“Just one more turn.” The iconic Civilization series is back after a brief hiatus with Civilization: Beyond Earth, and it looks to return to continuing the legacy of Civilization V, which greatly expanded upon the traditional formula with massive changes to combat, the addition of religion as a tool for control, and allowed for huge amounts of mods to download. Civilization VI looks set to change all of this, and you can start to prepare for it by inking in the launch date – 21 October 2016.
Civilization VI makes a lot of changes starting with the game’s visuals, which take a much softer approach than Civilization V or Beyond Earth, and yet builds up on the LORE engine in many ways. The prime example is the extensive use of tesselation, and this is most evident in the screenshots posted by Firaxis where the sun reflects off the water. The ocean tiles in Civilization V were covered with a tesselated water model, but it looks like Civilization VI adds in a physics simulation as well because the ripples in the water are not of the same length or shape.
The screenshots also show off some of the other changes to the game as well. In previous titles, additions to your city like barracks, art galleries and trader’s markets were added within the city limits, and usually didn’t show up with exception to large buildings like wonders. This time around, you’ll have to take your specialised buildings and improvements and place them on particular tiles around your city, and place them in specific spots to maximise their effectiveness. This might be a better system than the current one in Civilization V, where some wonders and buildings rely on benefits derived from the tiles surrounding your city.
This way, you can place the Pyramids wonder on a spot with desert tiles surrounding it to gain the oil benefit, and keep Egypt closer to tiles alongside a river that support farming better in order to grow faster. That does impede the planning of anyone who plays with Civs that support wide nations rather than tall ones, but hopefully Firaxis have accommodated for those changes in play style. At the very least, starting off with a tri-city nation still looks possible, and the game continues to rely on hexagonal tiles to map out your movements. There are changes that accommodate future planning, like the ability to “pin” a tile to remind you later on that it’s a good place for a factory.
“We want players to adapt to the map every time they play the game,” says lead designer Ed Beach in an interview with Polygon. “We want people to think on their feet, to respond to being put in different types of terrain, to being put in situations while playing different leaders.” Basically, these new tile improvements now serve as districts, separate suburbs inside your city’s area of influence that perform special duties.
“One district is a military encampment, where your barracks and stables and military academy and those types of buildings go,” Beach continues. “You can have a doubly defended city with two ranged strikes if you put up walls around your city and build an encampment. But the rule is, that encampment always has to be on the outskirts of your city. It cannot be next to the city center.” In this sense, an encampment is functionally similar to the citadel improvement that the general unit can build.
“A lot of other districts get bonuses for being near your city center,” he adds. “We have 12 different districts and each of them has rules about how you place buildings, which our user interface helps you through. You’ll learn pretty quickly how all these layout decisions work and what’s going to be an optimal layout for your city.”
Firaxis also lists a couple of highlights about the game on their Steam landing page, and it looks like it won’t be completely barebones out of the box like previous titles were, where players had to wait for DLC to fill in the gaps. Among the improvements made to VI:
- Expansive empires – See the marvels of your empire spread across the map like never before. Each city spans multiple tiles so you can custom build your cities to take full advantage of the local terrain.
- Active research – Unlock boosts that speed your civilization’s progress through history. To advance more quickly, use your units to actively explore, develop your environment, and discover new cultures.
- Dynamic diplomacy – Interactions with other civilizations change over the course of the game, from primitive first interactions where conflict is a fact of life, to late game alliances and negotiations.
- Combined arms – Expanding on the “one unit per tile” design, support units can now be embedded with other units, like anti-tank support with infantry, or a warrior with settlers. Similar units can also be combined to form powerful “Corps” units.
- Enhanced multiplayer – In addition to traditional multiplayer modes, cooperate and compete with your friends in a wide variety of situations all designed to be easily completed in a single session.
The part that I’m most looking forward to is the dynamic diplomacy and active research additions. The other leaders in Civilization V had rather static responses to your actions in the game, and a famous quirk that came out of the system was Mahatma Ghandi’s insane downward spiral from a friendly religious leader to a nuke-loving psycopath who wanted vengeance for all the shit you did 1000 years ago. Active research is also an interesting change – if you’re researching masonry, for example, building a quarry next to a mountain gets you a bonus science boost that speeds up acquiring that technology.
Civilization VI launches in a few short months, and already Firaxis is talking up the benefits of pre-ordering the Digital Deluxe version of the game. Players will get access to the base game, the digital soundtrack and four post-launch DLC releases that include new maps, scenarios, new civilisations and new leaders. Pricing hasn’t been listed for the South African Steam store just yet, so add it on your wishlist in the meantime.