Updated after play on Xbox One.
I’m a long-time fan of the Civilization franchise, so please don’t take this as an insult: I’ve lovingly followed a franchise that’s mostly stayed the same over the last 25 years. With some tweaks under (and over) the hood, I can happily say that building an empire that can stand the test of time has never looked so pretty, nor has been so fun, in Civilization VI.
Developer Firaxis presents a title with beautiful polish; things look very much like a cartographer is looking down, quite romantically, upon the world. As I slowly explored a map, expanding and conquering, I couldn’t help but take a moment or two to appreciate the beauty slowly unfolding around me, move after move.
Milestones, narrated by Sean Bean, offer up some serious Ned Stark moments; his voice acting provides added emotion to the usual grind of turn after turn play, normally a bit mundane as you grind out a new item to research. On that note, researching is largely the same. As you learn of more elements, you’re able to build new districts. Stacking is now a thing of the past; each new district can be placed on a new tile of the now-familiar hexagonal mapping system. It’s important to scout out and understand your surroundings, as proper positioning of your cities is quite important. You’ll need to strategically expand to take advantage of resources and boosts. While different in appearance, these core game mechanics are really the same as in previous games. You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, right?
I very much enjoyed Civilization VI‘s new government system. Now resembling a talent tree, you’ll be able to unlock different abilities via the Civil Research tree. Depending on the Government you choose, you can equip talents that provide a multitude of bonuses. These themselves are split into three types, and you can have varying numbers of bonus active, depending on what you select.
Builder units take a bit of getting used to. One unit can be made; it will then build three items before exhausting itself. You might need shelter or a refinery, and the new nature of the Builder means you really have to think things through before embarking on projects. If you’re not thinking too far ahead, you’ll have to wait things out, wasting time and turns. Military units can also be tied to Builders, meaning the latter has protection from rival civilizations and barbarians alike.
Combat has again gone down the path of a multiple-turn affair. This feels a little strange, especially early on in things when battles — and turns — span hundreds of years. You’ll be in combat straight away, tackling those aforementioned barbarians. They’re around in abundance, annoying and distracting at all times. In my first one hundred turns, those barbarian were constantly plaguing my small little map.
Religion now has Pantheons that you can dedicate your civilization to, as well as the option to create a custom religion. Choosing both benefits and negatives will round out a Deity of your own making — which, considering you’re already playing God, is a pretty fun little addition. You can also just choose a pre-existing God and religion if you’re not wanting to rock the boat.
In our preview, we mentioned we weren’t sure if Civlization VI feels like a new game, or merely DLC for Civlization V. After many hours with the game, it’s safe to say that it’s a separate entity, different yet the same. It’s one that franchise fans will enjoy, most definitely.
Update: The Civ 6 console release is a solid port of a game clearly designed for PC, featuring easy-to-use controls and the gameplay we know and love. Movement around maps is quick and simple and a multitude of commands are nested under bumpers and face buttons.
The real shame with the console release is its price — the base game is $79.45 AUD, but you’ll really need to buy it plus the Add-on pack for another $59.95 AUD to really benefit from new civilizations and gameplay updates. 2K and Firaxis think so too — and as such, it’s a shame this is literally the first screen you see when booting up the game for the first time.
Civilization VI was reviewed using a promotional code on PC (via Steam) and Xbox One X, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale. Our original PC review was first published in October 2016.