Civilization VI Preview: What We Think After a Week With the Game

Civilization VI Preview: What We Think After a Week With the Game

Mike and Kat recently took a deep dive into Civilization VI. Here's what they found.

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Leading Your Civilization

Kat: The Civ leaders look like the clan leaders from "Brave," which is to say… weird. They kind of grow on you after a while, but I can definitely see how some people might find them off-putting.

As for who I chose, I went with Teddy Roosevelt for my first game because I liked that he gave a combat advantage to units fighting on their home continent, which makes for a decent early game advantage. Also, between the film studio, the P-51 Mustang, and the Rough Riders, his strengths cover a variety of objectives and eras. I should add that Teddy is actually my favorite president—a trust buster, a third party leader, a fierce advocate for consumer rights, and a president who bolstered American prestige abroad (the Philippines notwithstanding). He was a natural choice.

The Civ I encountered first was Philip II of Spain, who called me an infidel and told me not to build too close to him. I knew that we would be natural enemies throughout the game, so once I had a solid enough army, I moved in and swiped his two little cities. Par for the course in Civ, really, but I like that you're not as heavily penalized on the cultural front for going to war when you have to. How about you, Mike?

Mike: I choose the honorable Hojo Tokimune of Japan because… I like Japan. Yeah, I didn't think much farther than that for my first time around, though the Japan-only Samurai unit did help with my early-game barbarian murder. My first game had Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, Philip II of Spain, and Mvemba a Nzinga of Kongo as my opponents.

An interesting new facet of Civilization VI is the specific agendas of each Civ. These were apparent in earlier games, but not as hardly codified as before. Trying to navigate between the desiree of three other Civs was actually rather difficult for me. I was playing the kind and conscientious leader for my first games and while Germany was in my corner for part of the early game, eventually everyone hated me.

Barbarossa prized strength, so he was on my case for working closely with the only city-state in my game. Mvemba hated me because I had next to no army and I wasn't spreading my religion to his people. So, I try to spread my religion elsewhere to appease him, which pissed off Philip II, who is all about spread his own religion. Eventually, I found an equilibrium by wiping Germany off the map - which required a big army that made Mvemba happy - and avoiding religion altogether.

I eventually lost the game regardless though, due to a tech victory by the Kongo. I spread myself a bit too thin; I was just getting to the modern era as Kongo send a ship into space. How did the new tech and civics trees work out for you?

Science and Civics

Kat: I found the new tech strategy really interesting. At first blush, the tech tree is basically the same, albeit with the ability to boost the research on certain techs by completing actions like building a farm or discovering another civilization. But as the game progresses, you run into the Civics Tree—an entirely separate tree where you determine whether you want to go down the path of the warrior or the path of research and trade. The path you choose has a large effect on how your overall strategy.

The strategy behind the government you choose has also changed. You begin as a Chiefdom, which allows you to assign two overall buffs. I went with defense and production to start, which let me build up my cities quickly. Once you research more advanced governments, you unlock more advanced buffs, which go along way toward helping you achieve your goal.

Mostly, though, I did what I always do: I blitzed Petra for the huge number of buffs it brought with it. And as usual, the strategy proved to be an effective one. I was well ahead of most of the other seven Civs for the bulk of the game. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Still, the new tech system is interesting in that the circumstances of your start can influence your overall strategy more than ever. The buffs in particular make a huge difference in pushing you in certain directions. What are your thoughts, Mike?

Mike: As a veteran Civilization player I failed because I didn't focus on anything. I literally researched everything, giving me a broad base to pull from, but ultimately seeing me left behind in the dust on every metric. My second game was far more military-focused and that turned out well for me, compared to the aimless wandering I did in the first game.

What I enjoy about the Civics Tree is the ability to quickly adapt to small changes within the game. Throwing in a civics cards to boost production, make your units stronger, or change your costs. When I needed to build a huge standing away, I altered my government with cards that lowered the cost of my armies and made it easier to produce more units quicker. I admit, I sometimes got lost in all of the cards I had towards the endgame, but flexibility of the system is its boon. In a previous Civ, I would've just had to suck it up when it came to my deficiencies. In Civ VI, there's at least a chance to spackle them over.

Moving Civics out to their own tree is one of the best ideas that Firaxis has had. It removes the either/or choice of being science or diplomatic. That's not to say that the game isn't rather strategic in your options, it's just, there was no reason behind that specific binary. Now there are more Civics available that give you a better feel for what kind of civilization you're building.

I think that's part of what I really enjoy about Civilization VI. The strategic layer isn't all that different from previous Civilization game, but your cities and civilization feel more distinct this time around. From the visual layout of your cities, to your specific tech and civic choices, and how you interact with the other Civ leaders.

Final Thoughts

Kat: Civilization V was pretty rough out of the gate. It excised a lot of popular features, was hampered by a poor AI, and put too much emphasis on combat. Civilization V eventually rounded back into form with its expansions, but not before nearly sinking the franchise's reputation for quality.

But give Firaxis credit: They learn from their mistakes. Civilization VI doesn't appear to cut any features from Civilization, and it brings with it a nice new coat of paint and some really smart ideas. The changes to the tech trees, the districts, and the leader agendas are all additions that really stand out to me.

Barring a major upset, I expect Civilization VI to pick up where Civilization V left off and continue to entertain strategy fans for the next several years.

Mike: Civilization VI so far seems to be a great start for the franchise. I think you nail it correctly Kat, in that this picks up from where Civilization V ended with Brave New World. It's not the same game mechanically, but it exists on that same tier and provides Firaxis an amazing base to build on. The new look of the series grows on you, the Civ interactions are more complex, and the expanded cities is a great change for the series.

Don't worry, folks. You'll still want to have one more turn with Civilization VI.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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