Monday, January 2, 2017

[REVIEW] Sid Meier's Civilization VI (PC)

Sid Meier's Civilization VI
Played on: PC
Genre: Turn-based strategy
Developer: Firaxis
Publisher: 2K Games

Looking back at my video-gaming life, I don't think any franchise has gotten more of my hours than Sid Meier's Civilization. There's just something extremely alluring about starting a small stone age empire and expanding it as you see fit until the actual future, and the turn-based nature of the series gets me hopelessly addicted every time. Civ VI was no different, even though at launch it didn't quite rise to the heights of the last couple of numbered entries.

If you're a newcomer, here's how it works: the game begings by placing you (or rather, your first settler) in a suitable spot for a first city. You immediately build it and start managing several outputs, such as gold, production, food, science, faith, and culture. Each output allows you to develop your empire (for example: science allows you to discover new technologies, while production lets your city generate buildings and military troops).

As you explore, you'll come across new landscapes and natural resources, which allow you to build better troops and new structures, including wonders of the world. And of course, you'll come across other civilizations, which can be befriended or antagonized at your leisure.

Civ VI's biggest innovation is how it utilizes tiles around each city you build. Now, each new building, zone or improvement has to go on a specific tile. This means you'll end up with cities that are more focused than before, which adds a lot of strategic nuance. If you settled near a mountain, a land feature which gives several science bonuses, you'll probably want that city to focus on science. Likewise, desert tiles allow you to build important one-per-world wonders, such as the Pyramids or Petra. This sort of decision making is what makes Civ amazing, and here the process is improved by the added depth.

With the steps that were taken in order to streamline this entry, Civ VI is probably the most accessible the series has ever been. That's certainly a good thing, after all, Civ's barrier of entry can be sky-high, with a veritable encyclopedia of concepts to grasp. Some of those decisions go over less well in the strategic side, such as not limiting resource usage to the amount of sources you have. Still, that's a minor qualm in the big scheme of things, and it does mean less numbers to track.

Artificial intelligence, which has historically been a sore spot in the series, is an actual problem, however. In fact, at launch, it was nearly non-functional. For example: a neighbouring civ who is much weaker than you in every way will keep sending prophets to convert your cities to their faith, even after you threatened them with swift military action. This makes it very hard to play that oh-so-satisfying diplomatic game, although this has been cited as a point of continuous improvement by developer Firaxis.

Civ VI is awesome, but then again, it would take a lot of effort to make any Civ game anything but. It still ranks behind IV and V in my book currently, but the new foundations are solid enough that I can see it overtaking those beloved entries as Firaxis's continuous quality improvement does its thing. Until then, what you need to know is that it's as addictive as ever. Just take care to not have an entire weekend pass in the blink of an eye while you explore, build, and wage war. It's certainly happened to me, uh, a 'few' times in the last twenty years.

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