Sid Meier’s Civilization VI Review – Conquering Made Fabulous

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: October 20, 2016
Players: Single, Online Multiplayer
MSRP: $59.99 (Review Copy Purchased)

This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review above, or read the full review of the game below.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is a behemoth of a turn-based strategy game, encompassing over two decades-worth of mechanics and design shoved into the popular 4X series. With the changes made in Civilization: Beyond Earth, many fans have been wondering how the latest in the series has fared.

The series is quite easily the digital equivalent of a board game, only with vastly more complex sets of rules and conditions due to its digital nature and having seen a multitude of games over the years. Civilization VI has expanded and changed up some core systems and visuals, most of which feel like good changes.

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One of the first things both myself and others noticed was the visual re-design for the game, which can easily be distilled into saying Civilization VI is more colorful and somewhat cartoony, while Civilization V is more realistic and muted in color.

It’s quite easy to see one of the biggest changes in the game’s palette since its predecessor: color. The game’s units, city districts, buildings, and even its landscapes and foliage seem to all burst with color now in comparison. I’d even go as far as saying it makes Civ V look a bit plain, for better or for worse.

Unit animations, textures, and most especially the various civilization leaders within dialogue/exchanges all look sharp and feel like they just pop. Despite the wariness I had with the game’s drastic visual overhaul, I’ve got to say I’ve come away from it being pleasantly surprised.

The game runs very well on both high-end GPUs and my modest laptop that has an integrated chip. Aside from random animations hanging here or there, I’d say my only noticeable concern are the full game crashes, which happen occasionally in both offline and online maps.

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The biggest switch up is the addition of city districts – separate tiles that house your various city buildings: commercial, encampment, housing, industrial, holy site, harbor, entertainment, campus, theater, and finally the late game aerodrome and spaceport districts.

All of these districts give you a somewhat overwhelming number of choices on how to customize, grow, and ultimately manage your cities. I will say that at first I was somewhat frustrated and turned off by this feature, however now I’m losing sleep over future plans on how to implement the perfect city layout.

Needless to say, this completely changes how the game is played as from now on you’ll have to carefully plan out not only where you settle a city, but also survey its surrounding landscape for where you can place districts. This also directly affects when and where you can build wonders, naturally.

One of the other noticeable changes is how research is done. Now, you can actively pursue new tech via completing various requirements, like how settling a city on the coast gives you a boost towards sailing, thus reducing the number of turns needed to normally research it. This is a huge deal.

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If you plan out your overall research, you can naturally start knocking out specific pieces of tech in much less time, provided you actually perform their speed-boosting options. While some are very specific, others simply happen naturally as you set up marble quarries, fight barbarians, and so on.

The tech tree has been now split into both civics and regular old tech, meaning you’ll have to balance out how you pursue each through the ages. It’s worth mentioning that workers now have a limited number of actions, removing the end-game problem of having all those damn extras twiddling their thumbs.

While diplomacy has been completely overhauled to make negotiation less confusing and somewhat more tolerable to deal with, there are more options to establish trade deals, alliances, and even make demands out of your opponents.

This all plays into now being constantly on top of diplomatic strategy – other civilization leaders even have little heads that bounce on their turn, complete with an emoticon. You can even enact a Casus Belli in the event of not having demands fulfilled, reducing your war penalties. Ghandi is still an asshole, unfortuately.

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The last remaining sizeable change is that you can now stack units again – but not in the way you think. Support units like siege towers, battering rams, or anti-tank/aircraft guns can stack with regular military units. You can also link the two together, further simplifying your movements.

Coming from this, you can now form corps and armies with two or three of the same units together, respectively. This gives the new, singular unit a big strength bonus and helps remove the clutter of having an entire map filled with units. While this isn’t the stacking some fans may want, I feel it’s a nice middle-ground.

Ultimately I feel like sometimes there could be simply too many variables going on in game for some players, most especially with the new policy card system. There are tons of potential policies to implement, however I feel like sometimes they’re too specific or simply not needed for certain playstyles.

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Firaxis has experimented with the in-game music a bit via this new procedural music playing system. As you meet other players or AI bots, you’ll start to hear their civilization’s musical tunes being mixed in with your own. This new system is a great idea marred by annoying inconsistencies.

Regardless of the map or civilizations I played against, I frequently found myself listening to one civilization’s theme(s) over and over, much more frequently than others. While I personally love classical Chinese music, hearing an erhu for hours on end nearly brought me to the brink of insanity.

Most other players I know tend to turn off the game’s music and haven’t noticed this, however as a music enthusiast – especially within games – this is a noticeable issue. I also noticed the reoccurring sound-effect glitch, where you’ll sometimes hear a mechanical sound (or what have you) endlessly repeat.

As for the various civilization themes and SFX, they are well done and very memorable in my opinion. My favorites tend to be Rome, America, and Japan – which I suppose you can blame on my love for all three of those cultures/styles. I simply wish this new procedural system worked a bit better.

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Civilization VI is an amazing culmination of what the series does so right, and it includes all of the best features seen in post-launch DLC from the previous game in its base package. While the game still has some odd glitches here and there, Firaxis will be supporting and enhancing this game for a long time.

I’ve already logged dozens and dozens of hours into the game, and I can already see myself logging in a hundred more, easily. Civilization VI is worthy of the series’ legacy, and further reestablishes the age-old “one more turn” joke.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI was reviewed on PC using a digital copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 9

The Good:

  • Visual/theme change is a breath of fresh air, making both map-resources and civilization leaders pop
  • City districts completely change how the game is played
  • Unit stacking is back, but only in a limited sense
  • Active-research bonuses are a blessing

The Bad:

  • Rival civilization music sometime endlessly repeat
  • I still hate how religion works in the game
  • Random crashes both offline and online

FEATURED GAME