Another holiday season is up us! Here's a look at the biggest games of the season as we make our way to the end of 2016. You can find our other previews here.
You can practically set your watch to a Civilization release.
New entries in Firaxis's venerable strategy series have been coming out every five years or so like clockwork, and Civilization VI is right on time. But with Civilization V struggling out of the gate and Beyond Earth proving to be a disappointment, it's not necessarily a given that Civilization VI will be a success. Here's what to expect when the latest entry in the series launches later this year.
What is it?
Another Civilization game! It seems like only yesterday that people were complaining about Civilization V's launch; but Civ V is five years old now, and that means that it's time to update the series again. Aside from a fresh coat of paint and a really neat fog-of-war that looks like an ancient map, Civilization VI will change up the formula a bit and introduce a number of incremental improvements. But at its heart, it will be the same game fans have loved for 25 years now: An epic journey through history in which you take control of a civilization, build it up over the course of hundreds of years, and watch it get nuked by Gandhi.
It is an annual franchise?
No, it isn't. However, Civilization is one of Firaxis's staples, and its large fanbase ensures that it will never really go away. In another five years, Firaxis will be back with another Civilization, and the process will begin anew. This isn't necessarily a bad thing! Some games formulas are timeless, able to transcend the years and appeal to each successive generation. Civilization is one of those games.
Are we excited?
Believe it or not, I'm actually pretty new to Civilization. My experience with the series dates back to the release of the Brave New World expansion for Civilization V, which solidified its comeback after a disappointing launch. I was assigned to review that expansion (you never say no to work when you're freelancing); and after a steep learning curve, I found that I was in love. Civilization V had the depth and the scope I craved in a strategy game, and it allowed me to tackle my run through history in a variety of ways. It hit the strategy genre sweet spot in so many ways.
At its core, Civilization VI will be the same. You will still be taking on the role of an immortal world leader; building up an empire, and either achieving world peace, watching it burn, or ascending to the stars. You will still be staring down Montezuma or Cleopatra as you tensely negotiate an alliance or put their empire to the torch. The formula will still be there.
But plenty will be different as well. For one thing, workers will expire after a certain number of actions, which will make for some interesting choices in what to build. For another, you won't be able to just load up a city with tile improvements and wonders: The Pyramids of Giza will now take up additional space, so you'll need to be careful about how you fill in your city. Even the tech tree will be different now that Firaxis has decided to decouple the civic research and technological research trees - an intriguing design decision that will make it much easier to keep up your pace toward a cultural victory without sacrificing your defenses.
Firaxis has demonstrated their strategy chops time and again; and while Civilization Beyond Earth was a disappointment, they're back on more familiar ground with the core Civilization series. Most promising of all is that Civilization VI is taking the opposite approach to its predecessor, which was initially bent on streamlining its features and strategy as much as possible (it got better). Civilization VI isn't straying too far from the franchise's basic concepts, but it is taking a number of interesting risks with the formula, which ought to keep it fresh for years to come. And that's all without the inevitable expansions.
I can't wait.