one game, the reviewer was invited into a joint war by Victoria of England, however when he accepted, she instantly denounced him for being a warmonger. The game also boasts the ability to temporarily control the troops of any city-state you are allied with, for a fee of course. But you’ll often find them still using crossbows during the Atomic Era. Which doesn’t exactly make you want to delve into the treasury!
There is one important question to ask of Civilization VI: is it good enough to move on from the previous game? For us, it’s a resounding yes. Compared to the already impressive fifth game, Civilization VI breathes new life into the franchise, no, the entire genre. The world you are placed in is simple to look at but also oozes attention to detail, the music is incredible and there is a wide variety of empires to choose from. Hopefully future expansions will add the currently absent features, of which there are few, and maybe, over time, the AI will be improved. Whatever happens, we can conclude that Civilization VI will stand the test of time.
And if that didn’t sell it to you, it has Sean Bean in it.
CIVILIZATION VI / DEVELOPER: FIRAXIS GAMES / PUBLISHER: 2K GAMES / PLATFORM: PC, LINUX, MAC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW