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NEWS

Civilization 6 review

12/1/16
Civilization 6 is the ultimate digital board game. More than ever in the series, the board—the world—is the soul of every opportunity and challenge. As usual for Civ, I build empires, compete for a set of victory conditions, and fend off warmongering leaders like that scoundrel Peter the Great. But I’m also playing for, with, and against the board. Forests and deserts and resource-rich tundras each influence the flow of my civilization, granting us boons and burdening us with lasting weaknesses. Bands of barbarians put my farms in crisis, but also open up opportunities to speed the development of my military techs. The glorious, challenging dynamics that emerge from Civ 6’s redesigned maps left me with no question that the storied series has crowned a new king.

While Civ 6 is probably the most transformative step forward for the series, its changes shouldn’t trip up longtime players too much. There’s definitely a learning curve to overcome, but much of what you need to be to be victorious isn’t necessary when you start exploring. You still settle cities, develop tiles, train military units, wage turn-based warfare, and conduct diplomacy. It mirrored my memories of past Civs closely enough that hints from the in-game adviser were all I needed to course-correct when something I hadn’t seen before came my way.

But there are so many of these new features that it could feel overwhelming at times. The depth and variety of systems resembles a Civ game that’s already had two or three expansions added on top—from the new Districts that perform specific tasks and spread my cities out into an often messy but somehow pleasing sprawl, to a whole separate 'tech' tree for civic and cultural progress that ties into a sort of collectible card game for mixing policy bonuses to build a unique government. The feature richness averts the common problem with strategy games on day one where I feel I’m being sold a platform on which a great game will eventually be built. But I also worry that Firaxis may have sailed a bit beyond the calm waters of accessibility for more casual strategy fans, and any expansions that add major features or new systems could heighten the barrier to newcomers.