Civ­i­liza­tion VI PC

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What is Fred­er­ick Bar­barossa’s prob­lem? Only a few turns ear­lier we made a trade deal that was sup­posed to see Ro­man silk and mar­ble traded for Ger­man gold for decades to come. Sud­denly Bar­barossa de­clares a ‘sur­prise war’, as Civ­i­liza­tion VI calls it, pit­ting his army against forces that are al­most twice as pow­er­ful as his. The same mind­less, hard-topre­dict risk-tak­ing is dis­played by the Em­pire of Kongo, which uses the fact we took one of its cities in an ear­lier de­fen­sive war to re­peat­edly start wars it has no hope of win­ning. We’re coast­ing to­ward a mil­i­tary vic­tory, de­spite never hav­ing de­clared war on any­one.

Some­thing’s amiss at the heart of Civ­i­liza­tion VI. As with pre­vi­ous games, we’re plac­ing cities on a hexag­o­nal grid, climb­ing the tech tree and build­ing in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments to turn a tiny set­tle­ment into a global su­per­power. This grad­ual process is as en­thralling as ever. Ex­pertly timed over­lap­ping ob­jec­tives place de­ci­sions vis­i­bly within reach. A city im­prove­ment com­pletes within a turn or two of another tech-tree de­ci­sion, and be­tween these small ad­just­ments there are worker units to move around and farms to plant. You tend your em­pire like a gar­den, adding a few houses here, some ex­tra ameni­ties there, to keep the num­bers happy and nurse each set­tle­ment into a tow­er­ing metropo­lis.

A new dis­trict sys­tem adds in­trigue to ex­pan­sion man­age­ment. Sci­en­tific, ed­u­ca­tion, mil­i­tary, spir­i­tual and en­ter­tain­ment im­prove­ments have been moved out of the core city hex, and must be planted as their own be­spoke hexes within the city’s bound­ary of in­flu­ence. You can de­velop each dis­trict fur­ther with such ad­di­tions as uni­ver­si­ties, bar­racks and en­ter­tain­ment com­plexes. Dis­tricts gain bonuses from spe­cific ter­rain fea­tures – moun­tains help sci­en­tific study, for ex­am­ple – which gives the pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated map lay­outs greater sig­nif­i­cance than be­fore. Nat­u­ral won­ders are another good ad­di­tion. Set­ting up in the shade of Kil­i­man­jaro gives nearby set­tle­ments stat im­prove­ments.

This slow-paced ur­ban plan­ning, and the mor­eish re­source-man­age­ment sys­tems, are in­te­gral to the gen­tle yet pas­sive plea­sure of a Civ cam­paign. The se­ries’ famed ‘one more turn’ mantra speaks to the game’s abil­ity to en­tice you on­wards with the prospect of in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment, but few de­ci­sions gen­uinely mat­ter in the grand scheme of a cam­paign. Civ­i­liza­tion’s vic­tory con­di­tions are ul­ti­mately de­pen­dent on how fast can you suck points out of the map and pour them into re­search and pro­duc­tion. Mil­i­tary and re­li­gious vic­to­ries at least re­quire you to mar­shal sol­diers and mis­sion­ar­ies around the map to con­vert those re­sources into cap­i­tal cap­tures and re­li­gious con­ver­sions. Speedy re­source pro­duc­tion even lets you pick up great artists, which you can then con­vert into great works in your en­ter­tain­ment dis­tricts. The art­works and arte­facts of his­tory are use­ful pri­mar­ily as a means to boost your tourism fig­ures – the statis­tic by which your civ­i­liza­tion’s ul­ti­mate cul­tural worth is judged.

Civ­i­liza­tion is al­ways go­ing to be re­duc­tive in this sense, but in Civ VI these sta­tis­ti­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tions have drifted so far from the con­cepts they’re sup­posed to sim­u­late that it’s be­come ab­surd. Jane Austen joined our cause, but couldn’t write Pride And Prej­u­dice un­til we’d built a struc­ture with a ‘Great Work Of Writ­ing’ slot. Pride And Prej­u­dice is now gen­er­at­ing eight Cul­ture and four Tourism points in an am­phithe­atre in Ravenna. In other ar­eas Civ VI makes no­tional im­prove­ments with­out adding weight to your de­ci­sions. The pol­icy sys­tem lets you slot cards into pre­ar­ranged grids that al­low for greater mil­i­tary or eco­nomic fo­cus de­pend­ing on the gov­ern­ment you se­lect. It could be a great way to set the strengths and weak­nesses of your coun­try, if the im­prove­ments on the cards weren’t all mea­gre trade boosts, mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence buffs and other fid­dly im­prove­ments. You can switch gov­ern­ments as though you’re chang­ing hats, en­dur­ing a turn or so of harm­less an­ar­chy for your trou­ble. Be­com­ing a theoc­racy rather than a democ­racy ought to be a huge, defin­ing de­ci­sion, but in­stead it’s another way to oil the ma­chine and im­prove your nu­mer­i­cal pro­duc­tiv­ity.

That’s why Bar­barossa’s bizarre in­va­sion is a re­lief. His units are a cou­ple of tech­no­log­i­cal rungs down from Rome’s, and he’s not helped by siege en­gines that me­an­der aim­lessly around, and units that seem­ingly refuse to at­tack un­de­fended cities. It is at least fun to mop up his forces us­ing Civ VI’s re­fined mil­i­tary game. At the start you’re lim­ited to one unit per tile, but mil­i­tary re­search lets you band units to­gether into pow­er­ful at­tack­ing for­ma­tions that can sit on a sin­gle tile. This strikes a good bal­ance be­tween Civ IV and V, and is a sat­is­fy­ing ex­am­ple of re­search af­fect­ing what you do on the game board in a mean­ing­ful way. If you man­age to en­tice great gen­er­als to your em­pire, you can sit them be­hind your forces so their aura can boost your troops’ ef­fec­tive­ness, or you can sac­ri­fice them for a sig­nif­i­cant gain. This is one of Civ VI’s more in­ter­est­ing de­ci­sions, be­cause you’re asked to ac­cept some loss to spe­cialise. When space on the map be­comes scarce, sim­i­lar cost-ben­e­fit de­ci­sions arise as you de­cide which im­prove­ments you re­ally need.

Largely, though, Civ­i­liza­tion VI of­fers up few of these dif­fi­cult choices. At its low­est ebb, in the fi­nal third of a cam­paign, press­ing ‘next turn’ re­peat­edly and watch­ing num­bers go up, the game feels like Cookie Clicker with a re­spectable ve­neer. On a sur­face level it’s still in­cred­i­bly ab­sorb­ing, but it lacks End­less Leg­end’s fas­ci­nat­ing fac­tions, Stel­laris’s en­tic­ing ex­plo­ration phase, and the in­tense pol­i­tick­ing of Galac­tic Civ­i­liza­tions. Its lat­est en­try is re­li­ably gor­geous and com­fort­ing, but as a se­ries, Civ­i­liza­tion is be­ing qui­etly sur­passed.

Pride And Prej­u­dice is now gen­er­at­ing eight Cul­ture and four Tourism points in an am­phithe­atre in Ravenna

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