This has been a pretty outstanding week for fans of strategy games. Stellaris launched to critical acclaim on Monday, and today, 2K and Firaxis Games announced the upcoming launch of Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. 2016 is the 25-year anniversary of the Civilization series, and on October 21 of this year, the sixth main game in the series will see the light of day.
A quick note on how I wrote this, the first part is what I thought the game would be after checking out the press release and the screenshots (all three of which are within the article). The second part, which I’ve separated with a line, is the feelings of the Civ community. A lot of their ideas make more sense than what I had come up with, and I call back to some of my own theories to say why the community’s ideas are better. So before you say “that’s totally wrong, Afro!”, bear in mind that I might correct myself down below.
ONE UNIT, TWO UNIT
As with previous games, Civilization VI will be more than just a fresh coat of paint on Civilization V. Changes have been made that, though spending too much time on the Civ subreddit, I feel will be well-received by the community. The first is unit stacking–kind of. In previous games of Civilization, units of the same type could occupy the same tile to create a sort of “super unit”. This did have the problem of making battles feel small though, why have an entire battlefield when you can have one OP unit stack of a dozen individual units? That’s why when Civilization V launched, that feature was removed. Only one unit can be on a tile at a time, although a civilian unit can occupy the same tile as a military unit. Civ VI seems to be trying to go for a mix of the two, with what’s being called “combined arms”. Basically, two differing units can be put on the same tile in order to support each other. An anti-tank unit could be combined with an infantry unit for example, with each supporting the other’s weaknesses. Similar units can also be combined into a “corps” unit to increase their power. Personally, I don’t know how to feel about this change, but I’m more on the pro side than the con side. While I own Civ IV, I still have yet to play it, so I can’t comment on unit stacking from personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard of players with a longer Civ pedigree than I, the removal of unit stacking was of the better changes made in Civilization V. That said, the one unit per tile type of gameplay can be annoying when your units start bumping into each other. Take attacking cities for example. In order to capture a city, a melee unit must be moved into it. However, using a melee unit on a city with more than a small amount of health is generally a bad idea, as melee units take damage upon attacking. That’s why the best strategy is to get a city to low HP using ranged units, and then go in for the kill with a melee unit. This could be made much easier with the stacking of complimentary units, instead of hiding a fast unit outside bombardment range, or shuffling your ranged units around to let a melee unit in, you could simply have your ranged and melee units working together. Then, when it’s time to take the city, there’s no hassle at all. Your swordsman is already there alongside your composite bows, without having to park outside the city’s front door.
The other big change is to cities, and boy is it a big one–literally. Cities in Civilization VI are no longer confined to a single tile, but instead span across multiple tiles. This is something I’ve heard talked of a lot in the Civ community, and is largely met positively. Lots of people want ways in which Civ can be more realistic, and this is a great one. Cities aren’t static, they grow. Terrain aside, cities will grow out and expand their borders as they grow in population, and need more space. There are no tiles in real life, and cities will grow in any direction they need to, not stay within arbitrary borders. Civ VI seems to be taking that to heart. It sounds like cities are alive, they grow. And it’s not just a number ticking upwards, they physically grow to new land. This happened to a certain extent in Civilization Beyond Earth: Rising Tide, which allowed players to settle aquatic cities and then move them throughout the seas. Cities were still only one tile of course, which begs the question of how expanding cities will shape gameplay. So many things would be different. How exactly would cities expand? Rising Tide‘s movement system was similar to producing a building or unit, city movement would cost a certain amount of production based on the city’s population. It would then take a number of turns to move that city, dependent on the city’s production output. City growth could use a similar mechanic, with “suburbs” on adjacent tiles having a production cost. Or perhaps the new section of the city would be built by workers as an improvement, and would then grow throughout the game. Then there’s the question of what exactly having a bigger city accomplishes. Can a greater population be achieved? Can more land be gained, and further away tiles worked? Not to mention the downsides. If a bigger city has benefits, it needs costs to balance them out, otherwise players could just build massive cities and reap the rewards. Would bigger cities take happiness penalties? Would the cost of expanding become prohibitively expensive? It would be silly for bigger cities to simply be cosmetic, so there must be a reason to create them. And if there’s a reason to create them, there also needs to be a reason not to create them. And finally, we have to ask how combat works with larger cities. Can each section of the city attack? How exactly are they captured? Could a player capture any part of the city, or does the original “city centre” need to be attacked? There are so many questions that we don’t have answers for yet, and I can’t wait to get them. The idea of expanding cities is the thing that has me most intrigued about Civ VI, because it has so much potential to expand the game (no pun intended, believe it or not) if done well. I for one cannot wait to learn more about these features, and any new features Firaxis might be hiding.
There’s a lot more that’s different, for example technologies are more dynamic and connected to in-game actions (perhaps having a lot of mountains will make it easier to research astronomy). Diplomacy has also been overhauled, and reflects more how advanced nations are. Nations may be more warlike in the early game, while later in the game is when actual communications and diplomacy starts. This too is a neat change, more reflective of real life. I feel the two changes I covered in detail were the biggest ones, but if you want to check them all out you can do so on Civilization’s website.
NOW LOOKIE HERE, YOU
One thing I can say I’m not excited about in Civilization VI is the art style. As you can see in the screenshot above, it’s very cartoony. This is a style that was used in the Civilization Revolution games, but in that case it had a good reason. The Civ Rev games are mobile versions of Civ, and mobile devices are a lot less powerful than PCs. Now, some of them are starting to get up there, but game studios can’t rely on everyone having an amazing smartphone, especially when they’re pretty expensive. But a I don’t see the logic in having a full PC game that looks like an iPhone game. Now, I understand that there are a lot of people out there that don’t have powerful computers. Heck, I’m one of them. But if that’s what the designers had in mind when making this art style, it seems to me like there are a lot better ways to make a game not highly taxing on a system. Heck, Civ V is coming up on six years old, and it’s still a beautiful looking game, despite not actually being that visually taxing of a game. And it really doesn’t need to be, I’ve always said that graphics are never my #1 concern. I want a game to look presentable, but it doesn’t need to go to eleven on the graphics. And a game like Civ, it’s a strategy game. It’s basically a giant board game, and while I enjoy that it does look good (I drool over the reflections of ships in the water in Civ V) it’s by no means the kind of game that I most place the importance of graphical fidelity on. Again, I don’t know why Firaxis went with this cartoonish style. But if it is to make it graphically easier on people’s computers, I feel there are much better ways to do it.
One thing I do like however, is the buildings, and to a lesser extent the units. They’re so detailed! Let’s take another look at the image above. It looks like Japanese land, the borders are red and there appears to be a samurai, but I think it’s really just a mixture of a bunch of different styles to show them off. That city looks…I don’t know, Arabian maybe? I’m pretty bad a history (Civ has actually helped quite a bit with that). South of that looks like a château from Civ V, and I must say it looks really good. I could see myself walking around in there. To the west of the mountain there’s a pretty cool-looking, Mongolian style city, and right next to that is…something. I’m guessing it’s a new unique tile improvement, possibly of Greece. Then just north of there we have yet another Grecian looking building. Another unique improvement? Doubtful that there would be two, unless the uniques system has been drastically changed around. It’s definitely something new to have all these buildings covering up entire hexes, perhaps related to the growing city concept. There’s also a wonder in the ocean, as well as a lighthouse, and those look just as outstanding as the château. As for the the units, meh. Art style aside, those samurai definitely look pretty cool, as do the ships. I have mixed feelings about their size, it’s really interesting to be able to see a few different versions of them, but I’ve always liked the larger number of units forming a squad, like in Civ V. In the end I find a lot of the game graphically appealing, and the architecture looking like it’s different for different civs is really cool. However I think a lot of the seriousness of a historical game is lost by the cartoony art style, and I feel like it will be a lot harder to get immersed into something that looks like this.
PS – Is it just me, or do those roads actually look good and connect up properly? No crazy don’t go anywhere roads FTW!
AH, IT’S YOU, EXCELLENT
Everything up to this point I wrote without reading anything from the Civilization community. It was tough to go dark after a big piece of news like this, but I didn’t want my opinions clouded by what the fanbase was saying. Of course, I’m part of the Civ community and value those opinions, so I want to showcase a bit of what others are saying about Civilization VI.
While there is a lot of negative reaction to the art style, there are actually more people who like it that I would have thought. And none of it is actually that negative, per se. There’s lots of “I’m not a big fan” and “that an…interesting design choice” but not a heck of a lot of “what the fudge Firaxis, you suck and I’ll never buy one of your games again!” Again, like I said earlier, I don’t feel like graphics are that important in Civ, and I think others feel that way. They’d rather play it for the gameplay elements, not how it looks. And the art style’s actually growing on me, once I get to know what everything is and turn the hex grid on, I might start to like it.
Another idea I’ve heard, which I was starting to wonder about when looking closely at the screenshots, is how exactly expanding cities work. Those buildings that look like unique improvements, what if they’re not? What if they actually are buildings that would be constructed in cities in previous games? What if they can only be built on certain types of terrain? That would mix up the pretty static build order that exists in Civilization V. For example I go scout > 1/2 monument > shrine > finish monument > library > settler in my capital almost every time. This of course requires a pretty standard research order as well, another thing that could be mixed up with the dynamic technologies I mentioned earlier. I must say I’m looking forward to this if it’s the case, because I honestly could do the early game in my sleep by now.
People are really liking the multi-tiled cities by the way, and from spending too much time on /r/Civ I can tell you that’s been something people have been interested in for a while. Other games have similar mechanics, with either districts or buildings on tiles outside the city. So it’s a concept that familiar to strategy game players, and it seems to be going over well.
The new science system seems popular, and the community seems to be a lot more excited about it than I am. Now, that’s not to say I’m not excited, I’m actually really looking forward to it. I mainly spent less time on it because I didn’t think it was one of the biggest changes, interesting as it is. But it’s another one that I’ve seen argued makes the game more like real life. Civilizations’ understanding of technologies does expand and differing rates depending on their surroundings. Landlocked countries have less need to learn a lot about sailing, and in games of Civ V when I don’t think a navy is super important to me, I do put those technologies off for a bit to research more important stuff. The new system in Civ VI seems like an easier way to do that.
All in all, people are really excited. One of the other big things I hear is “will it suck without expansions?” I didn’t get Civ V until all the DLC and both expansions were out, but apparently it was pretty lack-lustre before. And yeah, I can definitely see that if you took away the gameplay mechanics of Gods and Kings and Brave New World, it would be missing a lot. Beyond Earth was pretty lame at launch as well, and the Rising Tide expansion seems to have made things quite a bit better. We’ll have to see how things play out in the coming months, everyone’s still riding the hype train at this point, and we still don’t have a lot of information. Until we learn more, there’s not a lot we can have opinions on besides superficial and unexplained details. But believe me, the next five and a half months will be exciting. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI will launch worldwide on October 21, 2016, and is available for pre-order now.
I’m a big Civ fan, I think I’ve made that clear! I always read your comments and try to respond, but if you have anything to say, this is one topic I’d really enjoy talking about. If you have any of your own ideas or opinions about Civilization VI, please be sure to make your voice heard. I’d love to have a conversation with you!
Are you a fan of the Civilization Games? What do you make of the changes in Civ VI?
Tell us in the comments below, or on our subreddit!