I never really worried Civilization VI would be bad, per se, but I was worried it might be unnecessary. Didn’t we just finish up with Civilization V? To say nothing of the fact that slotting Civ VI for a 2016 release means Firaxis has either (worst case) abandoned or at the very least (best case) back-burnered Civilization: Beyond Earth—and before it ever reached its full potential.
So my reaction to yet another historical Civ, sight-unseen, was rather muted. More shrug than fist pump. And to some extent I’m still in that headspace. Civ VI? So soon?
But after playing through the game’s first sixty turns recently, I can say this: There are some interesting changes being made. It’s definitely another historical Civ game, but this is no mere Civ V reskin.
Built in a day
The big feature, and the one Firaxis is most fixated on this time around, is cities—the way they’re built, the way they grow.
In past Civ games, the city was always a single tile, a microcosm for all your achievements. All the research, the production, all the blood and sweat of human history, encompassed in one small space.
Civilization VI breaks the city out, tears down the walls and makes it into a much more organic representation of real-world settlements. Your main hub is the same as always, but now certain buildings are partitioned out into “Districts,” which take up a tile of their own.
Early on, for instance, I gained the ability to found a Religious District in the foothills of a nearby mountain range, a few tiles from my city. Aside from taking up its own space, creating the district then allowed me to found my own religion and build religion-specific buildings like a temple. Again, these go in the district tile, not the main city.
It’s more than an aesthetic choice. Sure, that aspect exists—districts mean every building gets a bit more space, allowing you to both admire your growing metropolis as it spreads across the map and better identify what you’ve built at a glance.
But it also plays a tactical role. Created a district earmarked for research? Better make sure it’s somewhere the enemy can’t steamroll through and wreck all your hard work.
In previous Civilizations, as long as you protected your main cities you’d be fine, even if enemy troops rampaged through your countryside. With Civilization VI, war seems like it will be more interesting whether attacking or defending. The front lines are way longer, and the B-tier targets much more lucrative.
Another reason war is more punishing? No more worker-tile improvement spam. Workers in Civilization VI function differently than they have in any prior Civ game.
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