There is no game franchise on the planet that conjures up more passion from its fanbase than Civilization (or, if you’re a fan of proper spelling, simply “Civ”). Civ V was the first game in the series that I properly got invested in, and within a week, it had its claws so deep in me that I could have legitimately sued Sid Meier for personal injury. Firaxis, fresh off the successful launch of XCOM2, are returning to Civ with a handful of new features and plenty of refinements to ensure that this will be another time sink for returning and new players alike.
The first thing to notice in Civ VI once cities start being placed is that they no longer have a huge amount of “stuff” in one place. This is thanks to the addition of “Districts”, which are dedicated tiles that surround your city and allow you to focus that area on an individual ‘specialty’. Want to create an arts district? Go ahead. Maybe focus on religion? Absolutely. It “unpacks” the cities in a way that it hasn’t before, and it feels like it could well be a good improvement to the way that they work. The idea of having a flourishing theatre district in one city whilst another prepares your armies for potential war is a a refreshing one, and means that you can specialise your cities that little bit more rather than trying to make every single one all things to all men.
The beauty of Civ is that you can play the game however you want to, be it amassing an enormous army to crush your opponents, focusing on the sciences to launch your people into space, or being the ultimate diplomat. Civ VI looks like it’s going to improve many of the tools on all of the potential avenues to victory, with the focus very much being on player choice. The menu system appears to have had an overhaul as well, making for a more streamlined experience, but without losing any of the depth of previous games. Even things such as Barbarians have been refined, with an initial attacking party retreating back to their camp if they encounter resistance before bringing along a much tougher party. It’s the small tweaks that will ensure that Civ VI feels entirely different to the games that have come before it, yet familiar. An overhauled visual style exudes an air of simplicity and almost cartoonish style, yet this undoubtedly betrays the complexities that lie under the surface of this beast of a game.
I went into the presentation that we saw with an air of optimism, thinking that as long as Firaxis could provide us with an enhancement of Civ V and a couple of new features, I’d be happy. What I left with was an all-new sense of wonder as to how I would be able to conquer the globe through a multitude of methods in an entirely different manner to the way I’ve done before. Civilization VI is released on October 21st, and I fully expect to lose a further few weeks of my life to it. Oh, and I’m pretty sure Ghandi will still be a dick.