Civilization had always been one of those games I felt guilty about. I’d been playing games for about 30 years, but I’d never tried it. I’d heard about it. And I’d looked at it a few times. But it looked dull as dishwater, truthfully. Around the time of Civilisation 4, I took the plunge, and bought both 3 and 4. I gave them a short go, but couldn’t get into them. It seemed like I’d validated my “Dull as dishwater” tale. When Civilization 5 came out, I gave it another roll of the dice. One final shot, to find out if this game series is for me, or if it’s one that I’ll simply never learn to appreciate.
And I loved it. It’s crazy, looking back, but I thought that the long waits for things to progress would bore me. Instead, I find myself planning my next 10 moves towards ultimate global domination.
Anyway, moving on to today’s main event – Civilization 6 has landed. Is it any good? Read on…
Workers are a thing of the past. They have been replaced by Builders. More than just a name change, they now have a limited number of actions, before the unit is spent. Typically, each builder can build 3 improvements before they disappear – although there are ways to increase the number of builds – building the Pyramids increases the number to 4, for example. Come the end game, no more will you have a fleet of roving Workers all set to “Automatically improve tiles” – the upside being that each city now requires you to actually develop it by hand.
Districts are a new concept brought to Civilization 6, and a rather wonderful feature they are. Instead of all major developments occurring on your single city tile, you get to place a district tile – for industrial zone, commercial zone, campus zone, a Holy site, encampments (military), the harbour, theatre square, an entertainment complex, the aerodrome, space port and neighbourhoods. Whew.
Placement of districts can provide bonuses for science, faith, production, gold or culture, depending on their placement. Campus near a mountain or rain-forest nets bonus science, Holy site next to a mountain, natural wonder or woodland for bonus faith – and so it goes. Suddenly, each city has the potential to develop a unique character all of its own. Leeds was my city of industry. Birmingham was my religious hub. London was the centre of my Navy nation. It somehow feels more personal.
Another mainstay from Civilization 5 post DLC is religion – and it is back with a number of changes. Essentially, it operates as an entirely separate combative set-up to the military system. While sending your military forces out to battle the rival military will automatically result in war, religion can be combated without further consequences. An Apostle allows you to “attack” rival religious units, in addition to its role in spreading the holy word. A Missionary cannot attack, but can defend against attack, in addition to spreading the religion. Finally, an Inquisitor does what an Inquisitor does best, and nobody ever expects that.
At one point during my play-through, Russia was determined to spread Eastern Orthodoxy into my Protestant lands. Peter sent wave after wave of Apostles and Missionaries into my cities. I asked him not to, and he promised he would stop. Yet still they came. I was having to bat them away frantically, whilst ensuring my religion remained the mainstay in my cities. Suffice to say, I made a mental note of his backtracking on his promise – by the end of the game, the Eastern Orthodox was no more, with Protestantism the official religion of most of the world.
The final big change of note is the concept of “Policies” and “Government Types”. Along with the Science research tech tree, there is a separate Culture research tree that allows you to research new policy choices. These are provided in the form of cards – either diplomatic, economic, or military. Each of these will provide a boost of some kind – the “Free Market” will provide +100% Gold yield from your Commercial district, for example. Different types of Government provides different numbers of card slots, and different base bonuses. Free Market Communism is alive and well in this game.
The graphics engine has been massively polished – it really is beautiful. Particular credit goes to the “watching your wonder being built from the ground up” animation you get on completing the building. The battles are also particularly enjoyable to watch, seeing individual units “going to war” with other units. As a purely personal note, I do find the more cartoon stylised leaders to be a little off-putting, but perhaps I’m just dull like that.
What’s Quality Testing?
Despite the praise I’m dishing out – it’s time to address a particularly poor part of the game. There are bugs. An awful lot of bugs. Thankfully, in my experience, they were relatively minor – although the Steam forum has tales of people struggling to get the game to start. In my experience, there were some pretty unforgivable minor quality control issues. During the tutorial, arrows point at the wrong buttons. During the game, one of my planes took off from an airstrip, and landed on a unit. I re-based the plane at my aircraft carrier – and that is when things got “really” weird. Every time I moved the aircraft carrier, the plane would take off, circle, and land again. You tell me.
The most serious bug I encountered caused the game to repeatedly crash. When I was able to implement “Democracy” for my Government, it seems a certain combination of policy cards caused a crash. I reloaded several times, repeated, and it continued to crash. In the end, I had to implement a different set of policies, which thankfully allowed my game to continue. It was the 20th century, and I would not have been impressed if it had caused me to start over.
There are also definite issues with the tracking and pathfinding. On a large map, it seems fairly easy to mislay ships (unless I missed a “Find my units” feature?) – and it also seemed quite fiddly at times to tell a ship “Travel to this location over multiple turns”. I’d go back later to find out where the hell it had gotten to, only to find it sat halfway to where I’d sent it, apparently having gotten stuck on something, without notifying me. Frustrating.
Just because of the poor QA on a AAA title that costs £50 at launch, I’m going to have to take a half a mark off. I loved the game; and nothing really diminished the experience. But I can’t ignore such poor attention to detail on such a big release. Assuming the minor glitches get patched out quickly, I’ll happily call it 4.5 out of 5.
However, as it stands…
Pros: Take control, and guide your people to victory.
- Easy to learn; difficult to master.
- The new graphics are beautiful.
- The various tweaks have no doubt added a lot of longer-term complexity to the game.
- Cities feel more “under your control” than they ever did with Civilization 5.
- I’m confident the bugs highlighted will be patched out over time.
Cons: It really should have been more polished before release.
- I really can’t excuse the shoddy quality testing for such a big release.
- The religious wars can get a bit crazy. A flood of missionaries is something no one wants to see.
A really superb game, let down by silly little bugs. Arrows pointing at the wrong buttons in a tutorial, plane units confused as to what’s landing on what, crashes, problems getting the game to start for many – it’s poor, for such a big AAA release. Assuming all of this gets patched out, the game is easily a 4.5 / 5, but as it stands, £50 down in my pocket, I’m prepared to say “I expect more”.
Getting away from the niggles – this is an epic title. Massive scope, potential for an incredible amount of variety. It will keep me engaged for a long, long time to come.