Macworld (USA) - - Ioscentral Review: Lotus By Seam - BY LEIF JOHN­SON

The team at Aspyr cer­tainly un­der­stands their Civ. While I had my at­ten­tion fo­cused else­where, they ad­vanced so far down their tech­nol­ogy tree that they man­aged to stuff a game as com­plex as Civ­i­liza­tion VI on the iphone and make it look as though it be­longed there all along. If this were a game of Civ, I would have fig­ured such a feat would have taken them a few more turns.

Af­ter all, it was only a lit­tle over a year ago when my jaw dropped at the sight of Civ­i­liza­tion VI run­ning on an ipad; its com­plex mouse-and-key­board con­trols bril­liantly trans­lated to Ap­ple’s lan­guage of taps and swipes. But that’s the lit­tle leagues com­pared to what I’m see­ing here. I can

build em­pires on the sub­way. I can usher in great ages of sci­ence on the side­walk to work. And for the most part, at least with my iphone XS Max, I’m pre­fer­ring this ver­sion over its coun­ter­parts on larger-screened de­vices.


But first, an in­tro­duc­tion. Civ­i­liza­tion is the quin­tes­sen­tial “4X” game: a strat­egy genre fo­cused on “Ex­plor­ing, Ex­pand­ing, Ex­ploit­ing, and Ex­ter­mi­nat­ing.” Typ­i­cally, Civ­i­liza­tion and other 4X games have fo­cused on ex­ter­mi­nat­ing your ri­vals

(ei­ther with real play­ers or through the A.I.) by mil­i­tary might, but Civ­i­liza­tion VI also al­lows vic­to­ries based on sci­en­tific or re­li­gious grounds.

You spend a lot of time ma­neu­ver­ing over the in­creas­ingly clut­tered tiled world map, and for years play­ers as­sumed these graph­i­cal and in­ter­ac­tive de­mands would mean Civ would re­main re­stricted to the PC and Mac. Last year, though, Aspyr proved these con­trols work al­most as well with touch-based ges­tures on the ipad. In fact—and some may call this blas­phemy— some­times they seem bet­ter.

This is largely true of the iphone, too. This is es­sen­tially the same game you’d play on the ipad, al­though it comes with a few de­sign changes to ac­com­mo­date the smaller screen. On the ipad, the changes from PC to tablet chiefly amounted to big­ger but­tons (and a mas­sive bat­tery me­ter), but here Aspyr sig­nif­i­cantly mod­i­fied some el­e­ments while keep­ing them in their ex­pected lo­ca­tions.

The fo­cus, rightly, is al­ways on the map it­self, which sprawls beau­ti­fully across the screen of my iphone XS Max. Ev­ery­thing else, though, is smartly in reach. The civics and tech­nol­ogy trees? You’ll find them in small, cir­cu­lar but­tons with fa­mil­iar icons in the up­per-left cor­ner. Once open, they look much as they do on larger screens. Need to find maps for re­sources? Press the lit­tle slider in the lower left. If you want to see how you’re do­ing re­gard­ing the var­i­ous vic­tory con­di­tions, click on your leader’s icon in the up­per right. This ver­sion even comes with some iphone-

fo­cused short­cuts, such as the way you can close a menu by tap­ping the screen with three fingers at once.

Un­like on the ipad, the icons take up no more space than they need to. The bat­tery icon isn’t so in­tru­sive any­more. The Next Turn but­ton no longer looks as big as the moon: It sits rest­ing in the lower right­hand cor­ner, al­ways at the ready but never in the way.


I like this. In some ways I like it more than the ipad ver­sion. But I re­al­ized early on that I feel this way in large part be­cause Aspyr is sim­pli­fy­ing con­cepts I’m al­ready fa­mil­iar with. I’ve been play­ing Civ­i­liza­tion VI (and Civ­i­liza­tion in gen­eral) for years now, so there’s a lot of mus­cle mem­ory in­volved. I’m not fully con­fi­dent that a Civ vir­gin could pick this up and in­ter­act with it as eas­ily as I do. That’s not so much be­cause the in­ter­face is hard to un­der­stand; af­ter all, this ver­sion comes with much the same tu­to­rial we saw on the ipad, which makes the bar­rier to en­try feel more like a hedgerow and less like the Great Wall of China.

It’s more be­cause ev­ery­thing’s so small. I al­ways need to have the bright­ness on my iphone XS Max cranked to (ahem) the max in or­der to see all my units prop­erly, and then I’ll some­times still fail to see some knights and cos­sacks lurk­ing in the shrub­bery and land­scapes. As with the ipad, it’s some­times dif­fi­cult to se­lect a spe­cific unit, and in this case I can’t even use the Ap­ple Pen­cil for greater pre­ci­sion.

Zoom­ing in helps, but I don’t want to worry about that at ev­ery turn. And if I feel this way—know­ing what these icons rep­re­sent—i can only imag­ine the frus­tra­tion of some­one play­ing Civ­i­liza­tion VI for the first time.


Good thing, then, that Aspyr made it so you don’t have to feel too bad about drop­ping $60 on an iphone game (al­though Aspyr is sell­ing it for a cool $23.99 at launch). If you al­ready own the ipad ver­sion, in fact, you don’t need to buy this one. And if you do buy this one, it’ll work on your ipad. You can even trans­fer your saved files be­tween the two de­vices, but you’ll have to do it man­u­ally as there’s no icloud save sup­port.

I’m par­tic­u­larly happy to re­port that you won’t be nick­eled-and-dimed to death with mi­cro­trans­ac­tions.

You’ll find six other sce­nar­ios and civ­i­liza­tions for ev­ery­thing from Poland to Nu­bia if you want them, but all of these $4.99 to

$8.99 packs are en­tirely op­tional. For me, the civ­i­liza­tions in­cluded in the launch pack­age are en­tic­ing enough.

So here’s a cou­ple of warn­ings: I never got to test the lo­cal-net­work mul­ti­player mode But rest as­sured, even though you may need to look at the map a lit­tle too closely, even though you may strug­gle with the min­i­mal­ized UI el­e­ments if you’re new to the se­ries, this is still Civ. The lay­out may be dif­fer­ent, but it’s as com­plex as any­thing you’ll find on the Mac or PC, aside from some con­ces­sions such as a lack of an­i­ma­tions for world lead­ers dur­ing their pompous threats and brags in diplo­matic cutscenes. It’s the lat­est it­er­a­tion of one of the busiest strat­egy games of all time run­ning in a de­vice that fits in our pock­ets.

Score one for civ­i­liza­tion,

I’d say. ■ dur­ing my time with the beta (and no, there’s no on­line op­tion). I also didn’t get a chance to see how well it plays on a phone be­sides the iphone XS Max, al­though the re­quire­ments say you should only play it on the iphone 7 and above. Con­sid­er­ing how much is go­ing on in Civ at times, I don’t think that’s un­rea­son­able. And I said at the be­gin­ning, I’m sur­prised it runs on the iphone at all, even with our praise of the mas­sively im­pres­sive A12 Bionic pro­ces­sor. Let’s hope this in­spires other de­vel­op­ers to bring more pow­er­ful games to the iphone as well.


The Doc­tors are in.

Ev­ery­thing in its right place.

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